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Thompson: What To Do About Teens and Texting?

The recent Pew study on cell phones found that students condemn "arbitrary enforcement or a lack of clarity around school rules for mobile phones." Pew also found that "in-class texting varies little with regard to the aggressiveness of a school’s regulation" of phones. 

Distracted_480Indeed, there's no easy way to enforce the rules.  "If you get caught using your phone you can pull out a fake phone, turn it on and give it to them," said one student.  I’ve fallen for that one. And in retrospect, perhaps I should have adopted the typical strategy of confiscating phones seen in class and then returning them at the end of the period so the next teacher could repeat the process. Instead I fought the losing battle of enforcing the school's rule that parents must retrieve confiscated phones.

But all is not lost.  Parents who limit their children’s text messaging, get positive results.  Schools could get similar benefits if they established credible consequences for inappropriate texting, just as they taught proper use and etiquette for cell phones. Then, teachers could incorporate appropriate texting into classroom instruction. Otherwise, I suspect our laissez faire attitude towards teens and phones will be seen as one of the great betrayals of this young generation by the adults who should have taken charge of this powerful and potentially destructive technology.

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