This morning I am wondering how many of our high school students are feeling. The school is instituting a new (changed) policy on cell phone usage. As I understand it, although there were guidelines before, cell phone usage in the classroom was left up to each individual teacher. Now, each department was charged with coming up with a plan to deal with the ever-increasing non-academic use of cell phones in the classroom.
As parents, we were notified this would be happening today, the first day of the second semester of the school year. Since we have a block schedule, most of the students are attending new classes (with new teachers) today. The notification came last week, urging us to speak to our students of the change, particularly what they were expected to do with their phones during the school day.
As a dutiful parent and a rule follower, I did as the district asked and told my son of the change. I even printed the policy that referred to this in the email we received. I let him know what he was to do with his phone today, and every day for the next semester – his last of high school. I am hopeful he’ll comply. We are expecting him to do just that. But, then again, he does like his phone! When we spoke, he did think there would be “some problems” across the board with the institution of the new policy.
My husband and I are fully behind this policy change. Our students spend too much time on their devices. School is for learning, although that is sometimes (often) masked in the other things that are scheduled throughout the day. Years ago, our district passed a referendum to enable each of our students in grades 6-12 to have a 1:1 device. This established technological equity amongst the student body and still allowed teachers to use the internet for academic lessons. They can make quizlets, use a Kahoot, perform literature reviews, access easy bib, easily save the most recent draft of a paper, and more with their chrome books. There really is no reason to have a phone at school. Yet, nowadays most students do have them.
Depending on the teacher, up until this point, I imagine some classes were allowed phone usage during academic periods. And, for some departments, maybe this will continue. Personally, I think we are behind the eight-ball on this. Phone usage should have been restricted before now in our school settings. Yes, it’s true that many students are used to ready access to their phone 24/7. And, as they progress with life after high school to the work world or college, they will have to determine how much phone usage is too much, when it is a distraction in their lives, and when they need it for an emergency (like a flat tire or accident). So, the argument could be made that they can determine this now. However, most students are not ready to do so between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age. Remember, this is the age of following the pack, fitting in, and being “cool.” Most students of this age are not ready to self-regulate.
So, by curtailing phone usage during the school day, are not our academic institutions helping students learn to self-regulate usage by setting limits? Although the students won’t see it this way, is it actually to their benefit that the limits are set and the policy is enforced? I think so.
I am by no means absolving parents’ responsibilities in how phones are managed. I’ll admit it’s hard. And, our family came late to being connected constantly. When we did connect, we had years of placing the phones in the kitchen at night and they have never been allowed at the dinner table. Additionally, if there’s been a consequence to be had, we’ve noted that taking the phone away for an extended period certainly makes a memorable point. And, the kid survived! Imagine that!
It’ll be interesting to hear from our son after school today. I feel like, finally, the time has come to institute this policy but I also feel like it should have been enforced many years ago. Maybe, then, it would not be such a big issue today.
What do you think?
Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. This is a day when TwoWritingTeachers.org blog hosts a forum in which educators can share their writing in a supportive and caring community. It is a wonderful group that I have participated in for the last three years. Many thanks to them for creating such a welcoming space!