ORLANDO, Fla. - As students head back to school over the next couple of weeks, some may be in for a rude awakening. Lots of school districts now have tighter restrictions on cellphone use.
Jennifer Anders told us her daughter went through a school lockdown for a potential shooter, and being able to text "I love you" was a comfort in that.
"I kind of feel pretty strongly about it, because of that situation," said Anders.
We hear that often – parents want to be able to hear from their kids in an emergency.
"I guess I’m biased because of that," said Anders. "I’m glad she had her phone that day."
But school safety expert Ken Trump says an emergency is the worst time for students to be on their phones.
"In an emergency situation, it's a distraction because it's a focus on the attention of the adults in an emergency that we need, not the attention to live-streaming, texting, and sending out messages," explained Trump.
In Orange County, the school board just voted on a new policy in order to go along with a Florida law that kicked in on July 1. That District says students’ mobile devices have to be turned off and in their backpacks, even during recess and lunch.
Orange County isn’t alone in that. A national review of public schools from 6th to 12th grade found 2/3rd of middle schools ban their use even during lunch and recess. That’s compared with about a third of high schools.
"You have to impose some type of boundaries and parameters and rules, but in most cases, you're going to have some flexibility, such as recess, lunch periods to and from school outside where kids can still use their phones because in most cases they're going to do it anyway," said Trump. "The challenges with this school districts can set whatever policies that are reasonable as they choose. The question comes down to consistency and enforcement."
The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2020, 77% of public schools banned non-academic use of cell phones during school hours.
In Florida, individual districts choose for themselves what they want to do for their policy, so some districts are stricter than others.
Seminole County, for instance, says kids can use their mobile devices between classes if they aren’t creating a distraction.
Brevard County has gone the extra step to say things like Apple watches are banned too.
"It's a balancing act," added Trump. "School administrators don't want to spend all day being the cell phone police, but they need to reduce disruptions, have a safe environment in an emergency, and put some type of controls over the use of cell phones so that it's not disrupting the entire school day"