PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As the school year begins, families may have a conversation about whether the time is right for their children to get their first cellphone.
At many high schools, cellphones are ubiquitous, but they can also mean students are more susceptible to distractions, cyberbullying and other related issues.
You won't see cellphones when school is in session at Philadelphia's Imhotep Institute Charter High School.
In 2019, the West Oak Lane school adopted Yondr lockable pouches for its 600 students to cut down on distractions and increase engagement.
"Just like there are other academic instructional tools, we feel like it's an instructional tool," said Andre Noble, Imhotep CEO.
Noble explained phones go into pouches upon arrival. The pouches remain in students' possession and are unlocked at day's end.
"They just hit the Yondr release and keep walking," Noble said.
Used in a growing number of school districts locally and nationwide, Noble says these pouches have been key for teachers when it comes to recapturing students' attention.
"I really believe it's more the distractions of social media, it's, 'I'm checking my social media. I'm tweeting. I'm on Instagram'," Noble said.
"The mere presence of a cellphone without actively using it can reduce cognitive capacity and attention," explained Dr. Desmond Upton Patton.
"We know that particularly on social media, this can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression in students potentially impacting their academic performance and well-being," said Dr. Patton, a professor of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Patton noted there's not one right age for getting a cellphone, but parents should consider their child's maturity and responsibility, and the purpose.
When kids finally get one, Patton advises having continuous conversations about cyberbullying, privacy, and their digital footprint, making sure young people know when they should and should not use phones.
"Should you be on your cellphone before bed? Probably not. Should you be on your cellphone while doing homework or classroom instruction? No. These are some good conversations parents should be having before the school year starts," Patton suggested.
At Imhotep, the Yondr pouches are here to stay, and the school continues to receive updated versions of the pouch to keep up with students.
"Just because they have a Yondr pouch, does not mean our students are not going to be 'creative'," Noble said.
"There are tricks, there's the dummy phone, where this one's been off, and I'm putting it in my Yondr," Noble said, adding, "Just like they get smarter, we get smarter too."