phones at school

Lock the phone in a pouch? Students, staff debate one school’s bid to curb distractions

Picture a classroom full of high schoolers, all with phones in their pockets. It can’t be easy for teachers to get teenagers to concentrate when they’ve got access to the entire internet — and to all of their friends on social media — at their fingertips. Several local schools, including Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Obama Academy, have found a potential solution to the problem of phones at school: When high schoolers arrive in the morning, each student drops their phone into something called a “Yondr pouch.”

This high-tech bag remains magnetically sealed until a teacher opens it at the end of the day. So the student gets to keep their phone with them, but they can’t use it until the learning day is done.

Our friends at the nonprofit news site PublicSource have done a really interesting deep-dive into the subject of phones at school and how it’s unfolding at PPS Obama.

“The data was alarming in terms of incidents that involved social media, text messages, academics, behavior, attendance and parent complaints and concerns for student safety,” Obama Principal Yolanda Colbert told PublicSource.

After an entire year of remote schooling during the pandemic, many students hadn’t learned how to speak to one another, navigate conflict or develop interpersonal skills and instead turned to social media, said Colbert. The school saw increased cyberbullying and anxiety among students, and data showed that 90% of students were not using their phones for academic purposes.

Colbert and her team see the Yondr pouches as a valuable tool to manage phones at school. But PublicSource found that some students and parents have concerns about the policy.

Want to learn more about what’s happening at PPS Obama and other local schools? Read the full article right here

Parents can also click here for a free subscription to the PublicSource newsletter.