Pediatrician: Less cell phone time, more happiness

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Lewiston Middle School’s ban on students using cellphones at school has the stamp of approval from the vice president of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The ban “is a great idea,” Dr. Deb Hagler, a Brunswick pediatrician, said Tuesday. Students don’t need more distractions during the day and Lewiston Middle School “should be applauded,” she said.

At the middle school age, many students are still learning the appropriate use of social media, Hagler said. Compared to older students, they have less ability to control their urge to constantly check their phone. Overuse can contribute to a middle school student’s being unhappy, she said.

“A lot of kids are so afraid of missing out on things,” Hagler said. “They feel they constantly need to be in touch.” Some studies project that as many as 24 percent of adolescents are addicted to their phones and can’t put them down, which can increase anxiety, she said.

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“It’s helpful that someone set boundaries,” Hagler said. “That’s something parents struggle with, real rules and boundaries. That can help everybody feel better.”

The ban is a great thing to spur a community conversation among families and students on the best use of technology, she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that parents be aware of their student’s social media use, set social media-free times and places, and that parents display good social media behavior for their children.

The academyhas developed tools on its webpage to help families and adolescents work together to come up with rules and boundaries. When parents invite their child’s input to develop rules for using technology, there’s a better chance for success and less conflict in the home, Hagler said.

Hagler said a school cellphone ban would help reduce mean social media from students, while encouraging students to develop more healthy face-to-face interactions.

“Without face-to-face interactions so many things get misconstrued,” she said. And when someone sends an email, text or instagram, there’s a strong desire among people of all ages to immediately respond, even though a more thoughtful response, or none at all, may be better.

Not allowing social media during the day will put the brakes on instant responses and information getting misconstrued, Hagler said. “I applaud the school.”

Lewiston schools Superintendent Bill Webster said he’s delighted to hear that so far Lewiston Middle School students, staff and parents are accepting the ban.

“Our primary business is education,” he said. “This is one example of what we need to do to ensure the best possible education.”

Recent studies have shown that adults and students alike are increasingly glued to cellphones, Webster said.

“What is being lost are those skills developed when you have to look someone in the eye and have a conversation,” he said.

For more information: https://tinyurl.com/za72x6q.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

 

Posters informing Lewiston Middle School students they cannot use their cellphones in school are on front doors and posted throughout the school. Teachers and students said the stricter enforcement of the cellphone ban is helping students stay more focused on studies.

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