Cell phone use has been banned at the Stonybrook Middle School for a year now, and Principal Rita Rebizant calls the move "a total game changer". 

This was the pilot project that convinced the Hanover School Board to ban the use of cell phones by students at K to 8 schools across the division earlier this week

Rebizant says this is an issue they have been wrestling with for a while now. 

“We've noticed for the last number of years, the distractions, the constant need to be on social media, just leaving class because they needed a cell phone break or texting home during the day and dealing with a lot of social media fallout like the online bullying. We just thought, there's got to be a way that we can manage this better for the mental health of our kids.” 

Stonybrook Middle School got the green light to implement this new initiative at the beginning of the school year, and Rebizant says they were pleased with the buy-in. 

“We let the parents of our incoming grade fives know at our parent orientation evening and there was just a flood of thank yous, ‘thank you for doing this’. This year has just been amazing. Kids are engaged, they're in class, they're doing what they need to be doing. They're interacting with their peers in a healthy way.” 

Rebizant says it took a little longer for some students to come around, but even they have been seeing the benefits. 

“It was probably the students going into grade eight that it impacted the most because they had their cell phones in Grade 7 and now all of a sudden, they couldn't, but with parent support, it has really been a non-issue. I think students have begun to realize how much of a difference it's made for them as well.” 

There have also been some surprising benefits with this new initiative. Rebizant says their relationship with some parents has become stronger as there is more communication coming through the front office.  

She adds, “What teachers have really noticed is the engagement of kids eye to eye. They are looking at one another and they are engaging in conversation with one another and, that even as a basic skill, is really tough for a lot of kids who just had a screen in front of them." 

Many parents are noticing the difference as well. Tess from Steinbach says, “As a parent of a student in Stonybrook Middle School, I have seen huge positives this year with the no cell phones in school. The kids are so much more engaged with each other with the teachers and everything. It has been fantastic.” 

Kelly agrees, noting “I think it’s great! Kids have enough on their plates trying to focus and learn, they don’t need the distraction of a phone/social media.” 

Weighing in on the news from the Hanover School Division, Bev takes a more cautious approach. She says, “No cell phones in class but kids who struggle with loneliness should be able to use during breaks. Feeling that you're not able to be with your support system can be very discouraging.” 

Meanwhile, Candice thinks the HSD should go one step further.  

“I think no cells is a fantastic idea. It should happen in high schools as well. When kids are in class and on their phones, they aren’t listening.” 

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