Tech gadgets and social media – what’s healthy, what’s not?

Texting in class. Photo: Andy Nguyen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Texting in class. Photo: Andy Nguyen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

This past Friday the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario voted to ban the use of cell phone in classrooms. According to CBC news:

The new rules state that mobile devices should be turned off and stored during school hours, unless special permission is given.

Justification for such a ban was set forth on the union’s website in April of this year.

“A province-wide ban on cellphones and other personal electronic devices would do a great deal to support teaching and learning in our classrooms,” said ETFO President Emily Noble.

Noble stressed that cellphones and other personal electronic devices have no place in Ontario classrooms.  “They disrupt classes, distract students and can lead to cyber bullying and harassment of school staff and students,” she said.

Every generation of parents and educators gets to wrestle with the pros and cons of new tech toys and what limits should be set. (My mother would insist the radio must be off while doing homework, while I argued it was only too easy to listen to music and finish that task at the same time.)

For some reason this topic has generated a spurt of recent coverage. Monday’s edition of The Takeway with John Hockenberry had a segment on a summer camp that tries to teach good tech balance. (This is detailed further in a story by WYNC.)

Here’s a look at three new books on the topic of children and their relations hip to technology by Dwight Garner in the New York Times: “Resisting the Siren Call of the Screen – 3 books Offer Ways to Cut the Cord, If Only Briefly“.

The books discussed are: The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang; The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair with Teresa H. Barker and The App Generation by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. (Note: not the Katie Davis that has done reporting for NPR.)

Many of the reader’s comments that followed the NYT article argued this is a problem that needs to be solved by engaged parents who have a good relationship with technology and family life themselves – and not every parent stands ready to lead by example.

Where do you come down on getting the tech/life balance right in your life and in the lives of children?

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16 Comments on “Tech gadgets and social media – what’s healthy, what’s not?”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    What’s healthy?
    Paper and pencils.
    Cheaper too.
    And how about returning the black/greenboard back to class with erasers and chalk.

  2. Paul says:

    When you call a cell phone (basically what you could also define as a very powerful computer in your hand) a “tech toy” you have pretty much loaded the question.

  3. Lucy Martin says:

    Fair point Paul. Maybe that should read “tech tool”.
    As long as it’s not mostly used to play angry birds ;-)

  4. Peter Hahn says:

    Whatever you call them – Cell phones in class should be forbidden. Cell phones in public places are a bad idea, because of the noise. But even kids texting in junior high classroom? Definitely a bad idea.

  5. Paul says:

    I agree calling and texting should be off limits in the class room (definitely no angry birds!). My point was that a “cell phone” is really a misnomer since those uses are starting to become pretty ancillary for these devices. Just think of how much space it took just a few decades ago to fit that kind of technological power. It is mind boggling.

  6. Paul says:

    The real point is that it is our job to makes sure that technology has a positive rather than a negative impact on society. Hopefully we have learned something about how to do that over the years.

  7. PNElba says:

    There is evidence that using cell phones during class has many negative effects ( But, I believe we are in the middle of a paradigm shift involving cell phone use and we need to accept it. I believe cell phone texting in the college classroom is rude behavior, but unless it is affecting other students, it should be ignored. Smart phones can also be useful in the classroom for research purposes.

  8. Paul says:

    PNElba, I totally agree. It is also hard to tell what is going on. You can text with the same device that you take notes with?

    One positive aspect is that this technology is bringing the classroom to the kids that can’t normally get there.

  9. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Good for Ontario! However, good luck enforcing the rule and dealing with those parents and students who think it’s imperative that they have text and telephone access to their little darlings and parents 24/7, both in and out of school.

    It’s one thing to utilize the technology of these highly powerful devices for legitimate use, but it’s another matter entirely trying to stop the misuse. As a school administrator I can tell everyone here that cell phones are the biggest distraction to learning and classroom management since the invention of the window. Seriously, they are a huge and growing problem in schools everywhere. What’s worse are the parents who are as addicted to texting (unfortunately to their child sitting in a classroom) as much as their child. Now, we have parents who feel the need to give their kindergarten and elementary age children such devices. In elementary school?

    So now, along with the plethora of other things put on the backs of teachers, staff, administrators, we spend a large part of our day policing cell phone policies. Ask a student to turn off his/her phone, or put it away, or give the phone to you until the end of the day and you often get a straight out FU from many students as they can’t possibly part with their phone for even a few minutes of the day. And then the parent goes ballistic and completely enables their son or daughter.

  10. zeke says:

    I think they should block cell signals in school. That way they(students )can still take notes in History(yeah right!) on their device but not talk to their friend down the hall in English.

  11. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:


    Your idea has been bantered about, believe it or not, by some districts. But there are technical and cost hurdles to such proposals. Not to mention those parents who would fight it tool and nail. The only people who would benefit would be the attorney’s.

  12. Pete Klein says:

    Once again, parents (or should I say, those guilty of procreating) are the problem.
    I know that if my kids were still in school and wanted a smart phone, they would be told to purchase it with the money they earn from a job and pay for calls and texting with their own money.
    And I would hope, really hope, no kid shows up in school with a smart phone who is getting free or reduced breakfast and lunch.

  13. Walker says:

    Clapton, I think that teachers and administrators would kill such a proposals even before the parents would.

    (It is pathetic, though, that the electronic umbilical cord seems to be a fact of modern life.)

  14. PNElba says:

    Go to a meeting of school admin and faculty and I guarantee you will see cell phone use.

  15. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    You’re absolutely right that some teachers and administrators use cell phones. Some use of which occurs at inappropriate times and some use of which is for legitimate work related activities.

    Use during inappropriate times is one of my biggest pet peeves along with some teachers and administrators utilizing social media in inappropriate ways. I’ve gone on tirades about such things to my co-workers over the years. My experience has been that most of my co-workers feel the same way but there are certainly those among us who simply don’t get it. Usually it’s the younger individuals who themselves were in school when all this craziness began.

    I consider it a form of addiction to be honest. The youth of today are so conditioned to be glued to some form of a screen, whether cell phone, computer, or tv, that they can’t exist without such things. It’s yet another distraction for educators that wasn’t even a consideration just 15-20 years ago.

  16. HarryTechIT says:

    Cell phones should not be allowed in classrooms. Students should focus on the subject being thought rather than playing with their phones. Although today’s phone can be useful for taking notes but most students will abuse the usage of technology. It is actually a distraction to them.

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