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East-end middle school announces cellphone ban

Last Updated Feb 16, 2017 at 7:17 pm EST

An east-end middle school is making the call to ban cellphones from all of its classrooms and hallways after parents and teachers reported distractions were at an all-time high.

Earl Grey Senior Public School principal Bill Vatzolas sent a note home to parents this week, notifying them of the decision.

“This policy change is the result of conversations with our staff, parents and students as we collectively look to minimize distractions in the classroom and reduce the inappropriate uses of the devices during the school day,” Vatzolas wrote in the letter home.

The devices are allowed during the lunch hour but accessing social media, texting, or taking or viewing videos is prohibited.

Should parents need to contact their children during school hours, they’re being asked to call the office.

The ban takes effect next Tuesday.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said the board leaves it up to each individual school or principal to create their own policies on cellphone usage.

While some individual classrooms across the city have chosen to go phone-free, this may be the first school to decide to disconnect altogether.

“In the middle of class you would have students texting constantly or using social media and, the fact is, it’s just not appropriate when you’re trying to teach a lesson,” Bird explained.

“Not only the fact that it’s a distraction in many cases, but also there have been some instances of inappropriate use.”

Bird noted that there are times when cellphones are a great tool to have in the classroom.

“There may be specific classes or specific lessons … you want to do some research. Then you can go, get your cell phone, bring it to the class, use it appropriately and then put it back,” he said.

“We always encourage the use of technology where appropriate. So that will continue.”

But some students expressed some hang-ups about the cellphone ban.

“It’s a little unfair because some students aren’t using it in bad ways,” said Will, a Grade 7 student.

Others admit they might get a little academic boost by the decision.

“I feel my grades will go up,” said Grade 7 student Cassie.

Cellphone Addiction

Steve Joordens, Professor of Psychology at University of Toronto, said there are several signs your child may be closing in on a dangerous cellphone addiction.

If a child appears anxious when the cellphone battery is low or starts pacing when the phone is misplaced or service is unavailable, it could be a sign they’re becoming obsessed.

“We’ve all lost our cell phone. How does that make you feel? How worrisome is that for people that are more addicted that’s extremely worrisome. It becomes all they care about. finding that cell phone,” Joordens explained.

If the child starts spending more time online than connecting with people in real life or begins to sleep with the cellphone close to them, it could be the signs of addiction.

“If you imagine an alcoholic having a bottle sitting beside their bed when they sleep at night, you would think that’s too much, they can’t even put the bottle away to sleep,” Joordens said.

“If you take it one step further, there are studies that show 35 per cent of the people, when they wake up in the morning, they think about their cellphone and that compares to 10 per cent that thinks about their significant other.”

Another sign is experiencing a phantom ring or vibration.

“Literally being so primed to hear these things that you hear them when they’re not happening,” he said.

Signs of cell phone addiction:

  1. Appears anxious when phone battery is low
  2. Panics if the cellphone is misplaced or cell service is unavailable
  3. Spends more time online than connecting with people in real life.
  4. Sleeps with a cellphone on or under the pillow
  5. Uses a cellphone in dangerous situations such as driving
  6. Has the cellphone on the table during meals
  7. Believing the cellphone has rung or vibrated when it has not