Response: Andrea DeGette

Should Phones Be Banned in Schools? Learn more about the article and prompt.

Andrea is a Film Educator.

I remember in the early 2000s, when my kids were little, my friend told me “TV is not as bad as a bad babysitter.”  I thought about this, limited “screen time” and fostered all the Waldorf-style crafts and outdoor activities I could manage. So, my kids had very little experience with technology–and social media was in its infancy.

Then came the mid-2000s, flip-phones became cell phones and My Space became Facebook became Instagram. My kids (now 25 and 21) were the first generation that didn’t learn cursive and relied on search engines instead of card catalogs. How did this tech evolution change my children?  How did it change my students?

I have been teaching filmmaking in high school for 40 years. The changes in technology extend directly into my classroom. With each innovation came a revolution in students’ ability to create work faster, with more complexity. I’ve witnessed how “natural” abilities extend directly from students’ interface with social media platforms–their introduction to shots, editing, and sound design.  

This ability to actually create our online culture is a powerful force and mostly taken for granted. Is this online culture dangerous for their mental health? Is this social media compulsion as dangerous as cigarettes were for my generation? Just like the experts, I can’t  answer these questions with any authority, but I can detail a few anecdotal concepts. I can’t say how dangerous social media addiction is in the long-term considering the pace at which the landscape changes, but I can say something about how bad habits inform teenage behavior!

I think, in some ways, phones (social media) have replaced the position that cigarettes played in my youth.  Instead of sharing smokes and lighting ciggies for each other in an effort to connect (usually followed by awkward silence)—kids use their phones to protect against the uncomfortable position of existing together as teenagers. Just as when we warned each other about the dangers of smoking, today’s students complain that their younger siblings “go on their phones when they are way too young!”  

These teenagers are the first to describe how their younger relations have been “spoiled” (unlike them, who had it “hard” since their parents were “way more strict.”) My students are the first to tell me how dangerous their social media addiction is (and how their parents are to blame.) 

Ironically, they resist putting their phones away in order to concentrate in class! Teachers are unanimous that phone culture has taken over our daily classroom experience, and it seems it might not be the parents this time. This time it is the lack of rules in school that allow this, or our society which is glued to the cellular network and fixated on social media.  

Whatever else is done to protect young people from cell phone addiction, limiting access to phones at school would be universally applauded by teachers who remember when classroom management remained within the room and did not include the reach of student’s cell phones.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of these responses are to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.