Alberta wants to hear from parents on cellphone use in schools

Questions cover a range of topics, including the potential impact they may have on academic achievement and bullying.

The Alberta government is jumping into the fray on cellphone use in schools by launching a survey to see if they should be allowed.

The province says that cellphone use in schools is increasing, and is more prevalent in students as they get older and higher up in grades.

Some reasons for cellphone use include chatting about practice and rehearsal for school organizations, checking transit schedules, or staying in touch with families about issues or emergencies, according to the survey site.

But the province says there are concerns that cellphones can be a distraction and can be used “inappropriately within classrooms and schools.”

The High Prairie School Division has a link to the survey right on its website, and other schools, like the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), have sent an email to parents inviting them to participate in the survey.

Some of the questions focus on the impacts phones have on academic achievement, while others tackle the issue of bullying.

The survey also asks respondents whether or not cellphone use rules should be determined based on students’ grade levels.

Results of the survey will then be used to help the province determine what, if any, action needs to be taken surrounding cellphone use in schools.

The feedback will then be used to help determine any next steps surrounding the use of cellphones in classrooms.

This follows the B.C. government’s decision to ban cellphones in K-12 classrooms at the start of the year.

Alberta Minister of Education Demetrios Nicolaides said in a statement to CityNews he is following through on a commitment made in 2023 to engage with teachers and parents about cellphone use in schools.

He says the devices can be used to support learning, but some risks concern the government.

“Several studies suggest that smartphone and social media use can negatively impact mental health, affect adolescent self-view and more. It is imperative that we take any and all measures possible to combat growing youth mental health concerns,” Nicolaides said.

“Alberta’s government will have more to say in the future after we have finished talking to parents, teachers and other partners.”

The CBE says that it doesn’t have a system-wide policy, but its schools can create its own cellphone policies for its own communities.

“A number of schools have phone policies that limits the use of electronics during school hours. These ‘away for the day’ policies require students to keep phones and other devices in their lockers unless permitted by the teacher for specific learning purposes,” a statement provided to CityNews reads.

“We support and safeguard students as they develop online safety skills and learn to be good digital citizens in an environment that is safe, but that gradually broadens their experience. Schools, in collaboration with students and parents, establish guidelines for appropriate use of the internet through their school’s digital citizenship plan and the appropriate filter level for the school context.”

The survey can be found online and is open until May 3.

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