Why I Stopped Allowing Cell Phones in My Classroom

Imagine you are a thirteen-year-old boy. In front of you sits your five closest friends, all your favorite video games, a library filled with your favorite music, and a Playboy.

All this, inside the palm-size, rectangular, metal device sitting on the corner of your desk.

It’s beckoning you. Tempting you. Sure, the device is turned over, and you can’t see the screen. Maybe it’s even in your backpack. But, it is right there, within your reach.

Now, thirteen-year-old-boy, “Finish your assignment.” “Listen to your teacher.” “Focus on your test.”

What do you mean you can’t focus? What do you mean you’re distracted? How come you are not listening? How come you are not learning?

This is the battle teachers are fighting.

My school doesn’t have a cell phone policy. Teachers are simultaneously planning lessons, teaching students, grading papers and acting as cell phone police.

One of my eighth-grade students created a Wikia Fandom site. Not being familiar with Fandom sites, I decided to check it out. I Googled the site and sure enough it popped right up. The site linked to other sites and what I found was shocking. The dense, colorful site was filled with vulgar language, pop-up ads, inappropriate videos and defaced pictures.

I kept scrolling down.

At the bottom of the site, a picture appeared before my eyes. It was a large, up-close and way-too-personal picture of a woman. It was NOT of her face.

I closed the site.  I’d seen all I needed to see.

This is what teachers are competing with. There is no lesson engaging enough, no lesson visually stimulating enough, no lesson entertaining enough to combat what is distracting our students in school when cell phones are within their reach.

Access to a cell phone allows students of all ages entry into the vast, unfiltered and unsupervised world of the internet. I don’t know many students mature or responsible enough to handle all they may find.

I wonder how many parents actually realize what their children have access to? How many parents really know what their children are doing on their phones? Do they even know who they are communicating with? Is this really what you want your child doing in school?

I can’t possibly monitor all my students’ cell phones, and I can’t protect students who use them from the potential dangers or trouble they might find. But I can stop them from doing it in my classroom.

I’ve seen too many students hurt by texts and pictures gone viral. I’ve seen eighth-grade girls with numerous older, male, Facebook “friends” they really don’t know. I’ve seen motivation for school work decline and student anxiety and distractions rise.

Two weeks ago, I designated my classroom a NO CELL PHONE ZONE. It has been an adjustment, and an experience, but overall so far mostly positive. My classroom feels more safe. It feels more controlled and more conducive to learning.

I will continue to blog about our progress becoming a NO CELL PHONE ZONE. Watch for updates at www.spedtales.com.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories or advice.

Have you struggled with students using cell phones in your classroom?

How does your school deal with student cell phone use?

What has worked (or not worked) for you?

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4 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Allowing Cell Phones in My Classroom

  1. Moreover if one confiscates the phone one risks litigation. The very worst problem I have is a Mom that calls and texts during class. I have asked her not to, but….

    1. I have had that situation too! I wish parents understood how disruptive it is for kids to have phones in class and how much it impacts their ability to focus and learn. I plan to keep blogging about it, and trying to get the message out there! I have heard of some teachers creating contracts that parents and students have to sign agreeing to their classroom cell phone policy. Hopefully this would reduce the risk of litigation. My principal pointed out, “There is no law that says that students are allowed to have cell phones in school.” So certainly, we are not breaking a law asking them to put it away!!

  2. I would love to know what you have done to make your classroom a NO Cell Phone Zone and what you have found to work well and not work. It’s a constant battle.

    1. Definitely watch for my next blog, because I’m going to write much more about it!! Basically, I spent $4.98 on a plastic shoe rack from Walmart. I run a resource room, so it is a little easier because students already sign in when they come in the room, I just added the step that now when they sign in, they also have to put their phones in the “cell phone jail” (that’s what my students call it!!) 🙂 I did have to create an incentive, as I did have difficulty getting some students to buy-in to our new policy. I created a system where each time they put their phone in the holder, they put their name in our “Good Choice” jar for a weekly prize drawing. On Fridays, I draw a name and the winner gets a small prize. I don’t plan on doing this forever, but it has helped some students get on board with the new policy, especially since they are still allowed to have cell phones in other classrooms in our school. I compliment them every time and reiterate that they are making a “good choice.” It is a work in process, and there have been some interesting and unexpected results, but overall it has been very positive!!

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