When the knuckleheads wind up getting student cell phones banned for all students, what’s the responsible student to do?

Recently,  Reuters released a story saying cell phones are being banned from Dutch school classrooms for the new school year.

Only a few weeks before, an article in The Atlantic proclaimed, “Get Phones Out of Schools Now.” The subtitle reads, “They impede learning, stunt relationships, and lessen belonging. They should be banned.”

I have links to both articles in the body of the blog post and in the show notes of the video and podcast.

In another place, pouches are being purchased. Students put their phones in these pouches. A mechanism prevents them from being accessed until the end of the school day. (As a former principal, I sure wish I had that money spent on those pouches to use for more educational purposes.)

The message is clear.

Teachers and administrators are getting very tired of the distraction and problems caused by student cell phones.

A veteran teacher and personal friend asked her students the following question: 

“Can you name a valid reason to check your phone notifications during class? What’s the absolute one thing that can’t wait until between classes or lunch to check?”

The results? My friend posted to Facebook, “Texts from parents wins! Some kids even said their parents fuss at them if they don’t immediately answer texts, even if they explain that they were in class or even taking a test. Too many had the same story for them all to be lying about it.”

Working Around the Consequences

But this story isn’t about the knucklehead whose parents buy him a thousand-dollar phone, and he uses its capabilities not to unlock the world’s knowledge, but instead to look at stunts on TikTok. It’s about the students who are interested in the capability of their phones to be huge productivity tools. Now they’re left to cope with what they’re losing.

After all, how valuable is it to have a Google Calendar handy to trap school events? How handy is it to have a digital task list to keep up with assignments? What’s the responsible student to do now?

An Index Card

Let me give you the nuts & bolts of something that will work: an index card. In the evening, look at your Google Calendar. What’s on the calendar for the next day? Write that on the front of the card.

Look at your digital task list. If you need a suggestion for one that works for teens and adults alike, I recommend Remember The Milk. Write the to-dos for the day on the front of that same card. Now you have your “marching orders” for the day. Put the index card in a pocket. Every commitment for the day is trapped in one place.

During the day, as homework assignments are made, jot them on the back of the card. As tests are announced, jot them on the back of the card. The back of the card becomes the place for anything that comes up during the day.

When the young person is reunited with the phone later in the day, simply sync the card with the phone. What tasks were on the card and are now completed? Check those things off on the digital task list. What new tasks or calendar events are on the back of the card? Put those in the digital calendar or digital task list.

Are there items listed on the back of the card that are really projects instead? Break them down into their individual steps. Put those small steps on the digital task list with a date for each one.

Next, take the card for tomorrow and fill out the front side. You’re ready to go for the next day.

When you write it down, you earn the right to forget about it. Let the system do the remembering.

A Question and a Responsibility

When should your child get a phone? That’s a decision to be made thoughtfully within each home. It’s not a toy. It’s a tool that makes life easier and better. How much easier and how much better? That one depends on who’s holding it.

And students, if you dodged a bullet and your school is one that allows you to have your phone throughout the day, don’t mess it up. Don’t send texts during class. Don’t answer texts during class…not even if it’s from your parents.

If it’s that important, they can call the school office and have them get a message to you. A little better organization and communication in the morning before we all leave the house cuts down on the “emergency” texts in the middle of math class.

When you get right down to it, it’s not about the tool. It’s about the system. Without a good system, student cell phones only become one more place to lose things…and serve as a distraction. With a good system, the phone in your pocket provides a tool that allows speed and efficiency. Use it well.

Life is too short and time too precious to waste one more day. If you are someone who stumbled upon this site for the first time, let me help you take a major step forward right now. When you join my email list, I’ll give you two free gifts. The first will get your desk clean. The second will put everything you have to do in one place. Plus, each week you’ll hear from me with nuts & bolts tools and strategies to make life easier and more productive. You’re one click away from making it happen