Cell phone dilemma

Yet another dilemma facing teachers and administrators in public and separate schoolsーcell phones.

The province of Ontario and the school district of Elk Island, east of Edmonton, have simply banned cell phones in their schools.

Parents interviewed seemed to imply that these nanny-state actions were required because teachers are inept in controlling cell phone use in the classroom.

Of course, nothing is further from the truth.

Professional educators know how to teach and manage classrooms.

I don’t believe there are many situations in the public or separate schools where student cell phone use is out of control in a classroom setting.

Rather, I would argue it’s a societal issue starting with adults and parents who have the power to purchase and control these devices.

How often do we see adults modelling poor cell phone behaviour?

It’s not uncommon in a restaurant or at a family gathering to see as many adults eyeballed to their cell phones as youth and children are.

It’s also becoming more common for children to come late to school, dead tired, having spent hours interacting with their electronic devices instead of sleeping.

Finally, banning cell phones from kids at school or on school trips seems to be equally hard or harder on parents than their children.

“I’ve texted my child but he has not responded,’’ says a panicked parent on the telephone to a school employee.

“Ma’am, that’s because he’s in class and not allowed to have his phone during class time.”

Not an uncommon exchange in today’s schools.

Cell phones are yet another add-on to the growing list of social behaviours educators are expected to cure in the classroom.

In urban areas, teachers are given large class sizes in small rooms with demanding discipline challenges.

Students come late, parents pull them out for extended vacations, kids come to school hungry or abused.

Some of them have never had to adhere to the word ‘no’, and a growing number of parents side with their children on discipline issues regardless of the severity of the actions being disciplined.

Instead of slamming teachers and schools at every turn, we should be thankful that for at least five hours a day, there are controls around cell phone usage.

We should be grateful that the curriculum allows educators to teach digital privacy, responsibility and dangers so that students can hopefully become responsible technology users.

I know it’s the season to malign all academics, experts and professionals, but if parents continue to ignore psychologists’ warnings in favour of Facebook posts, their children’s futures will be impacted negatively.

Psychology experts say babies and young children need parent’s attention for their social and emotional development.

That includes playing with your child and nursing babies without a cell phone in hand.

It also means not using technology as a babysitter.

Research shows that lack of sleep and too much screen time creates children who are more negative, less resilient, slower to retain information and unable to focus in a classroom setting.

The foundation for student learning, respect, discipline and concentration starts at home.

The majority of teachers are great, but they are not miracle workers.

If cell phones are a problem in today’s schools, then the blame starts and ends at home.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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