Hormonal cauldrons that they are, middle and high schools already had enough adolescent drama to deal with before the advent of social media – and some school districts are trying to return to this slightly less complicated time, by blocking smartphone access to major social platforms while students are on school grounds.
Last week, four public schools in Madison, Wisconsin began blocking free wi-fi access to dozens of social media apps, including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, in hopes of winning back some of the students’ attention from their smartphones to, like, learn something.
Administrators hope the social media embargo, being tested at two high schools and two middle schools, will lead to better general behavior, academic performance, and school safety, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, which first reported the news.
The Journal quotes principal Mike Hernandez on the “zombie walk”: “Our students who are the most disengaged are typically the ones who are stuck on their phones and walking the halls with their heads down.”
The school district also hopes to avoid live streaming video of fights or other incidents, and the social media ban may help mitigate bullying as well.
Hernandez admitted there was some resistance from parents as well as students: “Some questioned whether we shouldn’t be more about teaching how to use the Internet responsibly. And yes, but it’s a two-way street. We also have to make sure they understand algebra.”
Students in the four schools where the embargo is being tested can still browse the Web and contact their parents by phone, text, and by their school email accounts.
Since the ban is only effective on school wi-fi, students can also access the social media apps via their cellular data plans -- if they have them -- which may raise questions about economic discrimination).The school district will review comparative data on school performance at the end of the academic year to determine whether the social media ban had any impact.