Post-Covid MD technology policy prohibits personal devices


Sofia Kim , Staff Writer

At the beginning of the 2020 school year, the Middle Division (MD) encouraged students to bring their personal devices to school so they could access materials online and avoid sharing materials. However, the number of students misusing devices spiked. “They were watching movies, watching Netflix, and we couldn’t regulate all of it,” Head of MD Javaid Khan said.

Three years later, the effects of the pandemic live on with the MD’s no personal device policy, effective at the start of the 2021 school year. 

In the beginning of each school year, students are asked to sign The MD Citizenship Agreement that contains the policy: while students may carry their personal devices with them during the school day, devices cannot be used unless allowed by a teacher. If students need to contact their guardians, they can use the phone in the MD Office. Additionally, if students are caught using their personal devices, their device is confiscated for the rest of the day.

However, students do not always abide by the no cell-phone policy. In a poll conducted by The Record with 167 responses, 40% of poll respondents have used devices at school when they were not supposed to. 20% of these students use their device multiple times per day; 15% several times a week; 23% several times a month. 13% of poll respondents have had their device confiscated by an adult for reasons such as texting their parent, listening to music, or showing their friends a funny video during the school day.

While devising the technology policies, the deans and teachers discuss the behavior they have seen in classrooms and hallways, then come up with policies that would most benefit the students, Khan said.

The consequences escalate each time a student breaks a rule. “On the first day, a confiscated device is put in the dean’s office. But the second time a rule gets broken, the device is put in the office for five days,” David Rukin (7) said.

According to the poll, 87% of MD respondents own a cell-phone, 92% own a computer, and 68% own an iPad. 50% received their first phone between the ages of 10 and 11; the earliest age was 1% of students at six, while the latest age was 3% at 13. Computer ownership trended slightly earlier, with 62% of students owning one between the ages of nine and 11. iPad ownership began at an even earlier age — about 50% of students had an iPad by the ages of six and eight; 8% had one when they were four or younger. 

Comparatively, according to a Stanford Med study in 2022, about 25% of children across the nation received a phone at 10.7 years old and 75% of children have a phone by age 12.6. 

Rukin got his first device, an iPad, at age seven. He uses it to play video games and watch YouTube, he said.

Similarly, Surya Fraser (8) got her first iPad at eight years old. Today, she uses her phone to check social media, she said.

Olivia Choi (8) got her first phone at seven years old to keep in touch with her parents on the bus, she said. However, she has limited screen time at home to make time for her school work.

By minimizing screen time outside of the classroom, the MD’s policy encourages students to interact with their classmates or meet with their teachers for extra help, Dean of Faculty Eva Abbamonte said. “The policy is not an attempt to say technology is evil but to help kids manage their time and manage how they use it.”

More so than Upper Division (UD) students, MD students need to learn how to navigate their independence, and the goal of the policy is to help them be fully present in their school day, Khan said. “It can be hard for them to make good choices when there are too many things on their plate. Technology is one of those choices.” 

According to the poll, 25% of students use their device for non-educational purposes for one hour a day; 32% use it for two hours; 13% use it for three hours. On the ends of the spectrum, 8% of students use it for less than 30 minutes, and 8% said they use it upwards of six hours a day. 

To help students learn to navigate technology and social media, MD Advisory Coordinator Arni Alvarez implemented the“#WinAtSocial” curriculum. The program covers topics such as mental health and TikTok through various lessons.Technology Integrator Cassandra Parets also teaches students about proper technology use. At grade meetings, she reminds them how to use devices and stay safe on the internet.

With proper education, students can take advantage of technology academically and socially — instead of the other way around. “It can be used for creativity, communication, collaboration, assessments and more,” seventh grade Dean Michelle Amilicia said. 

“Without Zoom and FaceTime, COVID would have been a lot harder than it was,” Abbamonte said. Students can use devices to chat with friends from summer camps of teams outside of school. “The ability to do that is an amazing way to stay connected in the world.”

Choi has seen students break the rules by using their phone in the bathrooms, she said. She does not use her device at school because it can distract her and make her late for class.

Fraser agrees with the no cell-phone policy during classes and passing time, but she said it is not necessary for the whole school day. “I don’t see the harm in having my phone out during lunch.” 

While David understands the rules are there to prevent students from getting distracted, he said it is more important to be able to use a device in case of emergency. “It is more tedious to go to the office and ask them to call your parents,” he said.

Khan hears from students who are glad the school prioritizes face-to-face interaction and are thankful for the policy, he said. “It sounds crazy, but those are the kids who say they don’t want or use social media.” On the flip side, there are a lot of students who get their phones confiscated and need to have conversations with teachers about their choices.

Students may often evade the policies by using their phones in bathrooms or other places with no cameras, Abbamonte said. Older students are more likely to break the rules as they have figured out how to not get caught.

At home, William Rukin ‘93 P ‘24 ‘25 ‘28 is careful about his chidrens’ technology usage. “If my son overuses his devices, we ask him to stop,” William Rukin said. “If he chooses not to stop, then we have to take them away.” Today’s technology is designed to keep users connected, which can have detrimental effects on a child’s behavior and motivation, he said. “Time is the most valuable thing we have. Your phone and your iPad are programmed by adults to try to take your time from you.”