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YONDR, Oh My Should They Return Back Yonder?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Cell phones have become integral to modern life, especially among teenagers. They use cell phones for communication, entertainment, social media, schoolwork, etc. The presence of cell phones in schools can both offer benefits and pose challenges. On one hand, cell phones can be educational tools, allowing students to access information and resources. On the other hand, they can also be distracting and disruptive to the learning environment. The relationship between teens, cell phones, and mental health is a complex and important topic. Some studies suggest a correlation between heavy smartphone use and increased anxiety and depression symptoms among teens. However, causation is complex and may involve other factors as well. Blue light emitted by screens can interfere with sleep patterns, and excessive phone use before bedtime might contribute to teen sleep problems. Exposure to idealized images on social media can contribute to adolescent body dissatisfaction and body image issues. Online harassment and cyberbullying can severely affect mental health, leading to feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

Excessive screen time, including smartphone usage, has been linked to various negative effects on mental health, such as increased risk of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. While social media can provide social interaction, it can also contribute to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, cyberbullying, and unrealistic comparisons, which may negatively impact self-esteem and mental well-being. Constant exposure to others' lives and experiences online can lead to feelings of isolation and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), potentially exacerbating loneliness and dissatisfaction. Excessive phone use can interfere with real-world interactions, schoolwork, and other meaningful activities, potentially decreasing overall life satisfaction.

There are positive connections to cell phones, enabling teens to stay connected with friends and family, especially in today's digital age, where communication happens through social media, messaging apps, and calls. Teens can use their phones to access educational resources, research information, and learn about various topics of interest. Mobile devices provide platforms for creative expression through photography, videos, art, writing, and more. Online communities and mental health apps can provide support, resources, and coping strategies for teens with mental health challenges.

Although cell phones can be beneficial, their negative usage seems more detrimental to the educational learning environment. Many districts, including Montgomery Public Schools, have implemented Yondr pouches to reduce learning barriers for students in the classroom.

Some schools have started implementing Yondr pouches to manage cell phone usage during class hours. Schools aim to minimize distractions, discourage cheating, and promote a focused learning environment by using these pouches. Yondr pouches are a technology designed to address the distraction caused by cell phones. These pouches are designed to hold and lock a phone, preventing access to it while the pouch is locked. They are typically used in settings where people need to be present and engaged without the distraction of their phones, such as classrooms, live events, and even some workplaces. When students enter the classroom, they place their phones in the pouches, which are locked. At the end of the class or the school day, the pouches are unlocked, allowing students to access their phones again.

Implementing Yondr pouches in schools has generated both positive and negative reactions. Supporters argue they enhance students' attention, reduce cyberbullying, and create a more present and engaging learning environment. Critics, however, raise concerns about potential violations of personal freedom, emergencies where quick access to phones is needed, and the need to educate students about responsible phone usage rather than simply restricting access.

Parents and students must have a mind shift and approach Yondr pouches with an open mind. Use this opportunity to connect with friends and classmates in person. Building real-life relationships can be more meaningful than virtual interactions. Use the time you'd typically spend on your phone for exploring offline hobbies, reading, drawing, or engaging in conversations with friends. Embrace the temporary break from constant digital engagement. Disconnecting from screens can positively affect your mental health and overall well-being.

Students, if you notice classmates struggling with the adjustment, share your perspective and offer suggestions for adapting positively to the Yondr pouch policy. Ultimately, the purpose of school is to learn and grow. Use this time to absorb knowledge, engage in discussions, and excel in your studies. Promoting activities that nurture positive mental health, such as spending time outdoors, engaging in hobbies, physical exercise, and face-to-face social interactions, is important.

While the Yondr pouches might seem restrictive, they can help students concentrate better on their studies and engage more fully in class discussions. Research why the school has implemented Yondr pouches. Understanding that the goal is to create a focused learning environment and reduce distractions can help you appreciate the intention behind the policy. While cell phones offer numerous advantages to teens, their use should be managed mindfully to minimize negative mental health impacts. The decision to use Yondr pouches or similar technologies in schools depends on the school's philosophy and their specific challenges regarding cell phone usage. Building awareness, promoting responsible usage, and fostering a healthy balance between virtual and real-world interactions can improve adolescents' overall well-being.

Dr. Tandrea S. Elmore, LPC, NCC


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