May 21, 2024 - News

Hoover High School to limit cell phones to help students' mental health

Kids waiting outside of a school bus at Hoover

Students at Hoover High School arrive for the first day of class during the 2023-24 school year. Photo: Courtesy of DMPS

While Hoover's no phone policy doesn't go into effect until next school year, staff are prepared for an "extinction burst" — the moment things get worse before they get better.

Driving the news: Administrators are already raising awareness among students of the upcoming policy, including incoming freshmen. So far, they've been met with mixed reactions, from praise to behavior "that's very reflective of someone who is being threatened to have their addiction taken," says Hoover High School principal Qynne Kelly.

  • The majority of parents support decreasing screen time and some have questions about the implementation, Kelly says.

State of play: Hoover's staff expects a "difficult" August and September and have worked with the school's therapist to anticipate the reactions they'll face.

How it works: Phones must be "detached" from students' bodies — including out of their pockets and off their desks. Feeling a vibration and easy access is too much of a reminder of its presence, says assistant principal Robert Randazzo.

  • Randazzo is challenging students to go 45 minutes — the length of a lesson — a day without their phone at home to prepare for next year.

Zoom in: Randazzo says he was chatting with a student and told her he noticed she spent a lot of time on her phone.

  • The student told Randazzo she was doing well in school, achieving mostly B's and C's. He asked to see her screen time, which noted she was on her phone almost 10 hours a day, primarily TikTok and Instagram.
  • "I can't wait until the end of next year. She going to have all A's and B's, no doubt in my mind," he says.

The bottom line: Adults and students turn to their phones when they're bored. But boredom isn't bad, Randazzo says. A way to help teens with anxiety and depression is to help them feel connected to their community.

  • They're brainstorming on how to get kids out to more sporting and fine arts events and they have considered opening the school and gym longer for more "free play."
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