Benton High going cellphone free during class day

Another Bossier school embraces idea of stowing cellphones during class

BENTON, La. (KSLA) — The average U.S. smartphone owner checks their phone an average of 52 times a day.

And 80 percent of students agreed that using a mobile phone in class decreases their ability to pay attention, a study shows.

With such glaring numbers, a yearlong test program aimed at limiting those distractions is underway at a Bossier high school.

A KSLA News 12 crew followed Yondr representative Ben Blanchard on Thursday as he began to hand out cellphone pouches to students at Benton High.

Yondr is a San Francisco startup company that makes the specialized magnetic pouches in which students’ cellphones are stored.

“Put the screen away from the needle so it’s not scratching it up. Nice and snug.”

Students’ cellphones are locked in the pouch at the beginning of the day and unlocked after last period to reduce distractions at school.

Sophomore Kayla Shepherd said she’s heard mixed reviews about the initiative.

“I’ve heard a lot of my friends’ parents don’t agree with it. But my mom agrees with it. . So, I agree with it too.”

Students’ cellphone distractions extend far beyond the classroom.

"Cuz I get lunch and stuff, a lot of my friends are like on their phone and they don't talk. So, socialize more? Yeah."

Others expect it could take a while for all 1,300 or so Benton High students to buy into the program.

“I think it is a really good idea," Benton High sophomore Emma-Cate Cox said. "But there’s gonna be a lot of students who are going to like try and rebel. But I think we’re gonna get used to it.”

As for students who try to rebel? Cox explained: “You get ‘gasped.’"

While there is plenty of support for the pilot program, there also is the question of safety.

What happens, for example, if there’s an emergency and students cannot use their cellphones?

During an emergency, Benton teacher Barry Plunkett explained, you don’t want more than 1,000 students calling home or 911 at the same time. “

"If there’s an emergency, I don’t want him sitting here talking to his parents. Let’s get where we need to get to.”

And with fewer distractions, one teacher said, don’t be surprised to see students’ grades and test scores rise.

The Pew Research Center estimates that 95 percent of teenagers have or have access to a smartphone and that 45 percent of teenagers say they are online on a near-constant basis.

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