School board bans social media at Gig Harbor-area schools

Faculty board bans social media at Gig Harbor-area colleges

Peninsula School District officials are changing the way they monitor student social media use at school.

Students are allowed to bring their personal cellphones with them to school.

In previous years, when students connected their devices to the district network, they could access their favorite social media sites.

That changes this school year.

“With these new and updated policies, PSD will block all access to social media on district networks and will only permit the use of students’ personal devices before and after school, during lunch, or if an administrator explicitly permits them,” district officials said in a press release.

The school board approved the policy July 27.

“We cannot control what students are able to access on their own private cell networks, but our schools have poor reception, so we think that will help curb access,” Danielle Chastaine, communications coordinator for the district told the Gateway.

Students representatives and ASB leaders helped develop the policy.

“Our board members and district leaders met with the School Board Student Representatives and the high schools’ ASB leaders to discuss the policy,” Chastaine said. “While they had some questions and concerns, the students overall supported the policy and even offered to be involved in PSAs and announcements to their peers before the start of school.”

How will they enforce the new rule?

“It is outlined in the new policy that administrators are allowed to confiscate personal devices if they have reason to believe a mobile device is being used against policy,” Chastaine said. “The device will only be returned to a student’s parents or legal guardians.”

Cellphone use is a concern administrators and families have, and they’re seeing an increase after the pandemic, according to the press release.

“We firmly believe students must learn the necessary skills to be healthy and effective digital humans,” Executive Director of Digital Learning, Kris Hagel said during the school board meeting. “We must do that in a scaffolded environment where we can more directly and strategically teach the skills they need. We have caring adults in our system to help students with these skills, and we must do this work starting from a much more controlled environment.”

What does research say?

New research has come out regarding the harm access to cellphones and social media has on students as well, which confirmed the district’s decision to change our policies,” the press release said.

The district cited information from the recent study “Social Media and Youth Mental Health” from the U.S. Surgeon General.

“Although age 13 is commonly the required minimum age used by social media platforms in the U.S., nearly 40% of children ages 8–12 use social media,” according to the study.

The study also said:

  • The average time spent on social media is 3.5 hours a day for eighth and tenth graders.

  • 1-in-4 of eighth and tenth graders spend more than 5 hours a day on social media and 1-in-7 of them spend more than 7 hours a day.

“The influence of social media on youth mental health is shaped by many complex factors, including, but not limited to, the amount of time children and adolescents spend on platforms, the type of content they consume or are otherwise exposed to, the activities and interactions social media affords, and the degree to which it disrupts activities that are essential for health like sleep and physical activity,” the study said.

On a typical weekday, nearly 1-in-3 adolescents report using screen media until midnight or later, according to the study.

Age 10-19 is a “highly sensitive period of brain development,” the study said.

“This is a period when risk-taking behaviors reach their peak, when well-being experiences the greatest fluctuations, and when mental health challenges such as depression typically emerge,” according to the study. “Furthermore, in early adolescence, when identities and sense of self-worth are forming, brain development is especially susceptible to social pressures, peer opinions, and peer comparison. Frequent social media use may be associated with distinct changes in the developing brain in the amygdala (important for emotional learning and behavior) and the prefrontal cortex (important for impulse control, emotional regulation, and moderating social behavior), and could increase sensitivity to social rewards and punishments.”

Limiting the use of social media could have mental health benefits, the study said.

“A small, randomized controlled trial in college-aged youth found that limiting social media use to 30 minutes daily over three weeks led to significant improvements in depression severity,” according to the study.

“Many local districts have historically had stricter policies around cellphone use and social media,” Chastaine said. “Since the recent report from the U.S. (Surgeon General), we believe this is a trend across the nation among school districts.”

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Aspen Shumpert is the reporter for The Peninsula Gateway. She grew up in Tacoma and graduated from Washington State College in Could 2022. She began working at The Information Tribune in March 2022.

Author: ZeroToHero

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