Riverton school officials defend decision to ban cellphones at school


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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
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By banning cellphones from classrooms and college restrooms, counselors hope to minimize the social and mental injuries that can, along with other causes, produce school shooters.

Last week, Riverton Middle School (RMS) was annoyed on social media over a school-wide policy change banning cell phone access to students except between classes, at lunchtime and in the case of medically necessary exceptions. Many parents and community members feared the ban would reduce children’s access to help in the event of a school shooting.

But a long-term effect of childhood smartphone addiction, along with other factors, could actually worsen the very conditions that lead to desperate acts like school shootings, RMS counselors told Cowboy State on Monday. Daily.


In May, advisers studied the work of renowned neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry. Perry’s research has linked a lack of in-person connection to tragic mental outcomes.

“(Perry) talked about the lack of connections in schools and the fact that when people are talking on social media, the internet and cellphones, it’s a really shallow connection,” said Riverton Middle counselor Shayla McNiven. School. “He even directly addresses school shootings due to a lack of connection to your surroundings and your school.”

Reflecting on school shootings and childhood trauma, Perry told Sun Magazine in 2016 that fear is the most common reason people’s brains “shut down”, along with exhaustion, hunger and thirst.

But “agitation” from smartphone stimuli and distraction also shuts down higher human reasoning, “making you dumber…distracting you from thinking,” Perry said, adding that a constantly distracted person can ” end up believing everything you tell him”. ”

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced in May following a mass shooting in Buffalo that she was investigating social media platforms and their role in the psychology of shooters. Forbes reported a few days later that the rise of social media was linked to a decrease in human empathy.


McNiven was joined by fellow RMS adviser Tara Collins, who said that for children, practicing “real face-to-face communication and building those relationships in person” is critical to their future well-being. A failure to cultivate these skills, she continued, can cause a rift between the child and their environment, which worsens the addiction to social media relationships, which in turn worsens the child’s relationship. with the people around him on a daily basis.

“If they feel rejected, disconnected, it can lead to things like school shooters or suicides: all issues including anxiety and depression and low self-esteem,” Collins said.

She said the more severe a student’s sense of disconnection from the tangible school environment, the more they may resort to “shallow” online relationships, no matter how anonymous or distant.

“How does this relate to preventing a crisis?” Collins went on to say that among the objections voiced to the ban on cellphones, the most common was parents’ fear of not being able to reach their children during school shootings.

“This (ban) is hopefully something that can even – hopefully – make it impossible, if we can just focus on being there and building relationships, and avoiding conflict and issues with people. peers,” she said.

Both McNiven and Collins acknowledged that the social problems caused by children’s constant smartphone use won’t go away just because phones aren’t allowed in the classroom this fall.

Many conflicts, fights and bullying “start online” but end at school, McNiven said, adding that the majority of middle school students have access to a smartphone both at home and at school.

“We can’t control everything,” Collins agreed. “We can’t be out of school. But maybe we can make a difference here.

Smartphones and social media culture aren’t the only factors producing school shooters, the advisers said.

“I think it contributed, but I don’t think it was the causative factor,” McNiven said, adding that “it definitely contributes to the shootings and mental health issues in general.”

Bullying, Sexualization

The effects of social media and Internet exposure in children are diverse.

The “drama” of online dating, the taking and leaking of explicit photographs, intense arguments, bullying, exploitation, data blackmail, chronic distraction, stress, consumerism, bodily self-hatred , screen addiction and sleep deprivation were just some of the effects of the smartphone. counselors see in students in their day-to-day work.

The college welcomes students from sixth to eighth grade.

Although some community members spoke out against the ban on phones in bathrooms as well as in classrooms, councilors said they knew the toilet ban was important.

It’s where advisers said they’ve seen issues with students taking phones into bathrooms to take “inappropriate photos” or to complete an online peer-to-peer challenge to post a video of themselves. even vandalizing school property.

In his own interview on Friday, RMS principal Aziz Waheed expressed frustration over students’ use of the social video-sharing app TikTok to bully their peers not just in the hallway, but all over the internet. . Waheed said he regrets that tweens are already under the “pressure” of social media.

Yet somehow McNiven said, “It’s hard to get (smartphones) out of their hands.”

“It’s like a member,” Collins joked.


Even adults have trouble controlling their impulses; by not checking his phone every time it rings and by remaining courteous in online arguments, the advisers said.

While teachers work with all of their students each school day, counselors often work with students who have been referred to them because of social issues. And many of them, McNiven said, live in a “pseudo-reality.”

Whether it’s a group of profile-only relationships or the constant pressures of an online game, being stuck in a false reality at this age harms the arc of natural development because children are “still developing their world and what they think is normal”. McNiven said.

Children may not be ready to carry the whole world in their pockets.

The National Library of Medicine reported this year that from 2009 to 2019, teenage depression rose from 8.1% to 15.8%, with teenage girls accounting for most of the rise.

Facebook expanded mainstream membership in 2006. Twitter went mainstream in 2007. Instagram surpassed one million signups in 2010. TikTok officially launched in 2018.

“You expect these teenagers to have adult reactions and the judgment to make good decisions, and adults can’t even do that (online),” McNiven said, adding that the things people do online “have a lot of real-world consequences, that when you don’t have long-term thinking, you don’t think.

“Please Watch”

Parents should be vigilant, advisers said.

Both McNiven and Collins said they recognize smartphones have their benefits and can help children navigate activities and other logistics.

However, parents should monitor children’s smartphone usage, internet searches, photo files and usage time.

Advisers speculated that a thorough search of a child’s phone might surprise some parents.

“You are entitled to the phone you paid for,” McNiven said.

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