There’s a growing “no-phone” movement in schools. Up to 95% of teens own a cell phone, and kids can receive about 500 notifications a day, many during school hours, making it hard for them to concentrate.

A social psychologist says the problem is “worse than vaping.” Reporter Meg Oliver has the story for this week’s Mental Health Monday.

For students at Newburgh Free Academy in New York, the first assignment of the day: locking their phones in pouches made by the company Yondr for seven hours, including lunch. It was a bit of a shock for some students when the policy was introduced four years ago.

Here students walk with their heads up in the hall, socialize and laugh in the lunchroom and focus on what teachers like Dennis Maher are saying.

“It’s a gamechanger it’s night and day. I saw kids’ faces again,” Maher said.

According to the CDC, in the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness, as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors, increased by about 40%, while test scores — especially in math for grades four and eight — saw the biggest decline on record.

While there’s debate on whether technology, including phones, deserves much of the blame for these trend, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says it’s the only explanation.

“So, it wasn’t the pandemic that did this to us. This was all starting in the early-2010s. And the only explanation anyone can offer for why this happened all over the world is the phones,” Haidt said.

He says in 2010 most teenagers had flip phones they used for texting, but between 2010 and 2015 smartphones changed the landscape inundating people with notifications, group chats and social media.

“Smartphones are basically kryptonite for learning. If kids have access to a phone, they will text they will check their social media they will not pay attention,” Haidt said.

At Newburgh Free Academy, students lock up their phones and leave them in the classroom all day.

Yondr pouches cost between $25 and $30 per student. Haidt says while they aren’t foolproof, it’s an easy solution for a generation during a mental health crisis.

“This was a disastrous experiment that we began in the early-2010s. We didn’t know any better than, we know better now,” Haidt said.