Are Smart Phones A Dumb Idea?

Technology can be a beautiful thing.  We feel instantly connected, safe and well informed just by carrying a little 4-inch contraption in our pockets.  It keeps us up to date on breaking news, lets us know when we’re late for an appointment, and can transport us across continents in a matter of seconds.  Parents monitor their children, spouses know what’s for dinner, and employees can let employers know when they’re running late.

Then there’s the ugly part.

As much as we teach our kids to be safe on the internet, don’t give out personal information and make sure to let us know exactly where they are, there’s one ugly thing about technology: a lack of manners.

At my middle school, we do not allow cell phones to be out during the day.  That means from when kids step onto campus until they leave at the end of the day, phones are not to be seen or heard.  For the most part, kids respect the policy.  There are no ear buds hanging down their bodies, and it is rare for me to see a phone out in class.  However, I spent the morning in a high school today, and I was shocked at what I saw.

Phones were everywhere.  They were crammed in tiny jean short front pockets, stuffed in back pockets, slipped in and out of backpacks and sometimes blatantly hanging out on the desk.  And not the free-with-a-new-line type of phones – I’m talking smart phones.  Kids all around me were seemingly more engaged in what was happening on their touch screen than what the teacher was presenting.  There were varying degrees of compliance-some actually broke away from their texting to participate in the activity-but then just as quickly went back to checking Facebook or listening to music.

I love my smart phone just like anyone else, but what I saw today disturbed me on many levels.  I saw the pack mentality at work.  If one kid is allowed, the rest follow.  If one teacher doesn’t mind, the rest fight an uphill battle.  But what might have bothered me the most is the complete lack of respect for what the teacher was trying to do in the classroom; as engaging as he was, he couldn’t compete with the little electronic box cradled in their hands.

I’ve been teaching in the technology generation most of my career.  At first, I noticed my student’s desire for instant gratification that video games bred.  Then came the demand for a teacher to be an entertainer.  Now it seems that our society is allowing citizens to forget their manners and validate a lack of common courtesy.

Come on, people.  This is turning ugly.  Technology can be a beautiful thing, but let’s use it politely.  Teach our children well.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Dear Jennifer, thanks for voicing the insight that so many of us now have. We’ve lost civility and we see that loss daily in those we encounter in the grocery store and in the parking lot and in the classroom.

  2. –I work in an elementary school and several of these 4th and 5th graders have cell phones.

    They are not allowed, but kids bring them anyhow. Ridiculous.

    If somebody needs to get a hold of their child, they should be able to call the office….but some parents actually get mad about this.

    They are dumb asses.

    Just sayin’

    Xxx Kiss Mama

    1. Wow-that seems pretty young. My son got his earlier than his older sister, but he hardly uses it. Half the time I call him he’s left it at home! You make me smile!

  3. I had to take my daughter’s phone from her because she was sending out inappropriate text messages and updates on FB. She got an FB without permission. She was up late at night texting. It was a mess and I told her no more phone (at least not a smartphone) until she learns to be responsible. Apparently, the world is too vast for her on social media and she just can’t handle it.

  4. My mom works at a school as a receptionist (in a middle school). You wouldn’t believe how many parents drop off stuff because their child texted them for it. Hellooooo – no cellphones allowed during school hours. It’s a shame. Now tell me have you seen the phones stuffed in halter type shirts? Apparently thats a new thing.

    1. Kenya, I can see how this could happen so easily! I have seen phones stuffed in all kinds of places…bras, pants, boots, waistbands…you name it, they do it.

  5. Jennifer… I too taught computers… at the school I taught at.. we saw a phone.. we took it away and they would have to pay a fine to recoop the phone. 1st offense $25, 2nd – $50, 3rd $100, 4th we keep it until the end of the year. I never really saw 3rd and 4th offenders. Now at my sons high school, the school itself had some kind of signal blocker. The phones would not work at all until they were literally off campus. I LOVED THIS!!! I could not agree with you more with the lack of respect some people’s kid have. It truly is appalling at the lack of respect some of these kids have period. So sad… even sadder because it starts at home. Peace.

    1. Carla, clear boundaries have always worked for me. My hope is that we can harness the technology kids bring with them to supplement our pathetic machines at school…but with clear expectations for use.

    2. Jennifer, our campus is planning to go wireless next year and the district admin is looking at changing the policy which “bans” cell phones (works about as well as what you witnessed). One of my asst. principals is helping teachers identify ways to help harness the appropriate power of those phones to engage students in class. It does scare me though…I can’t physically monitor every kids phone screen to make sure they are appropriately engaged in the lesson/activity. The power and the problem, LOL.

  6. Very sad! I laugh when I think about the time when pagers were popular. My mom thought only drug dealers had them and schools would take them away at the first site of them. They pale in comparison as far as distraction at school goes. Technology: a love/hate relationship sometimes.

  7. That is so sad! It is amazing how the smart phones have taken over kids lives. I enjoy my smart phone a lot. But I can’t imagine doing that in a school or learning setting. That’s so disrespectful! Phone Etiquette should be taught by the parents.

  8. This is scary! I am a teacher too. I teach college level dance classes where it is impossible to work on a smart phone, unless of course one sits out, which means a full absence. Are we going to have to develop technology (like while driving) where if the phone comes out unapproved that the student’s grade goes down a certain amount, or the student loses credit for the day? I know that there are many wonderful kids out there, but as a fellow teacher of mine has said, “When this generation comes to power, I hope I am dead.”

  9. Well-said, Jennifer. Does the high school actually allow cell phones to be out? If that’s a rule seems they ought to be enforcing it. That is is really disheartening to hear.

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