Clip digital umbilical cords to improve child growth, learning

A new issue is sweeping through the halls of America’s schools. A new social media trend, vaping, or any other headline-grabbing calamity can’t be blamed.

This time, parents are the problem, and it’s because they can’t cut the digital umbilical cord.

Teachers already battle for their students’ attention, facing the myriad of distractions emanating from cellphones. Though this constant connectedness could be a boon for learning, it also opens the floodgates to a barrage of messages from parents.

According to Jocelyn Gecker writing for the Associated Press, parents’ “stream-of-consciousness questions add to a climate of constant interruption and distraction from learning [. . .] And the constant buzzes on watches and phones are occupying critical brain space regardless of whether kids are sneaking a peek.”

Overbearing parenting isn’t anything new. 

The idea of helicopter parents has been around for a while. These are parents, according to research published in 2022 in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, “who pay extremely close attention to the child in every aspect.” 

A study published by Frontiers in Psychology in 2022 found that helicopter parenting negatively impacts children’s mental health as it can lead to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescents. Furthermore, other research shows that this type of parenting hinders children’s ability to manage their emotions and behavior. 

Similarly, lawnmower parents exist. These individuals, according to psychologist Amy Brown, “are one step ahead of their children, smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in their way.” Think of the 2019 “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal featuring people like celebrities Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin who took part in a college entrance exam cheating scheme to get their children into school.

By eliminating challenges in a youngster’s life, parents raise sons and daughters who don’t learn how to face and overcome obstacles. With the ability to be in constant communication, even when students are in school, the detrimental impacts become more pronounced and lead to students losing the ability to not be on their devices.

What is new, though, is that the government is stepping in.

Elected officials are wielding proverbial hedge clippers ready to sever the electronic tether between parents and their offspring, at least while the youth are at school. 

In 2023, Florida passed a law requiring public schools to ban students from using their phones during class, and research suggests these bans can improve student outcomes. Similarly, Indiana signed a bill forcing schools to prohibit cellphone use during instructional time, and a similar bill is advancing in Oklahoma. Comparable legislation has been introduced in Vermont. Connecticut and Utah are also jumping on the trend.

Not to be left out, Kansas is also proposing mandates regarding cellphones in schools, going as far as including any “privately owned electronic communication device [that] provides for voice, text or video communication between two or more parties, including, but not limited to, a mobile or cellular phone, tablet, computer, watch, text messaging device or personal digital assistant.”

Of course, legislation wouldn’t be required if parents exercised some control

They need to cease their incessant inquiries into the daily minutiae of their children’s lives during school hours. It can wait. If it’s an emergency, though, they should call the school.

Thankfully, my children are too young to have cellphones yet. However, I’m an educator, and I do have to deal with cellphone use in my classes. It is a constant distraction that impedes learning. 

So cut the digital umbilical cord for the sake of our youth. They can just as easily ignore us at the dinner table as they can via text during school.

Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.

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About toddvogts 837 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.