Back to School: Phone-free school

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A Westchester school district is asking students to switch off their cellphones and switch on their attention.      

Allison Waguespack, of Irvington, doesn't want her two kids to be dependent on their phones.
That’s why she and several parents have formed a committee to raise awareness of cellphone over-usage called "Heads Up Rivertown." They say games, Instagram, Snap Chat, and other features have caused a real addiction to phones. "The dopamine increase for a cellphone addiction is actually equivalent to smoking marijuana," says Waguespack.

That’s why the group has spearheaded a phone-free environment in Irvington Middle School.

Every sixth- through eighth-grader will put away their phones before school begins and keep them off until the end of the day – every day! “We're excited about the idea that kids will have lunch time to actually talk and socialize and play as opposed to sitting in tandem at the lunch table on their cellphones, and in the classroom they won't be distracted by the other things the cellphone brings into the classroom,” says Waguespack.

Students aren't detaching from technology entirely, and there is an extra incentive in the deal. Middle school Principal David Sottile says as the kids turn off their phones, the school will hand them a brand new laptop.

The computer will run on the school network and be limited to school-related activities, so students won't be able to go on social media platforms.
It's all part of the "one to one" initiative - turn off one phone for one computer. “To be able to move into a world where every kid is going to be on a device, that we provide, that has the setup we think is really effective for learning purposes with some limitations to limit those distractions is a huge benefit for us,” says Sottile.

If students abuse the system and use their phones, the school will take away the phone and give it to their parents. “If a student is repeatedly in a position where they continue to use a cellphone during a school day when they know they're not supposed to be, obviously there would be parental contact,” adds Sottile.

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