It's 2018, Where do we stand on cell phones?


I’m just going to leave this here. . . .

From the PPT - “Screen-dependent children often lobby to stay in SPED because it is less demanding and gives them more time online.”


I’m catching up here, thanks for all the great stuff Ben.

What an interesting idea.


I think it’s interesting as well. I am wondering if it should be treated the same as chemical dependency. If a student is using then there are protocols for that. Is this really all that different?


This thread has helped me to shift my thinking on this topic quite a bit. I hadn’t considered cell phone use as an addiction to the degree that we’re seeing it, but likely this is more prevalent in some of our student populations than in the teen population as a whole.

I do think it’s important to keep in mind the benefits of cell phones, and all they can potentially enable with learning. As a simple analogy, we could easily make a compelling argument banning automobiles based on the large number of annual fatalities, but doing so would overlook the vast benefits transportation provides. In much the same way, labeling cell phones as purely a negative for teens would overlook their benefits.

Having said that, reflecting on some student observations, the idea that cell phone usage needs to be looked at as an addiction with some students could be really helpful, and shifts the approach from teaching proper cell phone usage towards strategies initially based on breaking habits and addiction.


Interesting comparison and I’m not an expert on chemical health, but I wonder if the longitudinal use of screen media (from birth to today for many kids), many hours per day, vs. a chemical addiction they may have acquired as an adolescent makes a significant difference.


Looking at this issue from the lens of addiction is kind of how I have felt about this issue for some time. Considering that many of the students I see in my program will use their cell phones to the detriment of their education, and even their relationships or jobs outside of school. I often wonder how many of them are coming to our program simply because this screen addiction has caused them to miss out on educational opportunities at their previous school.

I also wonder if this screen addiction predisposes these same teens to other addictions or is a good predictor of other dangerous or self-destructive behaviors? Kind of like the link between people with schizophrenia and cigarette smoking. (Schizophrenics are statistically three to four times more likely to be smokers.) In that same token, are screen addicts more likely to be abusers of drugs or alcohol? If so, do we need to develop conscious curriculum around cell phones as an addiction?

By the way, I showed all of these same videos and others to my advisory class last year and I received the same response of, that’s not me, those results apply to everyone but me… Just like when polled, 90% of drivers think that they are above average at driving. “It’s everyone else, not me” seems to be the mindset.


I worked in a recovery school for 9 years and I remember not even being able to do SpEd assessments if we knew the student was actively using.

There are certainly students with addiction issues from birth as some are born chemically addicted or with FAE/FAS. In many cases, the issue of addition is a need to self-medicate or escape, or a desire for a particular brain chemistry (which we now know, social media/gaming can give us).

I wonder what kinds of discussion that might open up if during the initial assessment there are questions for parents and students to answer about media. We wouldn’t have teachers necessarily giving matching information because they don’t have the devices at school in the same way so it might be hard to validate. The anxiety and aggression many students may exhibit could be an issue of withdrawal.

If that is the case, then what do we do? The students go back home, get their fix and it happens all over again the next day. We wouldn’t expect someone going through chemical withdrawal to go to class, follow directions, retain information, etc.


Thanks for fleshing that out more. I wonder what kind of “screen dependence” assessments might exist and if it would be worth our School Psych group taking a look at.


This seems to be the best thread for this.

I ran into this article in the Washington Post, called “Hitting the Return Key on Education.” Mainly it’s a brief synopsis on the premise of a book written by two teachers called “Screen Schooled” that argues against the widespread use of technology in education.

This isn’t an endorsement, but I’m curious what they have to say. I’ve ordered a copy of the book.


I can definitely see where the authors might be coming from with this argument. Several years ago while I was in grad school working on my Ph.D. in chemistry (which I quit because I discovered teaching) we were required to attend weekly presentations by guest lecturers in chemistry. The last thing that I wanted to do at 4:00 on a Friday was attend a less then riveting chemistry seminar by people that were research chemists first, and lecturers second. Long story short, every lecture was given by PowerPoint and generally followed the same format, which is to say that the lights were dimmed and the speaker explained the research as they clicked through their slides. I honestly don’t remember a single one of those speakers or topics. Then, one Friday the projector went on the fritz; yes, freedom I thought! To my dismay the speaker said that this was a good lesson to all of us grad students to be prepared, and he reached into his bag and pulled out overheads with charts and graphs. My heart sunk as I realized I was in for another enthralling presentation. To my utter surprise it ended up being the best seminar of the year!

The difference was that the lecturer had to move around more, transition between the overheads, and go off script. Without his PowerPoint to follow the lecturer was able to steer the presentation in different directions and modify his material as questions arose from the audience. It became much more of a give and take conversation than a one way lecture. There was sudden writing on the chalk board and explanations of semi-off subject ideas. I still remember the topic, it was “Supercritical fluid extraction for enantiomeric resolution of L and R stereoisomers” I can even still recall the diagrams and some of the charts on the overheads. Why? What was the difference? I was really no more interested in this topic than any of the others that were given. I attribute this knowledge and recollection to the fact that this was an interactive experience that I was a part of. There was movement, there was action, and instead of passively sitting in a chair and being talked at, I was part of this shared experience. This is something that I have never felt during a technology based lesson. I still try to model this stripped down “chalk talk” style lesson in my classroom today. I like to have days where I write the notes on the board and get a little off topic, interacting with the students and answering mid-stream questions. Students seem to be much more engaged and have better recall of these lessons.


Great story, Rob, thanks for sharing that.

I’d argue that the enemy isn’t technology, but rather the enemy is any sort of one-way learning experience that subjects the learning to a passive stream of impersonal information. You can do that with technology, but you can also do that with a dry boring worksheet, or a traditional lecture. I don’t think it’s fair to blame technology for the failings of lemmings who follow protocol and teach with boring one-way PowerPoints.

It reminds me of an absolutely awesome Clay Shirky video about the cognitive surplus. It’s about 15 minutes altogether but I think a lot of what he has to say connects to the point.

And for the record, I hate PowerPoint.


I work as a Speech Pathologist, I’m all about talking and making relationships…in person:rofl: The research is now coming out on the ability of kids to actually carry on a conversation in person with peers and adults. It’s not good. There appears to be increasing anxiety around the area of personal interaction.
Although technology gives them a way to contact/share with others in an instant, it’s not teaching them deeper conversation skills…remember the conversations you had in college??? Ok, there may have been other things that helped that along…but, I was just at a campus…in a commons area. It was spooky quiet. About 60 kids were in there, on their phones, totally ignoring the presence of the others…just doing their own thing. Then, after going to a restaurant, we witnessed a mom ignoring her 2-3 year old because she was busy on her phone. After the little girl said “mom” about 20 times, the girl added a slight touch…moving to a harder smack which got mom’s attention. Then the mom had a screaming fit about not hitting your mom. It’s not about the technology, it’s about unlimited access and lack of information regarding consequences. When I told one of my students that the phone needed to go away for our session and that it was disrespectful to be chatting on facebook while I was having a one to one interaction with her…she was surprised!

When I talked to a group of SECA kids (who were skipping class) about whether they thought they were addicted to their phones, they said they never thought about it, but then asked “Can you be???”. Then I watch these same girls with their babies…choosing a phone over parenting. BLECH!

So I think making a conscious effort to talk to the kids about addiction…“Your Brain on a Cell Phone”…is not only worthwhile, but crucial. There are generations of kids depending on it. Time for the adults to step up.


You all didn’t think I’d let this discussion go to sleep, did you?

Co-founder of Facebook, Sean Parker, now considers himself a “conscientious objector” to social media. He labels FB and other social media platforms as exploitative. Here’s a quote that stood out:

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”

What this affirms for me is how misguided a view it is to think that we can routinely compete with devices and social media with screen addicted kids. It’s kind of like telling an alcoholic, “don’t go out drinking tonight, we’ve got something better planned!” If you’ve lived with, among, or loved an addict you know how silly it would be to expect them to be able to control themselves with the object of their addiction constantly in their presence – especially if they don’t even agree there’s a problem!

I’m really interested in finding a reputable screener assessment for screen addiction. I think if we had data on whether our students have a real problem, how serious it is, and how many of them deal with it, we might make more informed choices about practices and policies around this.


Quick update on this: We’ve now had many students complete the screen time inventory. Long and short - they spend a ton of hours on their devices, most don’t see (or aren’t ready to admit) it as a problem or negative, and don’t feel an urge to change behavior based on the new information. As a case in point, one student who is one of our more organized, academically strong pupils, who also works a part-time job, spent 48 hours on her phone over 7 days. That’s 2/7 full days out of the week. While she found the numbers to be somewhat off-putting, she was not surprised. She was able to express some various reasons it might be good to be on the phone less, but she predicted that she would not change her behavior at all. She also suggested that some weeks she will probably be on her phone up to 3-4 days!


Wow, these numbers are mind boggling! If a more astute higher functioning and responsible student is spending this many hours on their phone, how many hours are our struggling students spending? I just had this conversation with a student the other day and she told me that watching videos on her phone has become a coping mechanism that she uses to “tune the rest of the world out” when anxiety or the pressures of life become too overwhelming (which because she has not learned any positive ways to deal with these issues is almost daily). She has admitted to regularly binge watching Netflix from the moment she wakes up until three or four in the morning when she just passes out. I know that this is more than a cell phone issue, but what it represents to me is that addicts now have the power to use a socially acceptable drug to the detriment of the rest of their lives. This student had negative experiences on social media when she was younger, which has manifested not only in avoidance of social media but in avoidance of all social aspects of life. It makes me wonder if mental health issues are increasing solely because of awareness or if they are being exacerbated by the constant bombardment of social media and the ability to turn to an electronic device for escape. Are the students of this generation creating multiple or split personalities that exist only online while they struggle to make connections and be a part of the real world? Are anxiety and depression increasing because kids constantly feel pressured to be something they are not because that is how all of their “friends” on snapchat, twitter, and Facebook view them?

Everyone desperately wants to be cool or accepted as an adolescent, in older generations this appeared as more risky behaviors like sex, drugs, and alcohol. All of these numbers are significantly lower with today’s youth which is a major bonus; however today’s youth exercise considerably less, being as sedentary as your average 60 year old. What kind of ramifications does this lack of exercise add to the mental health of the younger generation? I think that screen time and living in these online worlds is directly responsible for both the good and the bad behaviors that we see in our current students and I am very concerned about what it means for their future health and well-being beyond the classroom and in the subsequent years following high school. Are we just passing these students along only to leave them stranded after graduation with no coping mechanisms and deep seeded issues dealing with identity and self-worth?


Something to consider…
Can We Conquer Addiction with AI?
Onward an app to help people change their overuse behaviors

Conquering addictions with AI algorithms | Gabe Zichermann | TEDxSanFrancisco


Wow - great video, Scott. There’s a lot there to chew on. My quick reaction is that I love the notion of asserting more intention and control over our phones and, as he says, “in a sober state” making some informed decisions about how we want to access technology and how we want to allow technology access us, and then being able to rely on the software to help you carry out that plan. What a great idea.


Trello blog in my inbox today with a counter-point on multi-tasking…


That’s an interesting article, Leslie, thanks for posting it. I’ve been dissatisfied with the claim that “multitasking doesn’t work” for many of the reasons the article gets at: It’s more complex that simply saying that doing two things at once doesn’t work. Multitasking as a term seems insufficient.

I was reading another book that talked about when the brain does two activities at once, it puts the less focused activity on a Channel 2, where it only jumps to our attention if something important comes up, and the other activity goes on our main Channel and gets our attention. The article talking about exercising and brainstorming would fit into this sort of multitasking.


I liked the article and I think it gives more clarity to the conversation. Thanks for sharing, Leslie. One quote that I think sums up the take-away from the article and studies they cite:

The secret to using multitasking to make better use of your time ultimately lies in finding tasks that don’t cause a huge amount of conflict with each other—like the above exercise examples.

“In other words, you can multitask as long as you’re doing two things that don’t tax the same parts of your brain,” explains Bregman, “Email while on a conference call? Bad idea. But exercise and commuting? It’s a perfect multitasking marriage.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately I think what we encounter most often with students are those tasks that do not align (like working on your math project while trying to carry on exchanging snapchat messages on your phone). That kind of thing is probably more appropriately called “task switching” than multitasking.