Following incidents of assault between teachers and students at Iroquois High School in Louisville, I’ve noticed an uptake of posts and comments on social media discussing the presence of cell phones in our schools. Much of the conversation centers around the appropriateness of smartphones in schools, the disruptions they cause, discipline issues they create, and a lack of real consequences for violating school policies. However, my beef is with parents.
Parents place smartphones in their children’s hands in elementary school. They go out to dinner and plant their child in a booth with a tablet. Parents are training their children from an early age to be dependent on smart devices. Why are we shocked when they cannot put them down in the classroom.
I often ignore and avoid conversations that start with, “it’s the parents’ fault,” because even if it’s true in some circumstances, it lifts all responsibility from other parties, such as the school and teacher. When it comes to smartphones, however, it’s every bit of mom and dad’s fault.
Parents place smartphones in their children’s hands in elementary school. They go out to dinner and plant their child in a booth with a tablet. Parents are training their children from an early age to be dependent on smart devices. Why are we shocked when they cannot put them down in the classroom. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I have worked in three schools with varying cell phone policies. In my current school, they are not permitted. Phones are expected to be turned off and put away during school hours. A phone can be taken from a student if it’s simply out. However, the phone must be returned to the student at the end of the day and a teacher could potentially be held responsible for a lost, stolen, or damaged phone while in their possession. So needless to ask, who wants to take a kids’ phone? There is also a lack of real consequence for violating the cell phone rules, but that’s another post. Issues arriving from cell phone use in schools could be avoided if parents were, well, parents.
I used to be the teacher who from time to time allowed students to use their phone for certain activities, under certain perimeters. It worked for my class. Most students followed the rules. Due to limited technology in a school of 1,400 students, sometimes phones can be a savior. At the same time, the research is showing how detrimental smartphones can be to children, ranging from raising levels of anxiety and depression, to bullying, to messing up my classroom. Is a total ban on phones the answer? It is if parents don’t intervene.
In an age of apps and parental controls, parents who don’t want to step up to the plate and actually hold their children accountable, have the ability of remaining absentee parents, by the push of a few buttons.
Android and Apple devices have parental controls and apps that allow you to limit daily usage, set “downtime” periods when your child cannot use the device, monitor what your child is doing on the phone and block certain apps.
Instead, parents often text or call their children while in my class. It happens more than you can imagine. They do know they are in school, right? If a message must be delivered prior to the end of the school day, parents can call the school. But, alas, we all must take the path of least resistance.
I am old enough to have experienced my entire childhood, including teenage years, without a cell phone, but young enough to fully grasp their convenience. That being said, I’d hate to see a total ban of cellphones in schools, but if parents don’t want to parent, then society will once again throw another aspect of raising children upon public educators’ shoulders, and schools will have to ban them. They are simply to great a disruption
I ask parents, take control of your children’s phones. Sit down with them and talk about the importance of keeping them put away when asked, and save me the trouble of daydreaming in the middle of class of throwing your child’s phone into my cinder block wall.
For more on parental controls, I recommend reading the following article from Consumer Reports.
How to Use the Parental Controls on a Smartphone