Alberta families asked to weigh in on cellphone usage in schools

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Alberta government launches online survey on cellphones in school
Should cellphones be banned in schools? That’s what the Alberta government wants to know, asking parents and families to weigh in with a new online survey. Tomasia DaSilva reports. – Apr 19, 2024

Alberta is looking to tackle the controversial issue of cellphone use by students in schools.

The province has launched a new online survey for all Albertans to give their take on whether phones should be allowed, when they should be allowed and for what purpose.

Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides told Global News earlier this year, he had committed to talking more with parents, teachers and others about the use of cellphones in schools and he’s now following through on that commitment.

 “Cell phones can be used to support learning,” he said in a statement. “However, there are some risks that are of concern to the government.”

Nicolaides pointed to several studies that suggest smartphone and social media use can “negatively impact mental health, affect adolescent self-view and more.”

The province added it was imperative it takes any measures to combat growing youth mental health concerns and it will have more to say on the future of cellphones in classrooms after it had finished talking to parents, teachers and other partners.

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The survey is open until May 3.

Calgary student Parker Froese with cellphone. Tomasia DaSilva

Pros and cons of cellphones in schools

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Sarah Hamilton said it’s a good idea to get an overall picture of what’s happening right now with technology in schools. Hamilton, the assistant professor in the Department of Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary, added there are pros and cons.

The main con, she said, was distractions.

The pros are the power of technology.

“They can be leveraged in very powerful ways,” she said. “But it has to be very well thought out and it has to be done with purpose and intent.”

Hamilton warned, however, about the dangers of going too far and too fast using technology in the classroom.

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“If we just start moving too much in that direction without really thinking about ‘what is it that those pieces are giving us an advantage to the learning?’ We could potentially be doing a disservice for the students.”

Hamilton pointed out there can also be equity issues, adding not every family can afford a cellphone leading to further problems.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) told Global News it does not have a system-wide cell phone policy, but schools are able to create their own cell phone use policies that work for their school communities.

The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) said it believes that mobile phones can be positively used in schools when specifically incorporated into lesson plans.

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