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Yeah or Nah, Cell Phones In Schools?

August 19, 2018

August 19, 2018

I am just going to come out and say it, as a former teacher, I can attest to a direct correlation between students who cannot take their eyes off of their cell phones aka ‘glued to their hands’, to failing grades. Schools are seeing it too and now more schools are looking to ban cell phones in classrooms.

When the high school, where I taught, proposed the idea of banning cell phones for the upcoming school year, students protested loudly. “What about an emergency?” “You can’t take my property!” All valid points, but even more serious were the students who had single-digit grades or very low double-digit grades. They were the most at-risk, the ones with their phones consistently in their hands had the lowest grades in my class.

My response to the question above was, “What do you think we did before we had cell phones during an emergency?” Yet, I kept in mind that today’s climate is very different than “before we had cell phones.” The students in Parkland, Florida were able to contact their families during a recent school shooting and even document it.

Teachers have given up policing cell phone usage. My classroom policy was that you can check your phone at the beginning and end of class and if a phone is out during my lecture, it must be face down. I even told the students that if you have your cell phone in your face while I am trying to teach you, I will pick up my cell phone and totally ignore you when you come to my desk for help, just to let you feel how rude it is. I even let my students listen to music during individual learning as long as I could not hear the music through their earbuds from across the room, and there were many times that I could.

I got my point across but those students addicted to their phones would still try to hide the device under their desk and text. The worst culprits were the students who were addicted to the video game Fortnite and got caught playing it in class. Some students even FaceTime’d in class with students who were in another classroom. I often would walk behind them, photobomb and wave. I would then inform the viewer that they are about to get my student in a lot of trouble and I would be happy to add their name to the discipline referral form. Most times, they disconnected immediately.

It is a bad situation for learning. Students will swear to you that listening to their cell phones helps them with comprehension but a study from Stanford University shows that is not true and that multitasking actually hurts students grades. I would contact parents to let them know why their teen was failing my class, most times, the parent would punish the teen by taking their phone away. The student would get the phone back sooner than later, and the behavior and failing continued.

“Taking away a phone as a punishment for failing grades is not a bad idea, however, with our Black children being attacked daily by racists and with sex traffickers in our society, not to mention the harassment by the police, is it really a good idea to take their phones away?”

Taking away a phone as a punishment for failing grades is not a bad idea, however, with our Black children being attacked daily by racists and with sex traffickers in our society, not to mention the harassment by the police, is it really a good idea to take their phones away? Students are thoroughly connected to technology. Even if you take their cell phones, they have laptops, iPads and tablets, Apple Watches and more to stay connected to their friends, and they are extremely savvy about it. Is this the most effective way?

What is the solution? The solution is parents. Most schools have an online grade book where you can check on your child’s grades weekly, if not daily. When you see your child’s grades slipping, contact the teacher immediately. Ask the teacher about your child’s cell phone and whether or not it is an issue. If you find this is the case, change the WIFI password at your house until their grades go up. Set the parental controls on their electronic devices to limit what they can do as well. At the minimum, your teen should be able to contact you and emergency services. Put your teen’s video chat or FaceTime to good use, and connect with their teacher weekly for online parent conferences instead of chatting with friends.

“Put your teen’s video chat or FaceTime to good use, and connect with their teacher weekly for online parent conferences instead of chatting with friends.”

It is up to the parents to do their part with technology management to help their teen who cannot resist answering the buzz of their cell phone. Mandy Salivari, a top addiction therapist said, “Giving your child a smartphone is like “Giving them a gram of cocaine.” Studies show that cell phone usage produces dopamine in teens. It is addictive. Even with the phones face down in my classroom, the students would pick them up to look at the text and respond as quickly as  soon as it vibrated, hoping that I wouldn’t notice because they could not resist. Too many high school students are lacking the willpower, and the discipline needed to ignore the vibration of their cell phone until the end of class.

Parents if your teen says he needs the WIFI for homework, sit with him at the computer while he does the work, then change the WIFI password again when they are finished or give him a guest password for now. Add a social media blocking app to their cell phone. Go ahead, take control because teens often don’t have the control needed to succeed. You are a partner with your teen’s teacher. Check in every two weeks at a minimum, if your child is failing then check in weekly. Your teens will protest, fuss and fight but eventually they will appreciate that you helped them to stay on top of their grades.

Parental Control Apps


This app blocks distracting websites.


Keep track of your student’s screen time and Internet page and history tracking.

Cell Phone Accessories For Teens

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