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I-Team: More and more cell phones are heading into Maine classrooms

Studies show kids are getting the devices at a younger age than ever before. (WGME)

FALMOUTH (WGME) -- It's back to school for some students Wednesday and the I-Team discovers more and more cell phones are heading into the classroom with them.

Studies show kids are getting the devices at a younger age than ever before.

Kids these days are getting smartphones around the age of 10, according to a 2016 study by the research firm Influence Central.

Martha Elbaum has a daughter heading into the sixth grade.

“She's 11-years-old and at this point many of her friends do have cell phones,” Elbaum said.

But her daughter, Charlotte, doesn't.

“She borrows my cell phone and we have time limits for when she's using it and she's been great about that,” Elbaum said.

Elbaum says the camera and certain educational apps can be great tools for kids, but the devices have a dark side.

She's seen a few sleepovers with less socializing and more screen time.

“They're designed in some ways to keep you on the phone and I am concerned that my daughter would spend so much time on the phone that she wouldn’t engage in other really enriching activities,” Elbaum said.

That's the concern for schools too.

“What we're finding is that they're more problematic than not,” Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said.

Superintendent Webster says it's a challenge that's grown over the past six or seven years.

“Students are perhaps less skilled today at having face to face dialogue,” Webster said.

He says kids aren't the only ones to blame.

“We have parents that expect to be able to call their child at any time of day,” Webster said.

The CBS13 I-Team requested cell phone policies from several school districts in the greater Portland area.

Falmouth, for example, doesn't have a specific policy, but many of the others are very similar, generally saying cell phones can't be a disruption.

Some require they be "off" or on "silent."

Most high schools allow them to be used during breaks and at lunch.

Policies seem to be stricter in the lower schools, with some banning cell phones altogether.

That's the new policy this year at Lewiston Middle School. If teachers see a phone, they've been instructed to take it away.

Science teacher Stephanie Couture says she catches students every once in a while.

“Usually if they're sitting on their stools and looking down toward their lap and smiling and not paying attention,” Couture said.

That's why she has phone prison hanging behind her desk.

But just like technology, Webster says the rules are always evolving.

“I don’t think any school system would say that the policies they have in place today are going to be unchanged five years from now,” Webster said.

Elbaum knows it's only a matter of time before her daughter has a phone of her own.

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