Getting them Off the Screen(s)



My students started having cell phones about ten years ago. Only a handful had one and we, teachers, had to worry about things that already seem to belong to the ice age.

Thus when we first went to Sweden on the school exchange, I kept warning one of the happy few about repeatedly lending his phone to his friends as the bill his parents would receive would be horrendous. He smiled but did not really heed my words; I think he was so proud of the prestige it gave him that he overlooked the bill. It turned out to be just that: horrendous.

Only one or two years later, most of our school students had phones. We now had to worry about preventing them from sending text messages during lessons. Occasionally a phone would ring or emit a short signal, we would take the phone and bring it to the admininstration who would keep it for a week. The word spread and you would no longer have to worry about phones ringing during lessons.

Eight years later and we have now to face a new generation and a new attitude. Students will risk anything to keep in touch with their peers on a permanent basis. They hide their phones in their bags and leave the bags on their desks. They hide them up their sleeves or in their pencil cases. Every now and again we will see a student absorbed in something which obviously is not what you are talking about. Whenever we manage to spot a phone and take it even the most pleasant student turns into a raging monster and ends up swearing at you, screaming and/or crying their eyes out.

What’s more, either the word no longer spreads among them or they couldn’t care less but the next phenomenon will be observed the next day with a different student. I am afraid they know what is bound to happen but cannot envisage losing touch with their friends for 55 minutes.

As a teacher I wonder what we can do to persuade these kids to give up their phones during lessons. As a human being I wonder how and why “we” created a generation which is so digitally-addicted and what parents tell their kids about what their attitude should be regarding mobile phones in class. As a Jew I wonder how observant parents manage to instill such a love of Torah (for want of a better expression) that their teenagers will give up their phones and computers for 25 hours every week.


7 thoughts on “Getting them Off the Screen(s)

  1. My son is still asleep, but I’ll ask him what the policy is about cell phones in class. I’ve heard about kids texting each other during exams.

    My son has a mother who is also addicted to the internet, so how can I empathize with his need to get online. We do try to set limits. I find Shabbat is a wonderful limit; my kids either have to socialize or read books for 25 hours.

    On the positive side, it is very easy for me to reach him when he is on the bus or at a friend’s house because of his cell phone.

    My main concern is the health safety of the phones. I don’t want it on next to him while he sleeps. I definitely worry about those who wear the phones in their ears. I doubt all the data is on about cell phone safety.

  2. Son told me the teacher just has to watch the kids. But kids would have to look at cellphone, and that would be a giveaway. Punishment is suspension from school, so the incentive is not to text message.

  3. Thanks Leora for the feedback. I suppose suspension is a good enough incentive.
    I can understand parents’ wanting to be able to be in touch with their kids but emergencies can always go through the old medium (secretary’s office). In some cases it is even probably wiser.

  4. In our school system, they are forbidden and if found taken and then the student is suspended. It’s gotten so bad that in the Buffalo NY public schools, no book bags or anything hidden is allowed in school and the students are watched as they come in. Sigh….

  5. In the school of my children and usually in Finland you must put your phone closed during lesson. I say to my sons that if I here they don’t do it, they must leave phones home.

    But unfortunately I know parents who think differently – that kids must have their phones with them always and it’s problem of school if kids use phone at lesson…

  6. My son is on the bus for (over) an hour each day. So almost every kid on that bus has a phone. The school doesn’t keep track of them. If the bus breaks down, or if it’s pouring and I need to pick him up just as the bus pulls into the borough, I can. I think as it’s a private school, it’s a different situation than in a public school. Different expectations, and the kids that I know are well-behaved. It does sound like the temptation to text message during class exists, however.

    They aren’t allowed internet access in school except in limited functions, so for my son to get his real online fix he needs to be at home.

  7. Pingback: Downs and Ups | Ilana-Davita

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