Stacy Taylor of Falmouth stands next to a playhouse that she played in as a child and recently relocated to her Falmouth home for her son, Niko. Taylor is advocating for a cellphone ban in Falmouth middle and high schools and says children need to spend more time playing outside. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Every time Falmouth resident Stacy Taylor tells her 9-year-old son Niko it’s time to put away his iPad, he fights it. He argues, begs for more time and tells his mother she’s a horrible parent.

Eleanor Keeler, a South Portland High School science teacher of 20 years, struggles every day to get her students to put their phones in their backpacks and pay attention in class. It’s an uphill battle.

Matthew Pines has owned and operated Maine Teen Camp with his wife in western Maine for 27 years. Starting in the 2010s, Pines started noticing more kids struggling with anxiety, depression and attention deficit disorders. He started thinking about what had changed in that time. The answer he landed on: access to technology.

These parents and teachers are part of a coalition of nine Maine groups advocating for less technology access for kids. Inspired by Jonathan Haidt’s 2024 book “The Anxious Generation,” they are working to create new norms around adolescent cellphone use. They want schools to ban phones during the school day and parents to hold off giving their children cellphones until after eighth grade and access to social media until age 16. They are also advocating for parents to encourage their kids to spend more time playing with each other.

The coalition is part of a statewide and national movement that has been gaining significant traction over the past year.

Last month, Regional School Unit 1, which serves Bath, Arrowsic, Woolwich and Phippsburg, voted to ban the use of smartphones and smartwatches during the school day for grades six through 12.


At Gorham High School, students drop their cellphones off in pouches before each class period. The practice began last year. The students have dubbed the pouches “phone hotels,” said Superintendent Heather Perry said.

Los Angeles also banned students from using cellphones during the school day starting in the fall. And the New York City school district, the largest in the nation, seems poised to follow suit.

In Maine, cellphone policies are implemented locally, so it’s hard to say exactly how many schools in the state have bans.

The Maine Principal’s Association lists 30 district and individual school cellphone policies currently in place. The list includes policies from schools across the state including those in Blue Hill, Augusta, Readfield and Cape Elizabeth. Steven Bailey, the executive director of the Maine School Management Association, regularly confers with superintendents and school board members and said that conversations about limiting cellphone usage have picked up significantly over the past year and a half.

The policies vary by district and school, with some limiting cellphone usage only during class time and others banning students from using their cellphones from when they enter the school building in the morning until the last bell rings in the afternoon.

But all of the policies are aimed at solving the same issues of technology addiction, cyberbullying, technology and social media-induced anxiety, and a lack of student focus in class.



RSU 1 board Chairperson Lou Ensel said in an interview this week that once the board did its homework, the decision to ban cellphones during the school day was an obvious one.

The information they gathered about schools and districts that had implemented cellphone bans showed that within a few weeks of implementing them, kids were accepting of the new policies and their anxiety eased and depression lessened, Ensel said.

“The research was clear,” he said.

Perry, the Gorham superintendent, said students and teachers at Gorham High love the cellphone policy.

“Kids say they can concentrate, talk more with their peers, that they feel better during class,” Perry said. “Teachers feel like the kids are more engaged and participating more.”


Smartphones have been around for almost two decades. The first iPhone was released 17 years ago. But in recent years and months, the negative impacts of technology have been gaining attention.

Stanford University School of Medicine psychiatry professor Anna Lembke argues in her 2021 book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” that technology is addictive. She wrote that it interacts with the chemicals in our brains making us feel happy when we’re using it and depleted when we’re not.

A cellphone caddy in a classroom at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Too much technology, especially for kids and adolescents whose brains are still developing, she said, can lead to depression and anxiety.

The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a May issued a call to action said that “there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health.”


Day in and day out, Keeler, the South Portland high science teacher, sees the impacts of technology on her students firsthand.


The students in her classroom are distracted and their attention spans seem to be short, she said. They’re not supposed to use their phones in class but they often disregard that rule. Instead, they scroll on them under their desks or sometimes just blatantly have them out.

“It’s a constant struggle,” she said.

And kids aren’t just scrolling on their phones during class. They’re on them pretty much all the time.

In a study by Common Sense Media and the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, researchers found that kids 11 to 17 were on their phones for a median of 4 ½ hours per day. Some study participants averaged more than 16 hours a day.

Taylor, the Falmouth mom, has always tried to give her son a screen-light childhood. But it’s not easy, she said. Niko is an only child and they don’t live in a neighborhood where he can walk to his friends’ houses.

“I spend an extraordinary amount of time as a parent trying to keep my son off screens,” she said.


And when she does give him screen time, there’s a fight when it comes to a close.

Along with other parents and educators, Taylor believes that kids are no match for the all-consuming, addictive technology and that they shouldn’t be expected to be able to limit their own use of such enticing devices.

Although Niko doesn’t have a phone, Taylor said she can tell from his iPad use that he is addicted to technology.

“He has a really hard time putting down a screen,” she said. “No way would he be able to manage a phone.”

Parents like Taylor believe the best solution is a community-based one where parents and educators work together to get kids off screens both in and out of school.

“It’s hard to be the only parent that says no,” said Pines, the summer camp director, who has a rising eighth grader. “I think there’s real recognition that this needs collective action.”


Scarborough parent Ellen Coughlin-Quinn said that if she is the only parent who doesn’t give her kid a phone, they’ll be left out.

“It just can’t be done one family or one kid at a time,” she said.

In schools, coalition members hope to change policy by advocating for cellphones and smartwatches to be banned from the moment students enter the school building until the moment they leave in the afternoon.

Outside of schools, they have even loftier goals. They hope to change the culture around technology in their communities, ending an era of kids playing video games, watching YouTube and scrolling through TikTok after school, and bringing back one of playdates and running around in the neighborhood.

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