Kids are using phones in class, even when it’s against the rules. Should schools ban them all day?

San Francisco –

In California, a high school teacher complains that students watch Netflix on their phones during class. In Maryland, a chemistry teacher says students use gambling apps to place bets during the school day.

Across the United States, educators say students routinely send Snapchat messages in class, listen to music and shop online, among countless other examples of how smartphones distract from teaching and learning.

The hold that phones have on adolescents in America today is well-documented, but teachers say parents are often not aware to what extent students use them inside the classroom. And increasingly, educators and experts are speaking with one voice on the question of how to handle it: Ban phones during classes.

“Students used to have an understanding that you aren’t supposed to be on your phone in class. Those days are gone,” said James Granger, who requires students in his science classes at a Los Angeles-area high school to place their phones in “a cellphone cubby” with numbered slots. “The only solution that works is to physically remove the cellphone from the student.”

Most schools already have rules regulating student phone use, but they are enforced sporadically. A growing number of leaders at the state and federal levels have begun endorsing school cellphone bans and suggesting new ways to curb access to the devices.

The latest state intervention came in Utah, where Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, last month urged all school districts and the state Board of Education to remove cellphones from classrooms. He cited studies that show learning improves, distractions are decreased and students are more likely to talk to each other if phones are taken away.

“We just need a space for six or seven hours a day where kids are not tethered to these devices,” Cox told reporters this month. He said his initiative, which is not binding, is part of a legislative push to protect kids in Utah from the harms of social media.

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in school. A law that took effect in July requires all Florida public schools to ban student cellphone use during class time and block access to social media on district Wi-Fi. Some districts, including Orange County Public Schools, went further and banned phones the entire school day.

Oklahoma, Vermont and Kansas have also recently introduced what is becoming known as “phone-free schools” legislation.

And two U.S. senators — Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat — introduced legislation in December that would require a federal study on the effects of cellphone use in schools on students’ mental health and academic performance. Theirs is one of several bipartisan alliances calling for stiffer rules for social media companies and greater online safety for kids.

Nationally, 77 per cent of U.S. schools say they prohibit cellphones at school for non-academic use, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But that number is misleading. It does not mean students are following those bans or all those schools are enforcing them.

Just ask teachers.

“Cellphone use is out of control. By that, I mean that I cannot control it, even in my own classroom,” said Patrick Truman, who teaches at a Maryland high school that forbids student use of cellphones during class. It is up to each teacher to enforce the policy, so Truman bought a 36-slot caddy for storing student phones. Still, every day, students hide phones in their laps or under books as they play video games and check social media.

Tired of being the phone police, he has come to a reluctant conclusion: “Students who are on their phones are at least quiet. They are not a behaviour issue.”

A study last year from Common Sense Media found that 97 per cent of kids use their phones during school hours, and that kids say school cellphone policies vary — often from one classroom to another — and aren’t always enforced.

For a school cellphone ban to work, educators and experts say the school administration must be the one to enforce it and not leave that task to teachers. The Phone-Free Schools Movement, an advocacy group formed last year by concerned mothers, says policies that allow students to keep phones in their backpacks, as many schools do, are ineffective.

“If the bookbag is on the floor next to them, it’s buzzing and distracting, and they have the temptation to want to check it,” said Kim Whitman, a co-founder of the group, which advises schools to require phones be turned off and locked away all day.

Some students say such policies take away their autonomy and cut off their main mode of communication with family and friends. Pushback also has come from parents who fear being cut off from their kids if there is a school emergency. Whitman advises schools to make exceptions for students with special educational and medical needs, and to inform parents on expert guidance that phones can be a dangerous distraction for students during an emergency.

Jaden Willoughey, 14, shares the concern about being out of contact with his parents if there’s a crisis. But he also sees the upsides of turning in his phone at school.

At Delta High School in rural Utah, where Jaden is a freshman, students are required to check their phones at the door when entering every class. Each of the school’s 30 or so classrooms has a cellphone storage unit that looks like an over-the-door shoe bag with three dozen smartphone-sized slots.

“It helps you focus on your work, and it’s easier to pay attention in class,” Jaden said.

A classmate, Mackenzie Stanworth, 14, said it would be hard to ignore her phone if it was within reach. It’s a relief, she said, to “take a break from the screen and the social life on your phone and actually talk to people in person.”

It took a few years to tweak the cellphone policy and find a system that worked, said Jared Christensen, the school’s vice principal.

“At first it was a battle. But it has been so worth it,” he said. “Students are more attentive and engaged during class time. Teachers are able to teach without competing with cellphones. And student learning has increased,” he said, citing test scores that are at or above state averages for the first time in years. “I can’t definitively say it’s because of this policy. But I know it’s helping.”

The next battle will be against earbuds and smartwatches, he said. Even with phones stashed in pouches, students get caught listening to music on air pods hidden under their hair or hoodies. “We haven’t included earbuds in our policy yet. But we’re almost there.”

AP Reporter Hannah Schoenbaum in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this report.

The Associated Press’ education coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

Here’s how to really stretch out on the couch

After a long day, there is nothing quite like sinking into the comfort of your couch. But what if this simple pleasure could offer more than just the relaxation that comes from flopping down and stretching out? By incorporating a few deliberate stretches into your couch routine, you can elevate this common ritual to a form of self-care. The three stretches outlined below can help you transform your couch time into a therapeutic experience that provides both immediate relief and long-term benefits. Because these stretches focus on areas of our bodies that we tend to stress most in our everyday lives, addressing them during daily couch time can ease and even prevent chronic aches and pains. Ready to give them a try? Head to your couch and follow the instructions below or practice along with the video above. Stretch 1: Yoga pigeon variation Start by standing just in front of your couch, facing it. Lay your bent right leg on the cushion so your shin is parallel to the couch edge. Step your left leg back, bending your knee down to the floor as you would in a kneeling lunge. You can place a pillow on the floor under your left knee for added comfort. If your right knee is lifted significantly off the couch, you can also slide a pillow under that knee for support. Inhale and lengthen through your torso with a neutral spine. Exhale and hinge from your hips to lean forward as much as you feel comfortable as the intensity of the stretch increases. If you feel OK doing so, you can bend all the way over your bent leg, as in a traditional yoga pigeon pose. Hold the position that feels best for you and take three to five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side. Lower your left knee only as far as you’re comfortable. If you can drop your knee to the floor, go for it. CNN via CNN Newsource You should feel this stretch in your outer hip without any pain in your knee or low back. If you feel any pain sensation, back off immediately and try the modification below. To modify, sit on the couch with both feet on the floor and bring your bent right leg up to place your ankle on your left leg, just above your knee, in a figure-four position. As noted above, lengthen your torso and lean forward to intensify the stretching sensation in your hip. Hold and breathe, then repeat on the other side. Stretch 2: Quad and hip flexor release Standing in front of your couch, facing away from it, step your right foot forward and bend at the knee as you would in a lunge. Using an end table or sofa arm for support, lift your left foot behind you and rest it on top of the couch cushion. Bend your left knee down toward the floor as far as you can. Depending on how tight you feel, adjust the position of your left knee closer to or farther from the couch to increase or decrease the stretch in your quads, the muscles on the front of your upper leg. As in the previous stretch, you can place a pillow on the floor to cushion your knee. Move your right foot forward, knee bent, and lift your left foot behind you and rest it on the couch. Exhale and bring your ribs down and tuck your pelvis under. CNN via CNN Newsource Once you’ve established your position, exhale, bringing your lower ribs down as you tuck your pelvis under. Feel how this positioning intensifies the stretch in your hip flexors, the muscles on the front of your hip. That’s because your largest hip flexor muscle, the psoas major, attaches to your pelvis; when you tuck your pelvis under, that action lengthens the psoas muscle. Holding the couch or an end table for support, you can increase the intensity and area of the stretch to include your side body by inhaling as you lift your left arm overhead and exhaling as you side bend to the right. Stay in the stretch, side bending with your pelvis tucked, for three to five breaths. Repeat on the other side. If necessary, you can modify and decrease intensity by moving farther away from the couch, keeping your back knee above the floor, and not incorporating the side bend. Stretch 3: Hamstring stretch with a twist While standing, facing your couch, bend into a semi-squat position with your knees just above 90 degrees. Place your left forearm down on the couch, centered and perpendicular to your torso. Reach your right arm forward and inhale as you rotate from your shoulder and the middle of your back to bring your arm above your head with both shoulders aligned vertically. At the same time, straighten your right leg only — leaving your left leg bent. You should feel a stretch in your chest, front of your shoulder, low back and hamstrings (muscles on the back of your upper leg). Hold this position for three to five breaths, then repeat on the other side. Place your left forearm down on couch. Bending the knees in a semi-squat, reach your right arm forward. Inhale as you rotate your arm up. CNN via CNN Newsource This is actually a modified version of a windmill twist — a stretch that I recommend everyone should do daily. To do a full windmill twist without using your couch, follow the same cues above but instead of placing your left forearm on your couch, place your left hand on your left shin. Incorporating intentional stretching into your couch routine isn’t just about momentarily easing tension; it’s an investment in your overall well-being and future comfort. So, the next time you’re tempted to mindlessly flop on to the cushions, pause and consider these simple yet effective stretches. Your body will thank you for the extra care and attention. 

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 Deciding on Your Focal Point
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Repetition for Rhythm
Rhythm creates a flow and helps direct the eye to the differing visual elements in your room. Just as the notes of a favorite song repeat to create the rhythm, repetition in decor will create a rhythm throughout a home. Establish visual interests with a rhythm throughout your space by placing similar colours or patterns at intervals and repeat in artwork, cushions or area rugs.

Perfect Proportion and Suitable Scaling
Who doesn’t love a large, overstuffed chair? But if your room is on the smaller size it may look out of place and make your room seem even smaller than it is. Keep proportion in perspective. Proportion is the ratio between a piece of furniture and the size of a room. Scale is the size of a piece of furniture in relation to the other pieces of furniture in the room. A super large chair will overpower an apartment of loft size sofa or loveseat and create a sense of unbalance in the room.

Have your room humming harmoniously
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What is the focal point in your room?  What is your best tip to find harmony and balance through your home?