The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting on the program which began earlier this month at three Madison-area schools – East High School, West High School, and Wright and Cherokee Middle Schools – where student access to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and dozens of other social media sites was shut down. The social media blackouts will apply to each school’s free WiFi service, but will not block access to sites accessed through personal cellular data plans.
“We are looking for ways to continually improve our school climate and increase student learning,” said Cindy Green, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Madison School District. “One way to do that is by trying to reduce the use of cellphones and social apps during the school day.”
Administrators are hoping to track students through the end of the year to determine if less time on social media will have any impact on student behavior, academics and school safety.
“Our students who are the most disengaged are typically the ones who are stuck on their phones and walking the halls with their heads down,” said East High School Principal Mike Hernandez. “I call it the zombie walk, and unfortunately it can lead to students making poor choices on social media with Instagram and Facebook Live.”
Not everyone is on board, however. Local news is reporting mixed reaction from students and parents with some saying it’s a good idea to crack down on social media use because of the problems with online bullying. But others are calling it censorship.
“A few students and a few adults have come to me and said, ‘What you’re doing is wrong,’” Hernandez said. “Some questioned whether we shouldn’t be more about teaching how to use the Internet responsibly. And yes, but it’s a two-way street,” he said. “We also have to make sure they understand algebra.”
Bridget Stattelman-Scanlan, a senior at East High School, told the Journal she believes phones are a distraction to students during class, but “they are also a valuable resource to students communicating with peers and families without a data plan,” she said. “Having WiFi shut off during school and then back on after school can solve some of these issues.”
Cherokee Middle School Principal Sarah Chaja-Clardy responded to similar complaints by reassuring students and parents that they would not be cutting off all communication by interrupting WiFi access because the school has plenty of landline phones.
“Every single classroom has a phone, and they are always welcome to stop in the office, and that we have land lines there. They don’t know what land lines are,” Chaja-Clardy said.
One of the reasons she’s behind the program is because it will cut live streaming and recordings during the school day.
“It only takes a moment to take out your phone, click on an app and be live-streaming on Facebook Live,” she said. “It’s not that kids are even on their phone, but they see an incident and their go-to (reaction) is to take out their phone and record it.”
This initiative could prove valuable for young people who are also looking for ways to stay connected without the hassle of feeling like they’re tied to a phone all day. One of the exercises in a popular new program for young girls known as the Young Women of Grace program specifically asks girls age 13-17 to identify which of the world’s allurements are the most irresistible – clothes, makeup, cell phones, Facebook, Instagram. Most of the girls chose their social media connection.
The next question in the exercise, which asks what they can do to counter it, was answered quite succinctly by one young lady.
“Get a life.”
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