The fact that the average teenager spends approximately nine hours a day on some sort of entertaining media* and tweens about six (excluding school time or homework time), is not news anymore (according to common sense media’s research). Unfortunately, the total amount of hours stretches when we add the time spent on devices at school. In recent years we find more and more children bring their devices to school, use it during recess, and sometimes even during class — not just for school related work. This change brings the hours consumed a day to be much higher.
As an expert on the subject and as a parent myself, I get to speak with many parents and educators about this pain point. I hear many stories of when, where, and how our kids use their phones. If before, stories were contained to after school hours and the weekend, recent stories started to take place at school and even in the classroom. Just recently a mom shared with me her story, this story was my inspiration for this article. Juliana, her real name is saved with me, is a mother of a 9th grader. Juliana got a text from her daughter, Samantha (also not her real name). So far no big deal, the problem was that the text came in a middle of a school day, while Samantha was suppose to be in class, English class to be precise. The text had a request and a link to buy “this cute sweater”. Mom was confused, Samantha is texting when she is supposed to be focusing in class?! Mom texted back a quick question and Samantha confirm that English class is in session, and she is sitting in. Samantha is physically present at her English class, however her mind isn’t.
I really want to tell you it was only this one story, but it is one of many. Texting while at school, and even during class is a common phenomenon these days.
Don’t take it from me, a student survey shows students admitting using their phones in class, and the majority of them (72–77%) feel that when they are texting, it affects their abilities to learn. So they know it’s wrong, and they know they should not do it, but they can’t help it. When asked about their friends texting and if it makes a difference, a third said that their ability to learn was affected even if they were not texting, but their friends were.
I’m not surprised to see the statistics. I know I react when I hear the notification sound, even if it is not on my phone, wouldn’t you!? Once I react, it means my brain stop focusing on the task in hand and start focusing on my phone. The same goes with our kids.
When they use their phones during class it is clear that they do not pay attention to the teacher. If you read my multitasking article you know we don’t really multitask but we switch between tasks. Our brain cannot focus on two things at the same a time. Why? Because we are only one person with only one brain. Neurologically speaking, it has been proven to be impossible.
When the phone is present in class our children are bound to check it, if it’s because of a notification on a message, or any other activity that feels much more fun than talking about Shakespeare or the American Revolution.
We need to work together, students, parents, and faculty to find the right balance, only together we can manage the ideal use (if any) of smartphones during school hours.
Looking at ourselves in the mirror
We need to start at home, discussing our responsibilities and setting an example. At school our responsibilities are to learn. When you speak with your child, ask how they think they should avoid using their devices at school. Some tips I would like for you to consider in the discussion are:
Team work, means at school too
Different schools have different policies to manage personal device use. If your school does not have a policy, I suggest reaching out to the principle and suggesting some of the below. And if they do have rules and regulations, ask for more details, it may be the time for refreshing them up.
I appreciate the creative solutions coming from both students and teacher to help balance technology usage at school. I am sure you have other ideas. If you do, please share them below at the comments section so others can be inspired!
I shared with Juliana, the mom of the 9th grader, the rules I shared with you. She and Samantha agreed to give it a try. They will start with the phone at the bottom of the backpack before mom will consider reaching out to the school and having them place new regulations. Both promised to keep me posted!
Technology is a wonderful tool but if used at school for purposes other than learning can be counterproductive. Let’s help keep our kids stay focused on school and school related work. Other things can wait!
* Media refers to smartphones, video games, game consoles etc.
** There is an exception to every rule. Obviously if your child need the phone for health purposes, the phone should not be stored at their locker. However, you can use other tools like setting the phone on “do not disturb” mode, to make sure it is used only for what intended.