Phones and iPods In Schools

Without sounding like a cranky 80 year old, when *I* was in school, there was no such thing as a mobile phone! Yes, yes, back in the day when we walked to school, uphill both ways. In the snow. Barefoot.

Ok, the walking to school uphill in the snow part is crap, but there was no such thing as a mobile phone, iPods, Facebook and all the rest of today’s modern technology. I realise that society has to “move with the times” but I was recently shocked to learn that a friend’s son, who just started high school, was being distracted in class by several students listening to music on their phones/mp3 players during class time. The only thing more shocking was the Principal and Vice Principals reaction to my friend’s complaint.


She was essentially told that school isn’t about education, it’s about learning to multi-task, learning to focus when there are distractions, learning to communicate and work through problems (hence all the in-class discussion). She was also told that children go home and do their homework with music in the background, so they are allowed to have the music in class, also. She was told that the kids use their phones as calculators, that parents do not like to buy their kids calculators because they have them on their phone. She was told that we are in 2013, and as such, she needed to “move with the times.”

Now, I’m not suggesting we should be back in the dark ages where kids got the cane for not sitting in their designated seat (true story – ask my mum!). I’m not even saying these items should be banned completely from school. I know iPads can be great for learning. I know that kids need to learn how to use social media, the benefits and the dangers of it and the social responsibility that comes with being so connected by it. But I think to allow them to listen to music during class time, to distract other kids who may not yet have the capability of focusing through such distractions, and to be able to be that disconnected from the teacher and classmates is quite frankly just taking the piss.


To get some kind of perspective on this issue, my friend called two other local schools – one public, one private. Neither school allowed kids to have their phones in class for music or any other such purpose. The private school rules were they were to be kept in lockers. The public school allowed them in their bags, on silent, for emergencies only. Maybe I am old fashioned. Maybe I am over reacting, but I’ll be marking this on my list of things to enquire about when sending Nick to high school (even though that’s almost 8 years away – God by then they might not be going to school, maybe it will all be online?!?!).

And while I’m speaking of school, I’ll take a bit of a detour here to tell you what I found in Nick’s classroom today. The school has a fairly thorough discipline policy/procedure. So at the front of the classroom is a hanging sign that looks something like this:


All the kids names are on a clothes peg, and are pegged onto the appropriate….level? I scanned for Nick’s name and there it was. Attached to the “Warning” sign.  As we left school, he told me it was because he broke a pencil. It’s unclear as to how he broke it, as he told me a couple of different stories. He told me it was an “accident” but he’s certainly been pushing the boundaries at home recently, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s now trying to see how far he can push at school.

I sat through the rest of the parent/teacher meeting (not one-on-one, it was a group meeting) barely paying attention, because I was trying to think how I could approach this, with both Nick and the teacher. As a parent who stressed out over sending her son to school in the first place, today has done absolutely nothing for settling my concerns. Maybe he isn’t ready? Maybe he’s too young? Maybe it’s too much for him? Where did I go wrong? We’ve always tried to be stern/firm with him when it comes to discipline, but here he is, acting out? Or is the teacher picking on him? Does she already think he’s the problem child so that’s the label he’ll get for the whole year? All these questions and doubts swirling through my head are enough to drive me insane.

So my questions to you this week – what do you think about kids having phones in schools? And how do you think I should approach both Nick and his teacher about this discipline chart? Am I over reacting? 

And of course I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT because you guys give the best advice around!

41 thoughts on “Phones and iPods In Schools

  1. My biological son is only 21-months. However I do have a steep son who just graduated high school.
    I was surprised back in middle school 4 and 5 years-ago during the group parent teacher conference when the subject of cell phones came up. In my opinion there was no logical reason for children to have a cell phone at school. If a parent needs to reach a child they call the office and the office calls the classroom. If a child needs to call a parent they go to the office and make the call. All the phone/iPod/tablet will do is cause a distraction. But the parents for some reason thought I was this big bad man who knew nothing about technology. It was ugly for a brief moment.
    F.Y.I: I’ve been a computer nerd since 1987 when I was in high school.
    So my thought is, and I’m teaching this to my 21-month-old son, is their is a time and place for his electronic toys. It’s going to be an uphill battle when he gets older but I love my son enough that I am going to stay on top of what is and is not allowed.

    • I am not against them having them at school, but during class? Absolutely against it. Especially if it is distracting other kids. I guess we just have to climb that uphill battle you talk about and make sure our kids don’t live-and-die by having a phone in their hands at all times. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. I think it’s quite inappropriate to allow kids playing their music in class! Some jobs don’t even allow that, much less kids who are in school to learn. That’s not keeping up with the times, but being foolish.

    In regards to Nick, perhaps not think too much and just ask the teacher what happened, and how can you improve it. Is it really because he was naughty? Or misunderstanding? What kind of discipline level do they expect? If he’s sent to detention over a pencil he accidentally broke, that’s quite harsh I feel.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

    • I did have a very brief talk to the teacher and she says he is doing fine. His peg has also moved back up to “good” so maybe our little chat helped. I asked him what he thought he could do to get his peg moved back up, so maybe he’s thinking about it in class. I agree – FOOLISH to allow kids phones/internet access in class!

      • I finished high school a couple of years ago, and I agree with you about phones, they can be an absolute pain. But using the internet during lessons can be really useful, it’s usually only there when you have some kind of research project, but it teaches you the value of content on various sites, ie you could use wikipedia to get an idea of the kind of sites you want to look for but never quote it. I think if the internet had been banned during lessons in high school, especially at the upper end, I’d be lost in trying to get various evidences during my degree.

        • I think the internet is fine, and a required tool for students. but I think they should have to be on school iPads or computers where stuff like facebook is blocked, unlike on their phones where they can access anything they want. Thank you for your input! It is just a sign of the times I guess! I think it just needs to be monitored properly.

  3. I think it is wrong to have the music playing out loud but if they are listening through headphones and really are being productive then so be it.

    As for the teacher and Nick. I would be talking to the teacher ASAP and finding out what it is all about. Getting the story from Nick can be tricky as kids can sometimes interpret things differently to not only adults but also reality. Our school has a similar peg system though the words used are different. The effect it has had on the class is pretty amazing though. Hang in the lovely, parenting is a tough gig and parenting a school aged child even tougher.

    • I talked very briefly to the teacher – she said he is fine. No problems. “Not yet” she said. Ha! I’m ok with that for now, plus when I looked yesterday he’d had his peg moved back up to “good”. We had a talk about what he could do to get his peg moved so maybe that helped? Oh well! I just want to make sure that we know about it so we can talk to him about it and that he understands what it all means.

  4. I really don’t know what I’m going to do with mobile phones yet! I think when they drive they will need to call in an emergency (not while driving though!) maybe if they are travelling to school/sport on their own. Stopping by from IBOT

    • I have to be honest – our son already has a phone! He uses it as an iPod though and it’s switched to “flight mode” permanently. I’m not against them having them, just against them using them during class time I guess.

  5. Personally, I think that discipline chart is FULL ON! I too have my reservations about school. I am in no rush, and if I can afford it at the time, I’d like to use Steiner, because I’d rather an emphasis on creativity and play than discipline and being well-behaved. He broke a pencil! Whatevs. That’s crazy. When I was at boarding school, we used to have to sit for two hours in silence after school in the library doing our homework. Once I broke my pencil and asked a friend to borrow hers. The supervising teacher put me on riding school detention, and I had to get up at 4.30am to shovel horse poo from one paddock to the other. True Story! Argh. I don’t actually have any constructive suggestions for you, sorry. But do bring it up. I don’t think you are being too anything except a loving mum. x

    • Thanks Zanni. I can argue both sides of the discipline chart. I bet it works for lots of kids because they don’t want to see their name on the “oops” or below. But I worry about some kids who get down to oops/warning/time outs and never feel the motivation to get back up to the “good”. It’s tough, but the system goes through the whole school, so the sooner they are used to it the better. I did have a brief chat to the teacher and she says he’s fine. And I’ve chatted to Nick about what we expect from him in class, so we’ll see how we go!

    • I agree! School absolutely should be about learning, and a big part of it is learning respect – for the teacher and classmates, which playing music/texting/facebooking in class is not showing, at all!

  6. my boys think they have phones – they have ipods – i’m not going to tell them any different for a while
    phones at school for the purpose of playing music is not ok
    it is a distraction – for them and others
    that chart is pretty scary – even for me!
    hope Nick tells you the real story soon xx

    • I agree it’s a distraction. Nick has a phone that he uses as an iPod. Can’t make or receive calls on it – it’s one of our old iPhone 3’s. The chart is scary, but I think it can probably work very well for most kids – no one wants to get time outs or detention. Nick and I had a talk about what he can do to get his peg moved back up and when I looked today he was back up to “good” so fingers x’d it helped. I’m glad I saw it up there and had the chance to talk to him. x

  7. I think phones at school, for emergency reasons only, are fine. They should be in bags in lockers and not in classrooms.
    I hope you’ve made a time to speak one-on-one with teacher, I’ve emailed M’s quite a few times and she’s been great, they don’t have time before and after the bell rings to chat and mine is open to sit-down chats but by appointment, teachers have lives too. I hope that you get to the bottom of it as I hate to think you are worrying when there might not be anything to worry about. HUGS xxx

    • Agree – bags/lockers, on silent during class for sure! I need to get an email address for our teacher! We have no contacts for her, and she doesn’t open class until the bell and leaves fairly quickly! I think she has her own kids to go pick up so rushes off. But I did ask her if he was going ok as we weren’t sure about sending him, she said “he’s fine. No problems. not yet.” and the convo was over! I’m more worried that they wait until detention to tell the parents. I’d like to talk to Nick about it before it got to that point. We had a chat about it though after school the other day, what he can do in class to help the teacher, other kids, to get his peg moved up, to get warm fuzzies in his bucket, etc. Fingers x’d it helped. xo

  8. I don’t think that phones at school are necessary – but if they need to have them, they should be in lockers and only checked at breaks. Honestly, I would expect children to go to school to learn – not just to multi-task – but to actually get an education.
    As for Nick, I would be talking to the teacher quick smart to find out exactly what happened to get his name onto the warning level. The sooner you know why his name is there, the sooner you can tackle how to deal with it. You and M are amazing parents – I know it is hard, but try not to second guess the decisions you have made.
    Have the best day !

    • Well Nick and I had a bit of a chat Monday afternoon after that meeting, and we talked about what he could do in class to get his peg moved up, to help the teacher and his classmates, what kind of behaviour is expected of him. And yesterday he got his peg moved up, so hopefully it helped. When I asked the teacher if he was going ok she said “yes he’s fine.” I said he was pushing boundaries at home she said “no, no problems. not yet!” And that was it. So we play it by ear I guess!

  9. Wow I find that school’s philosophy astounding & honestly would have a real issue with it. As for your little man, no real advice except that if he’s been showing signs at home maybe something is going on that’s causing his behaviour. Good luck hun, hope things improve soon x

    • Yep! My friend has given the school a month, and if she’s not satisfied, and if her son is still being distracted, she’ll be moving him to another school. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d have given them a month!

    • I have very mixed opinions on the chart. I can see how it could do good – I think kids don’t want to see their name on the “oops” or below. But I can also see how it could make some kids upset, or make them even worse than they were already being, especially if they found themselves down there a lot, they’d start believing they were bad. 😦 Nick and I have had a chat, the teacher says “he’s fine” so we play it by ear from here.

  10. I don’t think phones should be allowed in classrooms – I can’t imagine they help the education process in any way at all. I know they are the bane of my husband’s life in the classroom!

    As for Nick, all children take a while to settle into a new setting and he would not be the only child trying to make sense of all the new rules in the classroom. If you are truly concerned have a chat to his teacher, I’m sure you would feel much better knowing a little more.

    • I did get a chance to ask the teacher if he was doing ok – I said we weren’t sure about sending him b/c he’s born on the cut off date so had concerns. She said “he’s fine”. “No problems, not yet!” And Nick and I had a talk about things he can do to get his peg moved up, etc. and it was moved up yesterday, so all good for now I think. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks phones shouldn’t be in the classroom!

  11. My son must keep his phone locked in locker during the day.i couldn’t imagine trying to teach a class where everyone was playing with their phones! And is it just me or is that peg idea labelling the kidss behaviour not quite right??

    • I have a few issues with the peg thing too Martine. I think a few people do. I can see how it could work, but can also see how it could backfire, terribly. We (both Nick and I) are new to this schooling thing, so we are trying to play it by ear at the moment, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on things.

  12. I would have been in heaven if I was allowed to have music at school 🙂 I would be mortified if my son had his phone or iPod at school though not conducive to learning at all 🙂 ha ha, double standards

  13. My step kids are often on facebook and texting whilst in class. I am trying to get into a private school for my daughter so that there is more discipline. Kids do not need phones in the classroom.

    As for music, I actually work better with my ipod in, in my last workplace you weren’t allowed to use them during work hours and I was always distracted, but after hours I put my earbuds in and achieved so much more.

    • I guess everyone is different, and probably many kids can work better to music. I used to be able to and had music on all the time, or at least background noise. now I much prefer the quiet! there’s enough distractions without worrying about phones/texts/facebook during school.

  14. Great discussion Aroha. They shouldn’t be allowed in Primary Schools. Debatable whether they should be allowed in high schools but its inevitable I suppose. I guess you can buy a scientific calculator app these days so can appreciate parents balking at shelling out for the calculator. Use in classroom should follow a code of conduct and respect.

    • I don’t really know how expensive a scientific calc is, but I think it’s a bit silly to think they’ll just use their phone for the calculator app! I think FB is usually blocked on the wi-fi, but with a phone you don’t need to be on the wi-fi to get the internet.

  15. i think the use of phones on school grounds has got to be kept in check – i am hearing more and more stories of younger kids with iphones i find it amazing. i think IF they want to allow the music in class it needs to be headphones, but thank you for raising this issue – my kids only have 2 and 3 more years at primary so i need to start thinking about school options.

    the chart thing is in all our classes just different formats and words – mostly traffic light system of red – for rtr, yellow for reflection / time out and green for warning or some such thing. i never used charts or stickers or stars with my girls and hate that it is part of school, but at least grateful they don’t end up on the board ever…

    • I guess they had to get creative when they were made to stop the cane and other forms of discipline! I don’t know, I do think there needs to be discipline and consequences for not listening or doing the right thing. I’m just not sure this system is good for everyone emotionally. But it gave me an opportunity to talk to Nick about what kind of behaviour is expected from him in school, etc. so we will see how we go and monitor it from here on out. We tried the time-out method with Nick for a while. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t seem to. I don’t believe in NO discipline, but then this seems extreme, but then what other options are there? This sort of puts the responsibility on the kid to behave properly – they know what happens if they don’t. Eh, I can argue both sides of it til I’m blue in the face, it is what it is, just need to figure out how to work with it.

  16. If it was my child, I would find that absolutely shocking that he would be allowed to not only have his phone in his hand in class but also listening to music! How can the teacher teach in these circumstances? How can the other kids concentrate? I do understand that maybe a teenager in high school needs a phone, time have changed, parents are working, kids sometimes have a long way to travel from home to school but the phone should be kept in the bag or in the locker whilst the child is in class.

    • Yes, times have changed, but have they changed so much we can’t show some respect in the classroom? i’m all for thinking outside the box, and teaching out side the box, but not to the point of rudeness and distraction. Agree phones should stay in bags/lockers.

  17. I have a terrible time trying to get my 9 year olds attention at home when he has his headphones on. Can you imagine a whole class of it!?

    Though, if they are in a set task for 30mins or something, I wouldn’t have an issue with it.

    Email address would be a great start to start up a conversation with the teacher. It may be fairly innocent, a one off, that she wanted to nip it in the butt.

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