Friday, December 30, 2016

My Warning about Cell-phones

I enjoy using new technology in my classroom, more so than many of my comrades. However, when school reconvenes after the holidays, I am often amazed by the number of new cell-phones which were gifted to students at Christmas. It makes a great gift and parents have good intentions with using the device to better stay in touch with their child. But it also raises my awareness to the grave problems our society is creating in years to come, most of it coming about from the addiction to social media and games which rob young people of tine, focus and establishing priorities for their education.

Let me be very clear in the way I identify and communicate ground rules for using electronics in my classroom. When the bell goes off, I expect students to not only be in their seats, but cell-phones turned off and completely out of sight, As a block class we take a break at the mid-point, and they are allowed to use their device appropriately...but only for those five minutes. If we complete the lesson content and there is extra time available, I provide students with a minute or two to check their device. Any violation results in not only having it confiscated, but 30 minutes of detention time with yours truly over the next 2-3 days. On average I have a small handful, usually 2-3 students, each semester who learn this lesson the hard way...and word quickly spreads throughout the school that Mr. D is very serious about misuse of electronics.

My concern comes not from students breaking policy, but their addiction to games they foresee as innocent and entertaining. Games such as Candy Crush and Empire are extremely creative, tempting players to continue their quest for higher scores and additional features, but minutes easily turn into hour upon hour of "playtime" which could and should be used for studying valuable knowledge. I've witnessed mornings when students came into my class barely able to keep their eyes open after late-night gaming marathons. I question what kind of parents would allow their children to be consumed by such habits. And we wonder why so many young people suffer from sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress, and depression?

While social media can be a unique tool for human interaction, young people rarely know the when, why, and how for responding to perceived slams of personalities of others more or less popular than themselves. Too many students play out their dramas with ill thought-out responses rather than implementing the concept of 'forgive and forget' and moving on. Young people are now being identified with pathologies of "Nomophobia" (No-Mobile-Phobia), "FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out)- the fear of being without a cell phone, and "Textiety"- the anxiety of receiving and responding immediately to text messages.

As funny as this all might seem, I foresee the misuse of cell-phones in a school environment resulting in ocular problems with eyes which will deteriorate further as age progression continues. Allowing young eyes to stare into a small screen for hours at a time is presently resulting in dryness, blurry vision, irritation, and fatigue. I sense there will also be physical problems associate with carpal-tunnel syndrome from overstimulating thumbs and wrists on tiny keyboards.
I'd love to dismiss my concerns as over-reacting, but it's anything but that. I enjoy the daily interaction with young people, and they often-admit their shortcomings when it comes to misusing their cell-phones. At the same time it provides a daily rush of adrenaline and an excitement second-to-none. I wish I was wrong, but mark my 5-10 years the medical profession will feature daily stories of the consequences I foretell today.

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