The time for less phones in schools is now

Dr. Delaney Ruston – The science is clear: Having phones used less during the school day increases connections and decreases distractions. Students do better socially and emotionally, as shown by research. Now more than ever, it’s time to look at our Away For The Day Campaign, which is full of tools to help bring change to your elementary, middle, or high school.

Let me explain a bit about this campaign that we launched in 2018 — it is still going strong, and it can grow stronger with you. ** And before I start, if ever you have considered sharing things from the Screenagers’ movement, now’s the time — please consider using your social media to share the Campaign website —which has share icons on its home page. 

First, How the Campaign has helped people thus far

We regularly hear from many parents, teachers, counselors, and others from across the country who use the tools on the website to advocate for changing phone policies in their schools, and many have had success. Examples include middle schools that have changed their policies to require cell phones to be stored in lockers for the entire school day and high schools that changed their policies to have cellphones put in shoe bags during class times. And, we’ve heard about many other variations and changes in elementary schools. 

All the stories have one thing in common: the change was made to help students not have to deal with the pull of 1,000 temptations on their phones in their pockets. It is unreasonable to ask our kids to be able to systematically resist such temptations, be it in class or in the cafeteria. Furthermore, it increases inequalities because those students who can resist with greater frequency will fare far better socially and academically than those who have a hard time focusing or socializing in general and thus are pulled even more so by their phones. 

Second. Specific tools the Campaign’s website provides

When you go to the Away For The Day website, and you click on the big “TAKE ACTION” button, it will then ask if you are one of these groups, “Parents/ Guardians,” “Teachers/ Counselors,” or “ Principals/ Administrators,” and when you click on your group, it gives you specific tools for your group. Tools include research findings on why having phones less available during the day helps youth emotionally, socially, and academically. It also has the survey of parents we did — CNN ran my op-ed with the results — showing that over 80% of parents want phones away for the day and private schools are twice as likely to have away-for-the-day policies than public schools.

If you are a parent here are more tools the site provides: 

1. Send this email to 5 (or 50) others. Build a coalition to support you by posting on social networks, newsletters, etc.

So consider doing one of these action steps today:

  1. Reach out to another parent that goes to your child’s school and together, over the phone or Zoom, look at the website — which includes videos from people who made change happen in their schools, and discuss if, and how, you two can work together to let the school know what you would like to happen. 
  2. Make time this week to go over the website with any kids in your home. Hear their thoughts and also know that just the act of reviewing it is a chance to show your child a campaign for change.  (Last week, I wrote about the importance of talking with our kids about being changemakers.)
  3. Pledge to do one action from the website and do it this week. It DOES help for schools to hear from each of us. Perhaps use our sample letter to reach out to the principal. 
  4. Go to the next PTA (or the like) meeting, bring some of the science from the campaign, and talk about how you can work together for change. Maybe you all decide to administer the survey we provide to other parents to show that the majority support change — I bet you will find that to be the case —  and then, you can take this to the school administration.

These are just a few ideas of how you can be a changemaker around screen time. Given all the isolation and screen time habits formed during Covid, and the fact that some kids are having a hard time with the reentry into socializing and are using screens to hide, it is vital we work to support our kids’ to regain attention and connect with teachers, peers, administrators (think having to go to the office to call home and how they get to meet the staff in the office!)

All of us at the Screenagers Team would love to hear from you about this and love to support your work in this area in any way. Please contact me at or to the full team at

Ideas to get the conversation started: 

  1. How are cellphones used at your school?
  2. What do you think the policy should be?
  3. What science on the Away For The Day website do you find compelling regarding the benefits of less phone use during school?