Ban’s bane: Helicopter parents

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Rarely does a Press editorial strike a chord of agreement like Sunday’s did. The editorial, headlined “‘Review process’ is a cop-out: Ban the phones,” called on Coeur d’Alene School District officials to immediately ban the use of smartphones and other student-weilding, internet-connecting devices during school hours.

Support for that position was overwhelming, with a common thread connecting several of those who contacted the newspaper to express their agreement. That is, they are or were classroom teachers; the very people who are working so hard to educate our kids and our grandkids. All they’re seeking is a playing field that removes the distraction of texting and other forms of social media addiction afflicting so many students, which makes teaching and learning far more difficult than either needs to be.

One gentleman who retired after a 30-plus year teaching career offered further insight when he called the newspaper Monday. While encouraging district officials to immediately ban the use of these devices during school hours, he also acknowledged that officials’ indecision or other forms of dalliance is at least somewhat understandable.

Why? Enabling parents.

The former teacher noted that a great deal of pressure is brought to bear on school officials by parents who are unwilling or unable to turn their kids over to qualified teachers and administrators during school hours. The pool of enabling parents, also dubbed “helicopter parents,” seems to be growing the past few years. One of the ways they control their children’s lives is by keeping the invisible umbilical cord intact between their smartphones and their kids’.

As just one example of what we’re talking about, Lucy forgot her math homework assignment. NBD. (No Big Deal.) Just text Dad and he’ll bring it to school pronto. The only problem is, any incentive for Lucy to remember to bring her homework — you know, take steps toward becoming a responsible adult — vanishes in the fumes of Dad’s car as it speeds toward Lucy’s school.

With smartphones, enabling has an ally like never before with these tools of constant connection. The good news is that after the ban, parents who really do need to reach their children, or vice versa, can still do so. Schools are equipped with telephones when important information needs to be relayed.

There’s an added benefit to banning smartphones during school hours beyond improving classroom learning and authentic social interaction, face to face and eyeball to eyeball rather than screen to screen. It is the very strong likelihood that more parents will have to let their kids learn life’s most important lessons.

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