Sample Petition


Argument: Adolescents are in a mental health crisis. Since 2010, the social lives of American teens have moved onto smartphones loaded with social media apps. At the same time, young people today have not been spending enough time engaged in free play, nor have they been given the real-world independence they need to thrive. Both of these forces—the rapid immersion into the virtual world (particularly with smartphones and social media) and the rising overprotection in the real world—have led to the deterioration of our children’s well-being. 

Smartphones decimate attention, learning, and inclusion. A child whose phone is buzzing with alerts from texts and social media during class is a child who is not paying attention in class. A child who needs to keep up with the micro dramas that emerge online each day is a child who will not be talking with friends between classes, or at lunch. When smartphones entered our schools, around 2012, test scores began to fall and loneliness in school began to rise. This happened all over the world, at the same time. In addition, smartphones are bringing in more classroom conflicts, teacher burnout, and cyberbullying.

We, the undersigned parents of [FILL IN DISTRICT ABOVE], petition the [FILL IN DISTRICT ABOVE] Board of Education to implement a phone-free policy in all schools, from elementary through high school, which mandates students stow away phones, smartwatches, and any other personal devices that can send or receive texts during the school day to free up their attention for their friends and teachers.

We also ask the Board to adopt a more independence-building and play-rich approach at all schools, particularly in elementary and middle school. We ask that the schools:

  • Institute a “Play Club” for students K-8, keeping the playground open before or after school as a no-phone-zone for mixed-age free play, with minimal adult intervention
  • Give longer recess in K-8
  • Assign the Let Grow Experience in grades K-8, which asks students to go home and do something new, on their own, in the real world, with their parents’ permission but without their parents, to increase independence and resilience.
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[Notes: We wrote the phone-free school petition to be printed out on paper and signed at drop-off or school events. Feel free to edit it or turn it into a Google form to make it easy to circulate online. We wrote it as a petition to school boards because that is the most effective way to solve the collective action problem, but feel free to edit it to just apply to your child’s school. For more information, please visit and see the evidence for phone-free schools laid out in this post at After Babel.]

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