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‘Screen-free’

No cell phone usage — except for academic reasons — at Beaty WMS beginning Jan. 6

On the same theory as an ‘unplugging’ day or weekend, Beaty-Warren Middle School is going “screen-free” starting Jan. 6.

No phones. No video games. No social media.

On the same theory as an ‘unplugging’ day or weekend, Beaty-Warren Middle School is going “screen-free” starting Jan. 6.

Counselor Matt Menard spoke about the new policy.

“Students will not be permitted to use their phones, unless for academic reasons, during school,” he said. “Additionally, students will not be permitted to use school computers or tablets during class unless for academic instruction. Students can use their phones after the dismissal.”

Students will be allowed to bring phones to school. They simply won’t be allowed to use them before or during the school day on school grounds.

“There’s no place for phones in school,” he said.

“I was concerned about the amount of screen time children have in general,” Menard said. “The simple glare of a screen… the effects that it has.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that entertainment screen time be limited to less than two hours a day. Menard cited psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley, author of “Reset Your Child’s Brain,” in listing some screen-related factors that push students into a state of hyperarousal — a “fight or flight” state that is a primary symptom of PTSD: bright and blue-toned light; fast-paced content that activates reward/addiction pathways and dopamine; intense sensory stimulation; media-multitasking; and electromagnetic radiation.

Video games are big money. Developers “purposely design games to get into their minds,” Menard said. The screen, whether games or social media, “gets them all revved up, then they go into (the next class) all revved up.”

That state of hyperarousal is not conducive to the education environment, Menard said.

So, the school is setting up four areas of focus for its screen-free efforts: school areas before school; hallways between classes; lunch; and classroom down-time.

“Students play games on devices or interact on social media and may enter their next class in a state of hyperarousal,” Menard said.

A fifth focus will be on messaging during school hours.

“The vibration or ring of a phone… during academic instruction may cause a distraction not only for that student but for others,” he said. “If you need to reach your child during the day, please call the office. You can text your child, but your child will not respond to your text until after the dismissal bell rings.”

“If your child needs to reach you during the day, they can use the phone in the office,” Menard said. “They can also use their own phone if they prefer, but in the office.”

When students return to school on Jan. 2 and 3, they will be reminded of the new rules.

Students who have their devices out during school hours will not be sent immediately to the office.

“Generally, ‘put it away,’ that’s the first line of defense,” Menard said. “There needs to be an interaction before an office referral.”

Students who disregard that instruction will have an appointment with Menard. When they leave, he hopes to have a better understanding of why the student feels the need to have the device out during school.

“I suspect I’m going to have many kids who are going to be upset,” he said. “I need to process that with them.”

The student will probably leave with a warning.

“If you do it again, you will have to hand over your phone at the beginning of the school day for a week,” he said.

“We’re going to offer some substitution” for students who ask what they’re supposed to do, Menard said. But, “we do not have to entertain them. Work on work. Sit quietly.”

He hopes the changes will be good for students and for the school.

“I think it’s going to have a lot of benefits,” Menard said. “I think it’s going to improve their focus, more socialization, their test scores might improve. I think their moods will be better.”

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