Kent Vallier head shot
  • November, 2023


    Greetings Orchard Hill Families,

    I hope this letter finds you well as we head into the busy weeks prior to the holiday season. As principal of Orchard Hill Elementary, I want to ensure that we’re all keeping our kids safe and as prepared as possible for their academic and emotional success in the elementary school years and beyond. To that end, I wanted to reach out and share a concern that I’m seeing more frequently here at school. Cell phone use among elementary school students. While I understand that technology plays a significant role in our daily lives, it is crucial to be mindful of the potential risks associated with unrestricted cell phone use, especially among younger children. These include:

    1. Social and Emotional Development:

    Young children are still developing their social and emotional skills. Excessive screen time, including social media use, may impact their ability to form healthy relationships, practice effective communication, and develop empathy. Read this.

    2. Physical Health:

    Extended use of electronic devices can contribute to sedentary behavior, leading to potential health issues such as eye strain, poor posture, weight gain and disrupted sleep patterns. It's essential to encourage physical activities and a balance between screen time and outdoor play.

    3. Online Safety:

    Access to the internet via smartphones exposes children to potential dangers. They may encounter inappropriate content or interact with strangers. Teaching responsible internet use and monitoring online activities can help reduce these risks.

    4. Sleep Disruption:

    The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleep regulation. Some studies find that elementary students may be spending up to 5 hours a day on phones. Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, may contribute to difficulty falling asleep and disrupted sleep patterns. I really worry about students coming to school with far less than medically recommended 8-9 hours of sleep.

    What Can You Do?

    • Wait Until 8th: This well-regarded, well-researched organization encourages families to “Wait Until 8th (grade)” to provide children with a smartphone. I’ve linked their website here.

    • Model Healthy Behavior: Children often learn by example. Demonstrate responsible cell phone use by limiting your own screen time and focusing on face-to-face interactions. Play a board game, read a book, go for a walk, etc.

    • Encourage Other Activities: Encourage a balance between screen time and other activities, such as reading, playing sports, and spending time outdoors.

    By working together, we can ensure that our students develop a healthy relationship with technology while minimizing the potential risks associated with cell phone use. If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to reach out to us. Your partnership in supporting your child's growth and well-being is greatly appreciated.

    Lastly, as a general reminder, if your child does have a smart device of any kind, they should be powered off and stored in backpacks for the entire school day. Of course, some students use this technology for major health needs and those can be arranged individually with our team here at school. Should you have any questions, please call or better, swing by as I’d be happy to speak with you in person.


    Kent Vallier, Principal