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New Brunswick still isn’t banning smartphones in school

According to Paige MacPherson and Alex Whalen of the Fraser Institute, cellphones’ negative impact on students has been especially apparent in New Brunswick. The Maritime province has not banned cellphone in school, and has seen math scores among 15-year-olds plummet between 2003 and 2022. Worse than that, these scores trail the national average significantly.

Other provinces, including British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, have introduced, or will introduce, smartphone bans in schools. And surprisingly, a large majority of Canadians seem to favor bans like these (one poll listed it as 54% completely in agreement and 26% somewhat so). Rather than seeing it as a restriction on student freedom, Canadians seem to recognize there is wisdom in taking these devices away during at least part of the day.

Maybe that support comes from grown-ups recognizing how hard it is to regulate their own phone use, how difficult it is to resist the urge to look at it after just a few seconds of boredom. Maybe responsible use of phones during focus times isn’t possible, especially when these phones are designed to be used as often as possible.

If the world around us is starting to reassess their relationships with their phones, it’s time for us as Christians to be more confident in the boundaries we draw with technology. Especially when young developing minds are concerned.

After all, with everything tempting us to use our phones more and more, fighting that temptation will take the support of a community to reduce our dependence – and our children’s dependence – on them. As parents, we will have to agree to be comfortable with phoning the school instead of reaching our children directly. As adults whom children look up to, we’ll have to demonstrate how to handle those moments of boredom. And as a community, we can prioritize face-to-face interactions and social connections in the real world, enough to make the virtual world look much less attractive.

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The smartphone stack

You're out with some friends having a nice dinner. But one has been talking on his phone for the last ten minutes, and a second is managing to fork food into her mouth while still using both hands to type text messages. And the fourth member of your party is preoccupied with tracking down some YouTube video he just has to show everyone. So you're out with your friends for dinner but it seems an awful lot like eating alone. We've all experienced something similar... and put our friends through something similar. So how can we return a little decorum to our dinners-out? One suggestion making the rounds is something called "The Phone Stack." After everyone orders their meals all smartphones are placed in the center of the table, one on top of another, face down. Though the course of the meal it's simply a given that one of these, or all, are going to buzz, bing, or sing, but here's the kicker: no one is allowed to grab their phone until dinner and dessert is done. If someone feels they just have to pick up their phone, that's okay, but then they also have to pick up the check for the night! Can there be exceptions made? Maybe someone is a doctor on call, or a volunteer member of the local fire department, and just needs to check their messages. Yup, allowances for that kind of thing can be made. But for the rest of the group this is a fun way of ensuring we all connect with one another, rather than with our devices. And for those dining-in nights, a variation can be done involving who is going to do the dishes!...