Above is a student using their phone. WSPN’s Angela Park looked at phone use at WHS. “Technology is a wonderful thing as learners and as teachers, and we need to be mindful about the ways that we’re setting up students to rely on it versus use it responsibly,” principal Allyson Mizoguchi said. (Credit: Angela Park)
Above is a student using their phone. WSPN’s Angela Park looked at phone use at WHS. “Technology is a wonderful thing as learners and as teachers, and we need to be mindful about the ways that we’re setting up students to rely on it versus use it responsibly,” principal Allyson Mizoguchi said.

Credit: Angela Park

A look at cell phone use at WHS

April 5, 2016

His phone screen lights up in the middle of class, notifying him of a text from a friend. He snatches his phone off his desk and checks to make sure his teacher isn’t watching. Slumping low in his seat, he carefully positions his phone underneath the desk, opening the message.

The WHS student handbook states, “The use of personal listening devices, cell phones, etc. during the school day is forbidden in academic buildings unless specifically authorized by a staff member.” The only exception is the use of listening devices in the Media Center or study hall.

However, students and teachers know phones are more prevalent in the academic building than this rule lets on. According to senior Selena Plummer, she uses her phone in school to keep in touch with friends throughout the day.

“If I didn’t have my phone, I could go maybe two to three days without seeing some of my friends because I don’t have classes with a lot of my friends,” Plummer said.

Plummer also notes that when planning for senior show, last-minute updates to the practice schedule were posted on Facebook throughout the school day. A phone was necessary to keep up to date with the times. Senior Ashley Edmunds also uses her phone primarily to communicate with friends, but she also uses it for planning.

“[I use my phone] because I just want to know what’s going on, what my friends are doing, anything,” Edmunds said. “[It’s] because I’m bored, and I want to look at something else.”

Both Plummer and Edmunds say it all depends on the teacher whether or not they can use phones in class. In some classes, students can get away with it, but in others, teachers will not let phones be out on the desks. Principal Allyson Mizoguchi explains that teachers are to use their discretion in enforcing the cell phone policy in their individual classrooms.

“The policy we have in the handbook is more than just a guide for what we expect students to do when it comes to their phones,” Mizoguchi said. “We’re trying to send a message that we don’t think there is generally a place for cell phone use in class.”

Mizoguchi understands cell phone use for means of communication between classes, but during class, she hopes students are fully present, which generally means not having a cell phone next to them. Plummer admits to occasionally checking a message during a class, but she agrees that students should just wait until after class.

“[Class] is really for your benefit, so if you’re going to sit there and miss out on information, then it’s like, ‘Okay. That’s on you,’” Plummer said. “But to be honest, it’s rude to just bust out your phone in the middle of class.”

Science Department Head Ken Rideout describes phone use a drain on a student’s focus. If a student chooses to use their phone, he believes that the consequences are their choice.

“If a kid is going to distract themselves, they’re going to distract themselves, so you sort of have to own your own load in learning,” Rideout said. “[If] they miss this material in class, they’re going to get behind, they’re not going to do as well, and it’s a part of the whole learning to own your own learning kind of stuff.”

Rideout shares that he believes age matter when it comes to phone use. With younger students, he is more likely to give explicit instructions, telling kids to put away their phones.

“If I’m teaching younger kids, like freshmen, then I tend to feel more of a responsibility to kind of control the classroom because I think they’re just less sort of capable of managing themselves,” Rideout said. “But with upperclassmen, I never do it. I’ll just go up to them and be like, ‘Looks like you won’t be doing well on the next test.’”

However, Rideout thinks it is beneficial for students to have teachers that have different rules. According to him, just like the real world had different people in it, it is beneficial that WHS has teachers that uphold different policies in their classrooms.

“Each teacher has a different set of rules, and it’s up to you to sort of know, like this teacher won’t let me be one second tardy [and] never wants to see my phone. Then you turn around and in the next class, it’s totally different,” Rideout said. “I think that’s actually a good sort of life skill really, so I would hate for Wayland to lose that sort of thing.”

To add onto the phone policy at WHS, the student handbook states, “Students should not under any circumstances photograph, film, or audio record other students or faculty on campus during the school day… unless it is for a school-sanctioned class assignment and with consent.

Mizoguchi shares that this rule was made due to the ubiquitous ability of today’s devices to capture people’s photos, videos and audios. Previous complaints within the school led to the addition of this rule in the handbook a few years ago.

Rideout explains that surreptitious recording is a concern for him. He has many running jokes in his classes, and he would hate for certain jokes to be taken out of context and misunderstood.

“Surreptitious phoning of teachers, recording them and taking them, I think that’s pretty bad because I’m like, ‘Why are you doing it surreptitiously?’” Rideout said. “[It’s] like you’re looking at getting someone in trouble or [to] trip them up and you wouldn’t do that normally.”

However, Rideout usually doesn’t mind at all if students record or photograph him if they ask beforehand.

“Before it would just be a Snapchat, so they would just lean over and take a picture. Now they’ll do a face swap or something goofy like that. Since I don’t use my phone, that’s my only way of finding out what people are doing, so I think those kinds of things are funny,” Rideout said. “There’s no harm there.”

There does seem to be a general concern for students’ reliance on technology nowadays. According to Plummer, technology is much more prominent than it was when she was in middle and elementary school.

“I got my first phone in first grade but I would never think [of] Snapchat. I had a flip phone, let’s be real,” Plummer said. “But nowadays, since technology is so much more prominent in our culture, I’d say it’s harder to try to keep students from opening their Snapchat and [capturing] a funny moment.”

Rideout went to a workshop where Sherry Turkle, psychologist and author of the book “Alone Together”, spoke on the dangers of technology in teenagers’ lives. There, he recognized the concern that teens are never alone.

“Because teenagers always have their phones available, and they’re always in constant contact with each other, they actually never learn the skill of being alone,” Rideout said.

According to Rideout, technology can hinder adolescents from forming coping mechanisms that those who grew up pre-internet and pre-phones had to deal with. He thinks teens will have to learn the skill of being alone eventually.

“The teenage years are a good place to do that because you live at home with your parents, with your family. You have this network that will take care of you and I think it makes it a little harder when you go off to college and you’re on your own,” Rideout said.

Mizoguchi also admits she becomes concerned with students’ reliance on instantaneous information and the loss of human relations, but like everything else, we must find a balance.

“Technology is a wonderful thing as learners and as teachers, and we need to be mindful about the ways that we’re setting up students to rely on it versus use it responsibly,” Mizoguchi said.

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