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If there is one place where young people should not be distracted by their digital devices, it’s in school.

Smartphones have become a social lifeline to a growing number of individuals. They incessantly check their Facebook and Twitter feeds, along with a host of other websites, to see what their acquaintances are doing at any given moment.

School officials across the country have tried to ensure that such behavior does not disrupt the learning process. There is a time to peruse social media websites to catch up on what friends are up to, but there also is a time to put the devices down and concentrate on academic studies.

Watertown High School was one of the schools that banned students from using their cellphones during the day. Like other schools with similar prohibitions, WHS wants young people to focus on the educational basics in the classroom.

But after repeated complaints from students, officials at WHS recently announced a change in policy. They’ve set up zones in the school where cellphones may be used.

Students may use their cellphones in yellow (classrooms and library, with the permission of supervising staff members) and green (cafeteria) zones. They are prohibited from using cellphones in red zones (hallways, bathrooms, lunch lines and locker rooms) and still cannot take photographs or record videos with them.

This is actually a sensible compromise. While the over-usage of digital devices is harmful for some, school officials recognized that this is a fact of life for a new generation.

In loosening the reins somewhat, school officials have challenged students to act responsibly. If they can work within the parameters of the new policy, cellphone use in the school will be permitted.

This is a good way to help students become more mature by respecting these new limits. It also will allow staff members to teach students how to differentiate between useful sources of information on the Internet from the rest of the junk floating around cyberspace.

As the primary function any school is to help young people develop critical-thinking skills, WHS officials should be open to opportunities available to use this policy and lead students to a greater understanding of themselves and the world around us. Many people use digital media to disengage from others, and perhaps school policies such as this can reverse that trend.

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