Senior School - January 12 / 2018

Getting Smart about Smartphones

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Message to Parents - You Play an Important Role in Your Child’s Use of Their Smartphone

As I finish up reviewing the results of our recent Smartphone survey, I can’t help but notice two news items that have hit our screens since beginning of this quest: 1) France has decided to ban students’ use of cellphones at the primary, junior and middle school level, and 2) major shareholders of Apple Inc. have asked the company to create ways for parents to have greater control over their children’s use of their Iphones, and to investigate the effects of cell phone use on mental health. We are obviously addressing a very current issue!

The Senior School’s recent survey of grade 9 - 12 students and parents,  and discussions regarding smartphone use have been an education.  Here’s what the committee has learned:

  1. Grade 9 students have greater difficulty than older students controlling their use of their cell phones (40% admitted this, as compared with 7% of grade 12s).  

  2. Students feel it to be unfair when they are asked to hand in their phone, especially when their use has been legitimate (checking time, schedule, etc.).

  3. Students can message on laptop, especially with Mac computers, and that makes the cell phone less important in our school.

  4. Some students are more often distracted by parents texting them than friends texting them during the school day.

  5. Students feel generally that they see one another during the day and so that smartphone use is not so essential for social purposes at school.

  6. Students find that their parents use smartphones a great deal.  This was supported by the survey. Students scored an average of 2.28/5 for the number of times they use their phone, as compared to adults who scored an average of 3.13/5 (without teachers, the number would have been higher).

  7. Most complaints regarding how people use their phones (95%) relate to behaviour in social situations, not class or work.

  8. Parents see smartphone misuse in a classroom to be much worse than students do (4.5/5 for adults who agree with the statement that “Smartphones are a distraction in class”, compared with 3.1/5 for students).

What can we as a school do?


Students are given tools by adults - laptops, smartphones - and we must take responsibility for showing them how to best use them. We will be having advisors work with grade 9 students to make sure they know how to control their phones so that their phones don’t control them!* We will continue to share studies indicating the effects of smartphones on people’s lives. Finally, we are planning a no-device day to draw attention to our use of the phone and the role it plays in our lives.

Create Norms

We need to create expectations of how and when students will use their phones, and such norms should follow from the values we espouse as a school - respect, balance, and knowledge. We will set out expectations and remind students of those expectations.

Expectations in the Senior School classroom will include controlling notifications, not having phones during tests, and not accessing phones during classes without permission.

Expectations outside the classroom will underline the importance of respecting the people we are with.

What can you as a parent do?


As with so many teenage behaviours, smartphone use is partly driven by parent use and adult use in general.  How parents use their phones around their children tells children something about the value of the phone and the role it should play in their lives. If parents prioritize their phones over those who are present, we can only expect teenagers to do the same. If parents text their child during class, teenagers will receive the message that it is appropriate to interupt a class environment, and that a parent’s aims are more important than the purpose being established by the teacher in the class. Where parents openly set limits for themselves and their phone use, teenagers will get the message that there is another model to follow.

Creating Norms

We suggest that parents consider creating rules in their own homes and that they commit to following those rules, and not merely when the kids are around. Consider:

  1. No phones at the dinner table.

  2. Ask permission of the people you are with to check your phone for a message.

  3. Not to send messages to people who you know are engaged at work in a public setting (kids are in classes, Mom’s in court, Dad’s in a meeting, your friend is at a music lesson, etc.)

We must all envisage the world we want our kids to inherit, and ensure that we don’t lose sight of the values that have stood the test of time. With some imagination and self-discipline, we can incorporate the use of smartphones into our lives so that they help us create a better world, a world in which our tools are controlled by us for our benefit, and not the other way around.

*You can help us with this by reviewing these two videos and ensuring that your child’s phone notifications are not contributing to distraction.

  1. How to turn off Notifications - Iphone

  2. How to turn off Notifications - Android

India Casual Day - Friday, January 19th

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This March, Grade 11 students from The York School will visit Global Pathways School (or GPS) in Chettipalayam, India. Friday, January 19th is Casual Day in the colours of the India flag (green, white, orange).  Pay what you can (suggested $5) to raise money for students at Global Pathways School. The students of the India Trip will also be selling delicious slices of cake at lunch time in the Flex Space and holding a Raffle.

Athletic News

Come and join our own strength and conditioning coach, Mr. DeMarinis, for a class on Monday, January 15, 2018.  One of the biggest excuses in neglecting wellness is lack of time. Come and learn a quick & efficient workout with the best piece of equipment ever - your own body! Open to students in Grades 9 - 12, staff & faculty, and parents.  $20 per person (cash or account) - please note that if you sign up and don't attend, you WILL be charged.  All sessions will take place in our new Strength and Conditioning Facility at 1320 Yonge Street. Sign up here!

The York School is proud to announce that NBA & International Shooting/Skills Development Coach, David Nurse, is returning, and bringing with him the Toronto Raptors’ own Norm Powell and OG Anunoby! Sessions take place April 6th - 8th in our gym at 1320 Yonge Street. Sign up here today!

Grade 9 - 12 students are invited to join us for a Boxing session on January 24th, from 8:00 am to 9:00 am in the Gladiator Strength and Conditioning Centre. Complete the registration form here.  

Senior School Parents Connect - January 23

Last day to sign up is January 17th! We will gather at the Tarragon Theatre to enjoy a meal catered by Fat Pasha prior to viewing the play Mustard. Afterwards, some members of the production will stay on to chat with us about the play.

Date: Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Time: 7:00pm

Dinner will be held in their Rehearsal Hall, play

30 Bridgman AveLocation: Tarragon Theatre - and Talkback in their Extraspace Theatre

Cost: $65 (includes a group priced ticket to the play and dinner by Fat Pasha)


Important Dates

Please make sure to check The York School’s full school calendar regularly for updates, locations and times.