Five Tested Ways to Keep Students Off Their Cell Phones in the Classroom that are Unsuccessful

Recent surveys show at least 95% of American teens own a cell phone, and it is no doubt that cell phones have become an essential tool and identity of American teens. More importantly, many studies and surveys show that American children, teens, and adults are addicted to their phones. 

Due to students’ safety and rights, politicians push the responsibility of keeping students off their phones in the classroom to teachers and school administrators. So far, many schools have failed to have any success. Below are five unrealistic ways to keep students off their cell phones in class. 

Keep Students Engaged with Appealing Learning Activities.

A common solution from administrators that push the responsibility of keeping students off their phones in class is asking teachers to make their lessons more engaging. They ask their teachers to create more appealing lessons and relate to students’ interests to compete with students’ addition to cell phones. For example, teachers should incorporate hands-on, collaborative, or other creative activities so that students forget about their phones. Any honest classroom teachers know that it is an impossible and unsustainable solution.

Use Positive Reinforcement

A common tactic is using incentives to keep students off their phones in class. For example, teachers offer extra credit if students put their phones in dedicated locations, like in a calculator organizer during class. Also, some teachers add charging stations for students to charge their phones. However, the problems quickly fail and widen the achievement gap because the only students who do it are the students who are already passing. The solution further creates inequitable learning environments. 

Use Cell Phone as a Teaching Tool. 

Some suggest teachers create activities in that students use cell phones as tools to participate in class. For example, they would use phones to participate in Kahoot or Quizlet games. However, it only takes a few minutes to realize that most students are on their text messaging or other social media apps.

Proximity and Be Active

A common misconception is that some think most teachers with problems are those lazy teachers who always sit on their chairs. They recommend teachers need to be active and constantly walk around the classroom. When teachers are walking around, students would have fewer chances to use their phones secretly. The strategy may work if the class is small and those students are obedient little angels. However, most students would argue with the teachers when a teacher tries to address the student’s inappropriate behaviors. 

Refer students to administrators.

A desperate solution for teachers to stop students off their phones is to refer students to administrators. Who have reminded the same students multiple times, and the students blatantly ignored the class expectations. When those teachers address students’ inappropriate behaviors or confiscate their phones, it turns into a life-or-death battle between the teacher and the students. Of the course, the last option is kicking the student out and writing the student a referral. However, most administrators would care less about minor phones of cell phones in the classroom. Instead, some would ignore and ask the teacher to have more engaging activities.

Recommendation and Suggestions

A practical solution to stop phone distractions cannot be the problem of classroom teachers nor the responsibility of school administrators. Instead, schools need to implement solutions with tools and strategies to enforce proactive, impactful, and positive consequences without putting the blame or responsibility on either classroom teachers or school administrators.

As a classroom teacher and a school leader at a Title I high school in California for many years, I invented the Multi-Tiers Safe Pouch with practical and sustainable solutions that empower all staff to work together as a team to stop phone distractions in the classroom immediately. 

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