Boost Mobile founder pushes carriers to back ban on cell phones in schools
A longtime telecom CEO called on carrier giants like Verizon and T-Mobile to get behind the growing push on the state and federal level to cut off kids from cell phone use in schools.
Peter Adderton – the Australian-born entrepreneur who founded prepaid service Boost Mobile and now helms MobileX – said every phone carrier has an “ethical and moral responsibility” to support a ban but has refused because “it would hurt their business.”
“There’s a reason carriers stay silent – it’s the same reason tobacco companies stay silent,” Adderton told On The Money. “But the physical health of smoking and seeing smoke in lungs is a better visual than anything having to do with the impact of cellphones in schools.”
Earlier this year, Florida enacted a ban on cell phone use during class and blocked students from using school wifi to access social media.
School districts in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland and Ohio have passed similar bans.
The legislators pointed to distractions, cyberbullying and declining mental health among young people who use phones excessively as key reasons for cutting out the screen time on school grounds.
In most cases, schools take away the phones at the beginning of the day and return them at the end.
Adderton, a father of three, said he was moved to become the first major telecom CEO to call for action in the US after seeing the positive effect the restrictions had when Australia implemented a ban over the past few years.
“I’m a parent first and a CEO second and I see the impact this is having and I can’t see why anyone would have an issue calling for a federal ban on schools,” he said.
Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, who led an independent review of mobile phones bans at schools, found that the Aussie prohibition resulted in “improved academic outcomes, reduced distractions and promoted a lot of social interaction, particularly in recess and lunchtime, which wasn’t happening beforehand.”
One Australian principal, Mark Sneddon, said, “The lesson-by-lesson battle with phones in class is gone, so we’re getting five, 10, maybe 15 minutes of teaching and learning time back.”
The call for a federal cell phone ban in schools comes as social media companies are increasingly under scrutiny for their role in causing kids to suffer depression and eating disorders at the expense of turning a profit.
Earlier this week, Facebook and Instagram were accused of promoting minors’ profiles to child predators and inundating underage users with sexually explicit content, according to a lawsuit filed by the New Mexico attorney general.
While banning phones in schools won’t eliminate access to problematic social media it would diminish the amount of time children spend on these platforms, Adderton insisted.
He also noted that it’s not just social media companies who bear some culpability for the dangers posed by these platforms but also the telecom carriers who he sees as “enablers.”
“Everyone is hammering the social media giants but the very people who connect you to those platforms have a moral responsibility to society, too,” he said, adding, “93% of people now access the internet through a mobile device… if you lose connectivity you can’t access any of this.”
Last month, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced a bill to study the effects of cellphone usage in schools — a move some are hopeful could pave the way for a fully fledged federal ban.
“Widespread use of cellphones in schools are at best a distraction for young Americans; at worst, they expose schoolchildren to content that is harmful and addictive. Our legislation will make schools remain centers of learning,” Cotton said in a statement.
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The politicians are unlikely to get much blowback since the demographic this effects — school-aged children – aren’t of voting age.
“Nothing plays better in Congress than child safety and children’s education,” Joel Thayer said of the political viability of a possible bill.
“You have kids literally filming teachers when they’re reprimanding students and putting it on TikTok,” Thayer added. “Teachers who are tired of getting harassed by students and their union are probably on board.”
Others note that cell phone accessibility for students is vital, especially in the event of an active shooter in a school.
“Given our inability to secure our schools, how would that be good for safety and who will explain that to a victim’s parents?” said Walt Piecy, a partner and TMT analyst at LightShed Partners.
Piecy, along with other analysts, also dismissed Adderton’s assertion that carriers don’t want a ban because it would impact their bottom lines.
“They get paid for subscriptions, not usage,” said Craig Moffett of Moffett Nathanson research, who doesn’t believe in a ban.
“Teens will value their phones even more the moment the bell rings.”