I’m a guidance counselor at an urban high school. The teenagers I serve seem average in terms of what they find important (popularity, fashion, reputation etc.). We have students that get accepted into great colleges on academic scholarships and some that don’t intend on going to college when they graduate. We have many that strive for academic excellence and are really competitive and self-motivated and some that are not. I say that to paint the picture that I really feel like I’m linked to the countries teenage psyche.

What I’ve observed is the true living manifestation of phone addition. It is as bad as reported. Despite leadership continually reminding students of the cell phone policy, nothing has changed. When I was a Dean of Students, it was a struggle to get 100% compliance but I was able to pull it off. Hint: it takes a relentless, zero tolerance approach involving parents. 

In 99.9% of parent/teacher conferences, there will be mention of a cell phone and/or earphone problem. Ironically, I’ll observe the parents cell phone firmly in their hand and often times going off and the parent answering during the meeting. At which point, I attribute some of the student’s habits to learned behavior. Learned behavior is the most powerful factor that can’t be ignored.

I can’t walk down the school hallway without witnessing a student on their phone and/or wearing headphones (a new fashion accessory). I took a group of students to Google NYC Headquarters and my preemptive strike was an “expectations” meeting where I shared the desired dress code, type of language I would not be cool with and the all-important, cell phone usage.

See below, this was the fourth talking point from that prep session:

4.Bring something to take notes with (i.e., this piece of paper, not your phone, it could appear to them as if your texting) and stay engaged (eye contact, giving your full attention when someone is speaking etc.)

Unfortunately, no one took notes. I guess a pen and pad is turning into a thing of the past. 

Today I had a meeting with a student failing four classes. I asked him why the low grades, what’s the distraction? He admitted it was his cell phone. I asked what app keeps him distracted the most, he answered Snapchat. Kudos to Snap for all the success, but can we get some parental control that parents can use to turn off remotely?

Until next time…

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