Teenagers and Cell Phone Addiction

Cell Phones and Classroom Disruption

We often joke that teenagers are addicted to their cell phones, but the reality may be far from funny. Many of your students might be exhibiting serious signs of addiction to social media and cell phone addiction.  Teenagers and Cell Phone Addiction takes a look at this problem.

Is Cell Phone Addiction a Real Problem?

According to a 2017 survey by Common Sense Media, about 50% of all teens say they are addicted to their smartphones.

Other studies have found that teens and adults check their smartphones an average of every six minutes.

According to the American Addiction Centers, the increasing prevalence of social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have made the problem even worse.

More than 92% of teenagers are on their phones and online daily. These teenagers exhibit the same problems that other addicts do, including physical symptoms, poor eating and sleeping habits and increased levels of loneliness.

Teacher Steve Gardiner says there’s no question that it qualifies as an addiction. Writing in Education Week, Gardiner noted that, “Students claim they can read and listen to music at the same time. They claim they can do math and text simultaneously. Numerous research studies state otherwise. The ability to multitask with a cellphone is an illusion.”

Effects of Smartphone Addiction

Cell phone addiction behavior can look like other addictions. At what point does a desire to connect and share information become an unhealthy obsession? Some researchers suggest that parents look for signs such as:

  • Constant, compulsive need to check online social media platforms.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Loss of time spent with family and friends because of excessive online use.
  • Anxiety or irritability when unable to use a phone.

Effects of Social Media Addiction

According to the American Addictions Center, the constant use of smartphones is coupled with an addiction to social media. Most teenagers visit their social media sites daily. The company’s PsychGuides resource points out that excessive social media interaction can lead to:

  • Increased levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Higher possibility of drug and alcohol use.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Little interest in formerly favorite activities including family time, sports and hobbies.

Cell Phones are Disrupting Classrooms

Cell phone addiction behavior can disrupt your classroom and make teaching almost impossible. It isn’t just happening in the U.S. This year, the Education Ministry of Ontario, Canada, banned all cell phones in elementary and high school classrooms during “instructional times.”

There are exceptions for emergencies and students with special needs. A study conducted by the ministry found that students were spending 20% of class time texting and messaging.

In the U.K., a number of studies have found that students who can’t use their phones in class had better note-taking skills, had better recall and got better grades.

Writing about these results, psychologist Kelly Allen noted that, “Both schools and parents have a role to play in boundary setting, providing guidance with appropriate and inappropriate phone use, and teaching self-regulation and self-control skills.”

Controlling Cell Phone and Social Media Use in School

It’s pretty clear that the problem is large and likely to grow. Parents are responsible for controlling their children’s cell phone use at home.

As a teacher, you need to do whatever’s necessary to prevent cell phones, texts, instant messages and other communications from disrupting your school day.

What makes matter worse is when teenagers’ parents call or text them on their phones while they’re supposed to be paying attention in class.

Abstinence is the key to any addiction. If schoolkids are showing cell phone addiction behavior, it’s best to curb it with some uncompromising action.

A Three-Step Solution

Michael Linsin at Smart Classroom Management has a simple, three-step policy that will work if you get support from your administration. He suggests:

1. Institute a policy that no cell phone can appear in the classroom. Any phone that pops or is pulled out of a bag or backpack counts.

2. Confiscate the phone as soon as it appears. ” Otherwise,” Linsin writes, “They’ll use up their warning every chance they get.”

3. Make sure all your students know what the policy is. A sign on the door and one on the classroom wall can serve as reminders.

Cell Phone Jail

Teacher Dan Henderson writes that he’s had success setting up a “cell phone jail” in his classroom. He places a large, transparent plastic box on his desk. Every student has to turn off their cell phone and put it in the box the minute they enter the classroom.

Creative Solutions

At the WeAreTeachers blog, several teachers offer creative, easy ideas for controlling the presence of cell phones in class. One teacher includes free charging as an added incentive. Another created a “Cell Phone Hotel.”

Yet another teacher has a charging station that only fits 12 phones. Only the first 12 students to get to class can also charge their phones. That’s a good way to cut down on tardiness at the same time.

What all of these solutions have in common is a desire to maintain a classroom that’s orderly, quiet and focused. You can’t do your job as a teacher if you’re constantly distracted by rings, pings and jangling tones.

You need your students’ attention. You need to conduct your class in an orderly way.

Is It Legal to Confiscate Cell Phones?

It’s legal to confiscate cell phones. Every school can set up its own policy for how and when to confiscate phones. As tech expert Michael Kwan warns, keep three important points in mind:

  • Some students legitimately need cell phones for emergency use. You can handle those on a case-by-case basis.
  • Even if they give up their cell phones, students don’t give up their privacy rights. In most states, it is illegal to look through their phones.
  • Don’t ask students to sign a contract saying they won’t use their phones. A contract with a minor can be challenged in court. We don’t have to tell you that there’s some parent out there who will do just that!

Don’t Let Cell Phone Addiction Disrupt Your Classroom

You know that your students’ addiction to their smartphones is real. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. You can get back control of your classroom with a policy that’s clear, simple and easy to institute.

It’s not always easy to get support for your ideas, but this is one that most administrations will get behind. Your students may only be off their phones for the duration of a classroom hour. That’s all you need.

An Alternative to Fighting the Cell Phone Battle

The struggle over cell phones in the classroom is a real and ongoing battle.  If it’s just become too much, and you’ve decided to consider a life outside the classroom, take a look at my #1 recommendation for escaping the classroom.   

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It’s a great resource for learning how to promote yourself, your aspirations, and your special concerns and is the place where I have learned everything you see on this website.  You’ll find everything there you need to start a business tailor made to your dreams and expectations!

You’ll be joining over one million helpful folks there, many of them current and former teachers, like me.

Best of all, you can check it out for yourself at no cost or obligation.  Why wait any longer to turn that dream of yours into a reality?

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12 thoughts on “Teenagers and Cell Phone Addiction”

  1. It’s not just teenagers who have this problem. My mother is 79 and gets annoyed if people do not answer her when she rings them.  I have explained to her that most people are busy working and are not free at that particular time of day.  

    If someone does not call her every day, she feels the person has a problem.  Whatsup is her favourite. If she comes to visit, she will record the conversation if she feels like it is not going her way.

    I havē done phone fasting to give me a break and acquire peace of mind (not because of her though.  I don’t tend to answer my phone when it rings, but rather prefer to answer it at a convenient time.  

    If teenagers have a problem now, goodness knows what will happen by the time they get to my mum’s age!

    • You’re absolutely correct about people of all ages being subject to this problem!  Your phone fasting idea is a great way to help alleviate it.  The problem with teens is more troubling because their brains are still in the formative stages.  As you noted, this could be a real problems for them into adulthood if we don’t find solutions now.  I’m so glad you took time from your day to join the conversation.

  2. I as a high schooler, I do think I am addicted to my cell phone. However, I do not think they should be 100% banned from schools. I use my phone almost daily for school purposes in most of my classrooms. They can be distracting.  However, I don’t think we can’t use them at all. Cell phones and technology are a big part of today’s society, and teachers need to adapt to it too, because no student will like that teacher, resulting in the teacher being bullied. Trust me, it is not good for the teacher when the whole class disrespects them. I have done it, and I have seen it.  

    • I understand how uncomfortable a 100% ban on cell phones would be for most students.  However, students and teachers need to find workable solutions.  As you noted, cell phones can be distracting.  And, no teacher should be bullied because he or she was trying to teach the lesson.   I’m so glad you took time to join in this conversation!

  3. I have a teenager and is completely anti-social media and rarely uses his cell for anything other than to contact work or me.  But everywhere you go, all kids have their cell phones in hand and they are using them.  Personally, I don’t think that cell phones should be allowed in the classroom.  I think if there was some kind of family emergency, then the office can get the student out of class.  Where my son went to school in Texas, they were absolutely not allowed in the classroom.  They had to leave them in the locker.  I don’t see having cell phones 24/7 is a necessity.  Personally I don’t use mine much either LOL.  Must be where my son get it from.

    • If all students were like Matt, teachers wouldn’t have to worry about cell phone rules.  From what I hear from other teachers, the statistical information from the reports seem pretty accurate.  If more parents agreed with your view that cell phones just aren’t necessary in class, teachers could spend more time focusing on the real goal…they day’s lesson.  Thanks for joining the conversation.

  4. Cellphone addiction is not a joke. I am really glad you showed us a survey that actually proves this statement. Not only teens, but older folks as well. I am also quite fond of smartphones myself. I can not say I am addicted but I carry it everywhere I go.

    For example, I use it while I’m in the toilet and also before I am going to sleep. It is not a good habit, but before sleeping I watch Youtube videos. Although I am not addicted, it is obviously very damaging to younger people.


  5. Hi Nancy, I appreciate your article on cell phone addiction very much. Experts say that cell phone addiction is a “new pathology” that affects many people particularly young people. This addiction leads to an “insatiable need” to use mobile phone to call or send messages, and when they cannot use the phone they become anxious and irritable, says one study. This phenomenon no doubt affects the performance of some students, and it is about time regulatory measures are put in place to address the situation.

    • There seems to be no doubt that personal cell phone use in the classroom negatively affects student performance.  In addition, it can be a real management issue for teachers.  That insatiable need you refer to can cause all sorts of eruptions when a student is separated from his or her phone.  I’m not sure what type of regulation would meet the approval of parents and students, but some sort of improvement is needed. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  6. Hi Nancy,

    I consider that everything should be used in moderation, the same should be applied with cellphone addiction among teenagers.. I was busy with school when the social media platforms were not very prevalent among the youth. We had controlled environments wherein we could use our phones (outside of class).

    Of course there were some students who took the advantage to text each other during classes, but classes weren’t disrupted.

    The other thing I’m thinking of, is that it may also be phase through which the youth go. I outgrew my need to check my phone every 5 minutes. It came at a time when I had something to focus on or to look forward to. So I had the ambition to rather work or wait on that goal than waste my time on social media.

    If motivated enough, the youth can accomplish great things without being forced to give up their phones during class.

    • Moderation is always a good rules to follow.  And, as you mentioned, once motivation kicks in, most everything else seems to fall into place.  

      However, the pattern that is causing so much concern is that many students become so involved with the media provided by their phones, that they never get a chance to become motivated by other things.  Coupled with the rising rate of adults who also feel addicted to their phones, I think the concern is not misplaced.  

      On the other hand, we need to keep in mind that each generation has its own set of challenges to deal with.  Parents and teachers can take heart if knowing this generation will find their own way, just as all preceding generations have.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!


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