The Trouble With Teens and Cell Phones By Celina Tinsley The students vary in their approach to flouting

the school ban on cell phone use in the class. Some keep their bags on their laps and surreptitiously reach in to check their incoming text messages. Some hold the phone below the desk to avoid detection, but are betrayed by their awkwardly-positioned elbows and lightning-speed finger motions. Others still keep phones in their pockets, casually glancing down to see new messages. They all share one thing in common, however. Every single time I ask for the phone so I can send it up to the office, they blame me in varying degrees of hostility and aggression. “I was just checking the time,” they spit. Never mind that the clock is right beside them. “My mom was calling!” they defensively claim. As if a discussion about what time the child needs to be home from a friend’s house that evening is more important than the child’s education. “I was turning the phone off so it wouldn’t go off in class!” they lie in a furious hiss. I believed it the first time, but when I observe a student texting for two minutes before I say anything, the story becomes hard to swallow. I started teaching the year I graduated from college and am only in my tenth year of teaching, so I am not a jaded, cynical veteran on the threshold of retirement. Yet I am astounded at the disrespect with which children treat their teachers and other adults today. Students regularly hurl profanities at me, shout in my face, say they hate me, blame me for taking their phones, call me unfair, accuse others of “ratting them out” and plan retaliation against them, and have innumerable other venomous reactions to my enforcement of the school policies. Why do I take the phones and send them to the office when it would be easier to look the other way? After all, I know that some teachers simply take the phone until the end of class and return it. Well, the administration has asked us teachers to consistently enforce this rule at our school. I do this because I value my job, and because it shows my professional integrity. I dislike having to police cell phones when I should be instructing students and preparing them for the future. I bristle at every hostile reaction to a phone confiscation and despise the verbal confrontations that inevitably follow. Yet I am doing what is right. The students are breaking rules that they and their parents agreed to abide by when they registered for school. Every teacher reviews the rules in class and informs students of class policy, so it is laughable when students insist they “didn’t know” the rule. They have a sense of entitlement and expect a “second chance” when they blatantly defied a rule, did so in a furtive manner, and lied to protect themselves. I agree that it is unfair when other teachers do not follow the rules, but that is because the other teachers are wrong to disregard them. The teachers who do not comply are teaching the students that it is acceptable to defy authority. When teachers fail to submit phones to the office, there is no official record of the transgression. A student can have a phone taken every period and if the teacher does not turn it in to the office, none of the teachers are aware of the frequency and severity of the problem. Worse still, the student gets away with the crime every time with nothing less than having to survive life without a cell phone for a maximum of fifty-five minutes. High school students who believe it is acceptable to engage in verbal combat with an adult fairly administering the rules are treading dangerous ground. How will these misguided children fare in a work environment? How will they meet the responsibilities

of a college workload if they are in the habit of being constantly distracted by cell phones? How will they be safe drivers if they cannot go five minutes without their precious cell phones? Even more disturbing is the thought that they could become adults who believe rules do not apply to them. What will happen when they are stopped by a police officer for a traffic infraction? What about if they decide they are above paying taxes? I understand that they are teenagers exploring the boundaries and testing authority. Part of it is not their fault because many haven’t been in the “real world” and suffered severe consequences for thoughtless actions. When they blame others for their own faults and fail to accept responsibility for their actions, they may be being emotionally-unstable, hormone-driven adolescents. Or they may be acting out in a manner that they have learned is socially acceptable from a parent or other adult role model. Parents need to support the teachers and the school on cell phone policy because children need boundaries to learn appropriate behavior. Parents should not blame the teacher and complain to the administration when a teacher is doing his or her job. Parents should not immediately rush to the office after school to pick up the phone and hand it right back to the child because then the child does not learn that actions have consequences. What parents need to do is instruct their children in acceptable use of cell phones and follow up with disciplinary measures when the child does not adhere to the rules. So many parents appear to be afraid to put their foot down and stand up to their children and this failure to parent is resulting in a generation of children who have a sense of entitlement and believe that rules do not apply to them. These irresponsible citizens will become a part of society in the workplace, on the roads, in stores, banks, hospitals, etc. and will make life miserable for all of us. Finally, parents should be checking their child’s cell phone use. Children may have a right to privacy from teachers snooping in their phones but parents are obligated to see what their children are doing with their phones. Cyber-bullying, “sexting,” cheating on tests, drug deals, ditching, distributing evidence of crimes like trespassing, tagging, rape, humiliating pictures and videos, and all manner of devious activity is being committed with cell phones. Parents seem to believe their children are innocent angels that would never engage in such activities, but it happens every day in high school. I would feel more secure checking to make sure I am right instead of assuming I am and having my reality shattered by a trip to the police department to pick up my blessed angel that was arrested for possessing child pornography because he forwarded a picture of his nude underage girlfriend to his buddies. Someone is committing these acts on a cell phone. That someone has a parent that does not suspect it. Please do not blame me for doing what is right. Teach your child what is right. Discipline him or her when rules are broken. Students, accept responsibility for your actions so you can have a fulfilling life where you learn from your mistakes and grow from them. Teachers support your administrators and colleagues who are trying to do the right thing and teach the students to be mature adults.

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