Simplified: A group of parents are advocating for a more low-tech approach to education – from delaying smart phones and social media at home to banning cell phones in classrooms. Here's what you need to know.

Why it matters

  • "Low Tech Families of Sioux Falls" started a couple months back with a group of four moms who were concerned about the amount of screen time their kids were experiencing both at home and in the classroom. The group has since grown to nearly 100 parents and is now looking for representatives at each of Sioux Falls' schools.
  • Their goal isn't to take all technology out of classrooms, parent Jessie Halverson said. Rather, the hope is to ask the district to evaluate its 1:1 technology initiative and make sure screen time is effective, not distracting.
  • And outside of the classroom, these parents are looking for solidarity – fellow like-minded parents looking for ways to protect their kids from the potential dangers lurking on the internet, from pornography to social media.
"If you saw someone's kid was going to be hit by a car, you'd be like, 'There's a car coming,'" parent Mel Murray said. "We're seeing (technology) is hurting kids globally, and if people knew, they would want to do something."

Tell me more

The Sioux Falls School District implemented a 1:1 technology initiative about a decade ago, meaning every student is assigned either an iPad or a Google Chromebook.

  • Anecdotally, though, those devices can also provide a distraction in the classroom for kids who are playing games or listening to music during lessons, said Halverson – a former teacher herself.
  • Beyond the school-assigned devices, students are also getting distracted by their personal smartphones, she added.

For Halverson, concerns heightened when she read Jonathan Haidt's book "The Anxious Generation," which explores the correlation between smart phones, social media and mental illness in kids.

"It's so much bigger than our kids," she said. "It's about the future of our community."

What are the group's goals?

Right now, it's all about laying the groundwork for conversation, Murray said.

The group also has four goals, including:

  • rules that ban phones from classrooms during the school day,
  • parents delaying giving their kids smart phones until high school, and delaying social media usage until age 16,
  • effective classroom use of devices,
  • and overall encouraging more unstructured play.

What happens next?

Murray and Halverson said they've been encouraged by Superintendent Jane Stavem, and they anticipate they'll meet with district administration soon to discuss their concerns further.

They also spoke recently at a Sioux Falls School Board meeting, and they hope to see more and more parents citywide joining the conversation.