The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is considering a new policy that would limit the use of cellphones and social media by students in schools. The board’s governance and policy committee has approved a motion to develop a new policy and the board will vote on it later this month.
Why a new policy is needed
The TDSB does not have a standalone policy on cellphone and mobile device use in schools. Instead, it follows the provincial rules that restrict the use of personal devices during instructional time to educational purposes, health and medical purposes, and to support special education needs. However, the board’s chair, Rachel Chernos Lin, said that the provincial rules are not enough and there is a need for clear procedures to guide teachers and staff on how to manage cellphone use in their classrooms. She said that the current situation is inconsistent and confusing, as different teachers have different comfort levels and abilities to enforce the rules. She also said that the landscape around cellphone and social media use has changed since the provincial rules were issued in 2019, and there are new challenges and opportunities to address.
How the new policy will be developed
The motion approved by the committee calls for a comprehensive process to create a new policy that could come out next year. The process will involve looking at best practices and research from other jurisdictions in Canada, the United States, and around the world. It will also involve extensive consultation with stakeholders, including staff, students, families, and community advisory committees. Chernos Lin said that the process will be transparent and inclusive, and that the board will seek input from diverse perspectives and experiences. She said that the goal is to establish a new culture around cellphone and social media use in schools that balances the benefits and risks of technology.
What the new policy could look like
The details of the new policy are yet to be determined, but Chernos Lin said that some of the possible elements could include:
- Defining the purposes and expectations for cellphone and social media use in schools, such as for learning, communication, safety, and well-being.
- Setting clear boundaries and consequences for inappropriate or excessive use of cellphones and social media in schools, such as for cyberbullying, cheating, distraction, or privacy violation.
- Providing guidance and support for teachers and staff on how to implement and monitor the policy in their classrooms and school settings.
- Offering resources and education for students and families on how to use cellphones and social media responsibly and respectfully, such as for digital citizenship, online safety, and mental health.
Chernos Lin said that the new policy will not be a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a flexible and adaptable framework that can accommodate different needs and situations. She said that the new policy will aim to enhance the learning environment and the well-being of students and staff, while respecting their rights and responsibilities.