Teens and Their Phones

We all know teens love their phones. They always have their phones. Always — even when school says they can’t. Just today, my daughter told me she started writing a paper on her iPhone during class – while the teacher was lecturing about something “I already knew.” (I believe her. This class is incredibly easy and pointless.)

Ah – and her school policy is NO CELL PHONES IN CLASS. Sorry – but that’s a joke. Kids – not just mine – are using their phones all the time. Having a policy like this and not enforcing it is seriously problematic. Don’t get me wrong — I think having that policy is wrong. But it seriously undermines the school’s “authority” to have the policy but not enforce it.

Why can’t they have them? Well, in a discussion with the district’s IT director back in August 2011, she felt that since not every student had a phone, no one should get to use them. She saw no educational purpose for “regular” phones, and since few kids had smart phones, why bother? 

Ugh. Not only should the IT director NOT be making school policy, this is incredible to me. I realize just how far there was to go.

A Pew internet study from March 2012 recently showed that 1 in 4 teens, ages 14-17, have smart phones. I’m not sure it’s that high with my daughter and her friends, but she’s certainly not the only one with a smart phone.

In a recent discussion with district personnel, there was interest in doing a survey of students about their phone and internet access. To their credit, they did do a survey two years ago — but with this topic, that data is totally useless.

I will be very interested to see if the results reflect the Pew study.

2 thoughts on “Teens and Their Phones

  1. It’s a much higher ratio in our school. I’d guess that 80-90% have a cell phone; the issue is whether they have what David Pogue calls an “App Phone.” Although there are Androids here and there, the #1 phone at our school is the iPhone.

    As a teacher who supports the use of technology–even (gasp) texting if another section is rehearsing and they are waiting–there are still challenges. Some students literally can’t help themselves, and they KNOW that they are using the devices at inappropriate times.

    The other day I made the point by asking a student, “Is everything okay?” The student replied, “Why?” I answered, “Well, we were in the middle of a song, and you were texting instead of singing. The only reason I can think of why you would text instead of sing is that something so terrible happened that you had to prioritize and write or answer a text message instead of singing. Otherwise, with so much freedom to use technology in my classroom, why would you do such a thing?”

    The response was a shocked look. The student didn’t even touch their phone today, although I didn’t forbid her to touch it.

    It’s not solely the kid’s fault. I’ve been to faculty meetings where our principals would stop mid-sentence to check their Blackberries (most have now moved to iPhones or Android devices). Teachers are on their devices ALL the time…some even during classes when they are teaching. And their parents are doing the same thing. I even heard from a college choir director who says that he faces the same issues in his choirs.

    It’s a wonderful chance to teach about the appropriate use of technology at appropriate times. Games are hard to justify mid-class, ever. A case can be made for texting in short down times. Full educational uses of devices (e.g. as a music reader) are always justified.

    But the kids can’t always stop themselves from inappropriate use, and neither can we as adults. So we make it a learning experience. And in the worst of situations, I collect phones for the remainder of the day. And you start with a new slate the next day.

  2. crossons says:

    I completely agree with this being an opportunity to teach appropriate use. I see adults rudely using their phones all the time. As I’ve mentioned here before, at the museum where I work, we rarely have trouble with kids texting when they are in the exhibits. It’s the chaperones. They are constantly checking phones when they are supposed to be monitoring the kids. How can we blame the kids, then, for their inappropriate use?

    I was at a museum conference this week. It was amusing — in the non-techie sessions, very few people had phones/iPads/laptops out. I could tell people were looking at me like I was SO rude for tweeting and taking notes on my iPad. It was totally different in the few technical sessions offered. Ahhhh…. the iPads, the phones, etc. What a relief! These were my people! Oddly, in these situations, it is NOT considered rude or inappropriate to be on your devices in those sessions!

    By the way, the Pew study says 1 in 4 students have smart phones, which I would consider app phones (Android or iPhone.) The survey showed that 87% of students ages 14-17 owned a phone of any kind. I would bet that ratio holds in my daughter’s school. Hoping they do a survey!

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