Straight Talk Advice

Jan 05, 2011

Panelists support uniform cell phone policy for schools

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Dear Straight Talk: I teach high school civics. I’m interested in a solution to the problem of cell phone distractions in high school classrooms. Everyone knows they are a huge deterrent to learning. Considering the problems with confiscation and/or “checking” phones, what do you and your panel think is the best way to stop cell phone use in class? — Santa Ana, Calif.

Geoff 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

In some of my mega college classes (300+ students), if a phone went off, the professors would ask the person responsible to leave. If nobody left, the professor cancelled class.

Lennon 24, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

One of my college professors will drop you if your phone goes off. I recommend against the drama of confiscating phones. For first offenses, send the kid to detention. After that, suspend them for the day. Establish an alternative way for parents to reach their kids so they don’t get up in arms over not having constant access.

Farren 23, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Schools need a standard policy. It’s easy to silence your phone during class. If parents must reach a student during class, they can call the office. With issues regarding privacy and property, why confiscate phones and risk fighting with students and parents?

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

The best punishment I’ve seen is when the teacher sends your phone to the office for the day. Future offenses involve a parent conference. Phones should only be checked during a test, since they can be used for cheating.

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

I’m not sure how to separate kids and phones (perhaps a Faraday cage!). But it’s important that the policy apply to teachers, too. I can’t bring my phone into my workplace, yet the world continues.

Maureen 19, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

In high school we usually got one warning. For second offenses, the phone was sent to the office and a parent would have to pick it up. After that it was detention. In college, it varies by teacher. Strict teachers kick the student out and assign the class extra homework. In high school it is important to have a well-enforced, uniform policy even if it is unpopular. However, checking phones indiscriminately is a bad idea.

Brie 19, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

Every high school needs a cell phone policy. In mine, the teacher kept the phone until the end of class and emailed the dean. For second offenses, the dean kept the phone all day. Third offenses, the parents were contacted. I only got my phone taken once, and it was just for the class period by the teacher.

Dominic 24, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

1) Establish your cell phone policy clearly. 2) Enforce it strictly. No need to separate kids from phones. Just kick the kids out of the classroom.

DEAR SANTA ANA: Cell phone distractions are a huge hindrance to learning. Schools need simple, smart, easily-enforced policies. Like many of the panelists, I don’t recommend confiscating phones. There are too many potential headaches from parents ruthless about protecting their child from incriminating texts or photos that might be discovered in their phone. My vote is to keep hands off the phones and simply send the violator to detention for that class period. No warnings, no exceptions. For subsequent offenses, include parental notification. If the teacher can’t determine who is at fault and nobody fesses up, the teacher should send everyone near the disturbance to detention. During exams, make checking phones optional. To reduce cheating by phone, require hoods and hats to come off. Give automatic F’s to anyone using their phone. Again, if nobody fesses up and one’s phone is checked, that person will probably be off the hook.

Regarding parental demand for constant access to their child, allow phone use at all breaks. In an emergency, parents can call the office.

Editor’s Note: When adults look back on high school, 99 percent of their favorite classes were run by strict teachers. Strictness regarding cell phone use in the classroom is needed more than ever — and will work. We owe it to our kids. (Perhaps some teacher assertiveness training is in order on this topic, with administrators promising to run interference with angry parents.) In the policy I recommend here, innocent kids who get detention because the cell phone user won’t admit guilt will undoubtedly complain to parents who will get bent out of shape. But teachers need some recourse for the impossible task of knowing where a buzz or beep is coming from. If nobody fesses up in college, profs simply cancel class or assign extra homework — and in that environment, it works instantly. In high school, a rebellious teen could control the class with this loophole. Therefore, if it’s not obvious who is causing the disturbance, and the violator won’t confess, without further ado, teachers need to send the whole cluster of kids to detention and continue on with class. After this, peer pressure starts working — or kids start sitting where they know there won’t be problems. Which is where parents want them sitting anyway.

Other ideas on cell phone policies? Let’s hear them! —Lauren

  1. By Sally, age , from Rocklin, CA on 01/07/2011

    I think the policy should be that cell phones must be turned off and put away during class to avoid the distractions they cause.  If anyone is caught talking or texting or if their phone goes off during class, it should be taken away for a certain period of time.  However, I think we should be able to bring our phones to school and talk and text between classes and at lunch.  What’s the harm in that?  One place they should be totally banned is the locker room.  I’ve heard horror stories about girls taking pictures of other girls naked for their boyfriends or to put on the Internet to humiliate girls they don’t like.  This scares me to death.  I’m shy about anybody seeing me naked except my sisters who I share a room with and a couple of very close friends.  I’m uncomfortable changing and showering in front of everybody in the locker room, but I’ve learned to handle it as was discussed in a previous column.  However, the idea of somebody taking pictures of me at a time like that and showing them to guys or putting them on the Internet scares me to death.  I therefore think cell phones should be totally banned from the locker room and anybody caught taking pictures should be expelled from school!


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  2. By TrySafetyFirst, age , from Atlanta, GA USA on 01/13/2011

    TrySafetyFirst has a remedy for this issue providing both students and educators the best of both worlds. Educators can use the phone as a teaching tool for part of the class and then with the flip of a switch sleep all phones when giving an exam or other instruction (emergency 911 and 2 parental emergency numbers always remain active). Students can use the phone before class, after class, between class, and during class (when the teacher permits), and during lunch.

    If you like this technology or for more information, please visit

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