Junior Adryanna Viles, 16, sends a text Friday afternoon between periods at Lewiston High School where she is a student. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — When the Lewiston School Committee approved sweeping changes to the School Department’s student cellphone policy, there were different reactions from staff, parents and students. But after a year and a half, students seem to be adjusting to the changes.

High school junior Adryanna Viles, 16, and senior Ahmed Abdow, 17, both said the policy has little negative or positive impact on their school day, but the middle school and high school principals have noticed a positive impact on student education.

Lewiston Middle School Principal Amanda Bryant likes the policy because it sets a student expectation that all teachers and staff must adhere to, she said.

“Because this is a district policy, there’s an expectation that we follow our policies, so that’s what we’ve been doing and it’s turning out pretty well,” she said.

Most middle school students will put their phones away on first warning, but some still have theirs held by the teacher after several warnings, she said. Even fewer students, on average a couple per week, need to have their phones held until the end of the school day. Phones are given back to students before they leave school.

Though Lewiston High School Principal Jonathan Radtke started at the high school the year the new policy was implemented, he understands that different teachers had different classroom expectations regarding student phone use, he said.


Now high school teachers can only allow students to use their phones in accordance with the policy, which is only for educational purposes, such as using the calculator app.

For Radtke, the policy is a way to reinforce to students when it is appropriate to be on their phones and when it is not, he said.

“The cellphone ban establishes that it’s inappropriate to be on your cellphone during learning time,” he said.

Lewiston High School student Ahmed Abdow, 17. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Neither Viles nor Abdow think the policy has taught them how to appropriately use a phone or impacted how often they use theirs on average in a day, but they are respectful of the policy during class. They note some teachers are stricter about the policy than others.

They mostly have a hard time putting their phones away when they are actively following something online or excited to do an activity later that day, they agreed. Viles keeps her phone on the Do Not Disturb mode while she is in school and puts it away completely for after-school activities like choir.

Sometimes website restrictions on the school’s devices prevent students from being able to access information on websites for their academics, so students must use their phone to reach those websites, Viles said.


“They block everything on those Chromebooks,” she said. “Sometimes when you’re doing research you’ll click on a website and it’s like ‘oh, you can’t access this,’ so you have to go on your phone.”

Abdow noticed that he was falling behind in one class because of his phone use so he stopped using it in class, he said. He thinks students should be allowed to use their phones in class, but they should also be held accountable if they fall behind because they are on it too much.

Viles has noticed that students tend to pay attention more in classes led by teachers who are less strict about the policy, she said. But she thinks the policy was created more for the middle and elementary schools because most high school teachers already prohibited students from using phones in their classes.

One drawback to the policy for Abdow is when he is anxious to know what is going on at home with his family or in the community. It was especially important to stay connected during the shelter-in-place order late last October when police were searching for accused gunman Robert Card following a mass shooting. During that time, he did not go anywhere without his phone.

“It depends on the day,” he said. “If I know everything is going well at home or going well around the city then (I’m) less anxious but like if something was happening, then yeah, I’ll be very anxious. Going back to what happened in October — like this phone needs to be right by my side.”

Student anxiety due to the lack of communication at home is an issue that Bryant has observed among students at the middle school also, but staff have tried to work with students and parents to address that issue, sometimes allowing them to use their phones in the main office, along with other supports, she said.


Lewiston High School student Adryanna Viles, 16. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Lewiston School Committee voted unanimously Aug. 29, 2022, to revise the cellphone and recording policy, significantly restricting the use of such devices in schools.

Students from prekindergarten to eighth grade must keep their phones in their bags the entire school day, while high school students are barred from using theirs during class but can use them during breaks between classes and lunch. Teachers also can authorize students to use their phones in class for educational purposes.

If students are found using their devices during class then they can be confiscated by the teacher, perhaps even held by school officials for the day and are given back at the end of the day with parent permission.

There was more resistance to the policy among students last school year but now that they better understand the expectation, staff are having far fewer struggles this year implementing the policy, Radtke said.

Last school year when the new policy was implemented, Viles heard from a lot of students who were upset about it but now it is not discussed much in her friend group, she said. Abdow remembers seeing more people get kicked out of class for not putting their phones away last year but he does not notice that happening as much this year, he said.

Bryant has noticed an increased focus and participation among students since the new policy has been implemented, she said. It also prevents social media from disrupting students during the school day.


“I see a huge social emotional benefit for kids,” she said. “I see permission to check out. I think so many of our kids are heightened because they’re constantly in touch on social media. When they’re here they have permission to not respond right away to Snapchats that they might receive from a cousin or someone not in this building.”

In the 26 years she has worked in education, she has noticed social media changing children’s mental health, she said. She has noticed that students feel a pressure to constantly be connected through their phones and they feel like they need to respond to messages right away.

Lewiston High School senior Ahmed Abdow, 17, prepares to make a phone call Friday afternoon between classes in a hallway at the Lewiston school. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Spending more than three hours per day on social media doubles the risk of mental health problems among minors, including depression and anxiety, according to information published on the U.S. Surgeon General’s website. On average, teenagers spend 3 1/2 hours per day on social media.

In Radtke’s roughly 30 years of experience in education he has been able to observe student education since before cellphones became widespread. Issues, such as bullying, are almost inescapable now because students are constantly reachable by phone.

Before the advent of cellphones, students were able to escape online bullying and harassment when they shut off their computers, he said. But having constant access to social media on their phones makes it hard for kids to unplug from it.

He cannot think of one student discipline incident he has dealt with in the past decade in which social media was not involved, he said.


The highest rate of student phone misuse tends to be among ninth and 10th graders, with a dramatic decrease in phone misuse among 11th and 12th graders. He thinks as students get older, they develop a better cognitive ability to regulate their phone use.

Abdow deleted TikTok off of his phone because he noticed he was spending hours at a time watching videos on the app and felt it was almost addicting, he said.

Technology is complex and its impact on people’s lives is complex with no simple solution to the issues it poses, but a strict phone policy in schools can help students learn how to manage technology, Radtke said.

“We’re never closing Pandora’s Box and putting all the evils back in,” he said. “But what is required of us now is to help young people learn how to manage their technology so that they use it as a tool for their own purposes rather than to have it be a tool that takes control of them.”

Comments are no longer available on this story