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Cell Phone Policy

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

I want you to imagine yourself in a meeting, or a professional development session. You are required to have your computer or laptop out. What behaviors are you engaging in?

Do you have one tab open, or are you like most of us; we have at least our email tab open?

Now imagine you are working, maybe you're currently a teacher like me, or you work in an office setting, or you have your own business. How many devices do you have out?

For me, when I am in the classroom or working on Peers not Fears, I have my laptop open with at least 10-15 tabs, and if I am being honest, I probably have three windows open with 15 tabs each, and my cell phone. My email is always one (if not more) of those tabs.

If you supervise others or are a parent, how quickly would you like someone to respond to an email, or a text? What happens when you don’t get a response in that laughable 24 hour expectation? Can it be frustrating? Usually, we expect a response in a short time, and if we don’t, it can stymie our OWN next step or production.

Could we honestly do our jobs without these devices?

I honestly don’t think I could.

Now consider your cell phone policy for students, or what you think a teachers' policies should be for cell phones in the classroom.

Have you asked your students about the policy?

This is another situation that is happening in an adult-centered conversation. It should start with us, of course, but the questions we are asking are not student centered, they are adult centered, and if you don’t know by now - I am not a fan of that model.

Steps to a cell phone policy that works:

STEP 1: Ask yourself these questions

  • Why do I need students to have their phones away?

  • Why does it bother me when they take their phones out?

STEP 2: Take the challenges (well, the ones students can help you with) to your students and have a candid conversation. Engage with them about the challenges.

A great challenge I heard from a colleague in a language based class, was that he often tries to immerse his class in the other language, and the cell phone can disrupt that immersion. My challenge to him was - present this challenge to his students and have them help solve it.

STEP 3: Create a policy WITH the students, and then remind them when we falter, even you as the teacher must be willing to follow the class policy. (Don’t you use your phone in class on occasion - I do).

Cell phones are not going away, and as Elon Musk states, “We are already cyborgs.” In fact he shares, "You have more power than the president of the United States had 20 years ago. You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things."

If that is the case, we should be working to help students, and ourselves honestly, know how and when to effectively use cell phones. Taking them away (phone caddy), or physically taking them from a student - ‘give me your phone,’ does not teach them how to monitor and reflect on the impact their usage has on a group.

Did you ever participate in “the basket” at dinner? Where everyone puts their phone in a basket during a meal? If so, how did that feel for you? Was it hard? Be honest with yourself, why do you need to have your cell phone policy, and who is it serving?

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