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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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