When students go back to school this week and next, it’s fair to say that they will have a lot on their minds beyond algebra and chemistry.

It’s hard enough for teachers to compete with the drama that goes on in a child’s life, but when gossip, teasing and courtship rites fly through the air in real time, a teacher hardly has a chance.

It’s good that local educators are taking this seriously and have strategies to keep students on point and off their phones during at least part of the day, but like many of the social problems we expect schools to deal with, it’s not of the educators’ making and it’s not something that can be fixed between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

Digital communication between youth goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it doesn’t stop for vacations. It would be nice if schools could say that screen usage should take a pause at least during the school day, but that’s not practical. Since so much student work is online, it would be impractical to declare a digital-free zone.

The schools have a job to do, but so do families. Trading information online can feel as important to young people as eating, but parents do not typically let their children to decide at a young age what to eat and when. Kids may crave junk food, but someone has to tell them that it’s not good for them, and help them develop healthy habits.

School is not the only place where kids learn. Their peers can be as influential as their teachers. But their families also have a lasting impact.

How many students who can’t put their phones away at school are coming home to parents and siblings who are just as occupied with their own devices? Does anyone in their house stop for mealtimes or bedtimes? How many kids have grown up watching their parents reading and sending text messages while they are driving, even though they have been warned that it’s dangerous?

Teachers have a hard job to do, but parents can make it a little easier by setting limits on screen time and providing good examples — and most importantly — by following their own rules.

There are a lot of things going on in a young person’s life, and they need all the help they can get to make sure that there’s some bandwidth available for schoolwork.

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