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Cellphones become huge obstacle to learning in school

As teens and their cellphones become more inseparable, many schools are banning mobile devices, arguing that cellphones are educational roadblocks for "Generation Text."

But trying to part a teenager from a cellphone is easier said than done.

"I'm certainly not going to frisk every student that comes in the door," said Rebecca Reeder, principal of Nardin Academy, where cellphones are prohibited. "But the phones are certainly an issue, because they are a distraction."

Research has shown that divided attention negatively affects the overall learning process.

"In the long term, the human brain does not perform well when it's subject to constant interruptions," said Michael Stefanone, a University at Buffalo professor who studies the social psychology of media use.

Last year, Williamsville South High School began the "X the Text: Get Unplugged" program, in which students surrendered their cellphones for 24 hours. The goal was to increase the dialogue among students about the negative impact of cellphone use.

"We realize cellphone use is not going away," said Dan Ljiljanich, principal of Williamsville South. "But as schools, it's imperative that we don't allow them to be used here.

"What's really concerning me is that students are losing sleep because of text messages," Ljiljanich said.

Such is the case for Orchard Park senior Stacey Stiller. Even if it means getting out of bed in the middle of the night, Stacy feels compelled to check her phone if she receives a text message, often resulting in her being overtired for school the following day.

Most schools explicitly state that if students are caught using their cellphones anywhere in school the phone will be confiscated and a parent must pick it up. Some schools go a step further by issuing detention or in-school suspension for repeat offenses.

But if teens are so glued to their phones that they interrupt a sound sleep just to check a text, how can schools expect to enforce their "no cellphone" policies?

According to Stacy, they can't.

"I really don't think it stops kids from texting at all," she said. "There are definitely some teachers who will take your phone no matter what, whereas others might be more lenient. But there are a lot of parents and students who are not following the policy."

Stacy said students carry their phones with them in silent mode for fear of theft if they stow them in their lockers as they're told. She admits that during class, the desire to check her phone for texts almost impossible to ignore.

It's those distractions that school officials hope to limit.

"I cannot come up with one good reason why a student needs to use a cellphone during the school day," said Ljiljanich.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com

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