Dear Parents and Families of rising 6th graders,
Over the past few years, the use of smartphones has grown exponentially. At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest caution when introducing these devices and associated applications to children. Given this growing trend and related research, the Newton Public Schools and Newton’s Health and Human Services department would like to provide rising 6th grade families with guidance and resources around smartphones and mobile devices.
First, it is important to know that your child does not need a cellphone of any kind as part of their school experience. Middle school is a time of significant development for students. We are cognizant that mobile devices and the associated applications can become stressors when misused and/or overused, potentially leading to bullying, self-esteem, privacy and safety issues or concerns. Newton middle schools have established a clear policy that cell phones must be “off and away” at all times during the school day.
However, every family has their own values and circumstances that shape their approach to cellphone ownership and use. We recognize that some families may want to provide devices to their children for use outside of school. Therefore, our goal in working together with you is the following:
- Provide clear expectations and rules for cellphone use in schools
- Ensure that devices are utilized in safe, responsible and developmentally appropriate ways
- Provide research, resources, and best practices to guide you in your decision-making
- Build a set of community norms for smartphone use that results in less peer pressure for both students and families
Based upon a growing body of research, evidence, and discussion around the effects of smartphone use on youth, we suggest the following guidelines for the introduction and use of any type of mobile technology device:
- Start slow: Consider utilizing a flip phone, “light” phone, or other device that has limited features and is primarily used for phone calls and text messages. It typically is not web-enabled and is not equipped with apps, games, or social media.
- Establish a clear set of guidelines and use limits: Regardless of what type of device you provide to your child, start the conversation about limits, including amount of use and time of day (i.e. limit or prohibit use at night). Many families choose to create “contracts” with their children so that expectations and rules are clear.
- Utilize parental controls and monitor use: There are many devices and apps that can help you to control access to both the Internet and specific apps. As a general rule, we advise that families maintain access and know passwords to all accounts and apps students are using so as to monitor activity, posts, etc.
You can find additional resources and guidance throughout this website, including these suggested guidelines from Newton/Wellesley Hospital. We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with you as we work to ensure our children learn to use smartphones in healthy and responsible ways.
Assistant Superintendent, Secondary Education
Commissioner, Health and Human Services