Elementary school teacher on phone during classroom time

My daughter is losing respect for her school- she said her teacher was on her phone while a line of kids were waiting to talk to her during math time- it’s 3rd grade math so there is no complex teaching content- the teacher was visibly absorbed in something else other than teaching.

Other times the teachers phone rings and and she answers it too…

Has anyone ever come across this? I’m a little disgusted with where smart phone use has taken us here. Can’t there be some standards of conduct put out by Apple or Android?

Mind boggling where our world is today- I feel old and grumpy- that I’ll never fit into this tech driven world again.


That’s crazy! Obviously that teacher needs to figure out her priorities and likely has an unhealthy attachment to her device. It’s sad when it starts to have that much of a negative impact…

I fully agree, this is crazy, and gives the worst example to the kids. Besides that a serious complaint to the school board is in order, we at CHT could turn this - like you say - into something positive… a point of action.

Maybe draft a set of guidelines, or policy, and then a program to have schools and teachers to adhere to it. Maybe also a public ‘shaming’ place where parents can file their complaints, so as to put some pressure and raise more awareness…

Our school is so tech heavy they turn a blind eye to these things- there are teachers (not all, some) visibly walking looking at devices while ferrying kids behind them around on campus everyday for years now.

I am the minority in my community except for the principle demanding that no child have a phone on campus- but the use of technology is so tied into education that’s it’s too late- the distraction factor is there when a teacher running an app on the phone… you know notifications etc… The social justice that works in this school is if its popular thought… The school just used all this bond measure on technology so they can’t go back now- it’s a freight train that nobody can even talk about.

I’m very thankful my daughter is looking at this with a clear head- I just have to get her out there before she disrespects the institution of education altogether.

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It would be awesome if we could create some action on this. I think the only message most parents get is this is the way of the future, your kid will miss out on jobs later without total tech immersion now, these games are educational, do them as early as possible… and parents know they are risk ostracising their children if the don’t buy them smart phones by middle school - and that’s about as far as it goes.
But if the research on screen time, smart phones and school etc was easy to understand and regularly in main steam media, maybe more parents would question their schools, and question the 1:1 policy for little kids. Who would give their kid a phone at ten knowing it will drop their academic performance? If a significant number of parents didn’t, then that would remove the risk of your kid being the one left out.
If enough people here started contacting mainstream media with new studies, ideas for stories… maybe that would help? If guidelines could be drafted it would be great, it will be interesting to see what happens in Maryland, and even though they don’t have clear guidelines, at least it’s something to support parents talking to schools. If some celebrity took it up…
Those are my thoughts! I find it so frustrating. I’m perfectly happy for my kids to be taught computer science, to use technology as a tool, for amounts sppropriate to their development, but it’s not happening, schools are acting against the evidence.

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Thx so much for sharing! I’m not sure how old your kids are- but do you have a plan of action? I’m at a loss now… it feels like a total nightmare.

One positive is in January this year I said no to tech at school for a few reasons… one being is my daughter is an awesome reader and once they started doing significant reading in the laptops she said reading is boring, I mean how many books can I read anyways… (a kid who is above grade level reading and reads 5-6 chapter books per week).

So no laptop for 2 mos now and she read National Geographic yesterday- (9 year old) and said- “I like that book Mommy”. So my heart was happy I made the right decision at school. Even though I totally stand out.

I have a bit of a plan. I have 4 kids, from 4-10 years, I work in health too. I’m trying to see if I can get together a local group to discuss and work on this issue, which I have but finding a time we can all meet with little kids is proving tricky! I’ve summarised a lot of the recent literature and am putting it together in an article, it’s still waaaay to long and needs work, if you have time to have a bit of a read and give me some feedback let me know, I’ll PM you!

We’re still coming up with ideas on how to address this (and trying to make sure we have a balanced approach)…but we had thought about creating a platform where parents can read about the evidence for specific aspects of digital tech in schools (particularly the early years), after that maybe to create a tool box for parents to approach schools in a united way, so they can’t be fobbed off as the only one with this view. Maybe petition to have the Implementation of the digital curriculum reviewed…ask for guidelines to be formed … just in the ideas stage still.

But mean while we’ve written into the paper (eds), I’ve just send a copy of my unfinished article to a mainstream online paper for them to use and make their own piece, I’ve contacted a mainstream magazine with an idea for this story and references and they’re keen, I think summarising that recent meta-analysis on smartphone/cognition so it could go in a mainstream paper would be great. Most people can’t or wouldn’t read that, it was long! I’m organising a viewing of screenagers locally, if it’s successful we’ll do another.

I’ve contacted awayfortheday.org to see if we can use their site for an international audience, if we can we’ll try and launch it after the viewing, if not maybe we’ll use that petition form. I don’t know if any of it will be useful, but maybe it will give other parents the confidence to speak out, or teachers who feel like same way. I figure putting in my best effort is the best thing I can do for my kids, and having like minded friends for my kids so they’re not the only ten year old they know without a smartphone…

And I think - schools are going against evidence. There should be a reasonable chance of achieving something with the right skills and approach.

What do you think? If more people were keen to form a group from this platform, discuss ideas, even internationally, any win benefits us all I think… and I think it’s harder to dismiss a group …we could open up a thread just on this?

It’s really the age of 1:1, the amount of time on screens, the gamification and lack of boundaries that are the biggest issues for me. I wouldn’t mind an evidence based, tool based approach that was age appropriate…


This is a great framework! Thanks for responding to your own concerns. I know other parents are concerned and I think not every school is going 1:1 so that is a reason why certain regions are not gathering. You see we are a little “stuck” where we live with our school district. Eventually we’ll move but in the meantime I naturally make friends with people that don’t gravitate toward the tech craze- so when I talk about these issues they say “Our school doesn’t do that etc…”. So anyways- in outreach it will be important to identify tech heavy areas somehow to let parents know they are not alone. I know the resource screenfreemom is good- I get emails with papers more and more now from them.

A note about tech guidelines in school- our school has guidelines with digital citizenship but it doesn’t address the displacement issues of not using organic ways to develop line handwriting to gather and summarize thoughts etc… or really retaining content so you can make new creative thiughts- instead looking facts up constantly- or the postural issues. So at the risk of being a bit negative I’m not totally hopeful about guidelines- except that it will build a framework to work upon. It’s hard not to seem extremist but kids should not be pecking at keyboards and screens at all- my kid (9 year old) is screen free (except for carefully chosen movies and some mild tv shows) and she read National Geographic the other day- and excels in math etc… so people can’t say technology is needed for our foundations of learning.

Anyways… yes forward me what you write- it will be interesting to see! And I agree that that piece I posted is long and technical- someone else suggested a summary be written on that.

As a part of all this- I really think some sort of ethics forum needs to be created- and only look at developmental rights and health- we have kids in their 20’s saying they hate social media and don’t have the same social skills we grew up with to get out of that mode. But yet schools are using social media and teaching kids how to use it. They don’t understand the risks of nuclear developmental downfall from technology. Those parents didn’t know- but now we do-

I really could go on and on;) hopefully with conversing here we will become more and more focused-

Right now I’ll look at summarizing that paper- it seems important- can you give me ideas of respectable online places to submit? I read something last night that was good, but it had extreme fake news bled into the ads etc… I questioned credibility instantly…

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I’m in the same situation, in zone for a tech heavy school. But 1:1 is common from 8 years where I am, and while not every school is, schools have to step up and follow the digital curriculum by 2020 here, although schools may interpret what that means differently.
I think guidelines can be ignored, but may support parents to be able to ask schools - can you explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, when the guidelines say this… unless they’re really clear. France banning smart phones in school - I guess that’s not a guideline though.
An ethics forum would be a good start, I think it’s a great idea to start a thread on this, I’ll try and get to it later today.
I’m not sure about credible online sources - if not a scientific journal route, but I think mainstream trusted media that will reach a wide audience… Washington post, NYT’s, type of thing? That’s probably the equivalent of what I’ve sent it to, they’re not immune to fake news, but they are widely read somewhat respected… you don’t have to be in the area to send articles… and thank you, I’ll PM that article shortly!

@healthyswimmer Hi tried to PM you, but I’m not sure if it worked as when I hit reply it send me to another message box, let me know if it didn’t work!

This is absurd…

I’ve been giving talks that give the evidence to support why phones should not be in the classroom… I similarly often feel like I’m preaching to the choir in that I’m brought in to schools that are already starting to lean this way and I’m hoping I give the ammunition needed to push over the edge.

Maybe a petition of sorts is helpful here? A coalition of parents demanding that their schools be phone-free? The phone-free thing for me is because it seems like the low hanging fruit… the 1:1 and general attitude about tech in the classroom has a ways to go, hopefully eventually there are devices in the classroom that look at ed tech with a shrewd and skeptical eye, and only allow programs that are truly proven to be positive/beneficial… not just the new hot thing. It sucks that it has to be this all or nothing choice at the moment, between missing out on the benefits of tech for learning vs. being constantly hooked distracted etc.


It would be nice to have a form letter to give to schools stating the health concerns and there is not any sizable attention considering this- that this not a free appropriate education- exposing kids to digital crack is not appropriate.

The trick is having a catch phrase/statement that is serious but not reactionary looking. Like standing up for what is right.

A petition would be a nice instrument, a good start. Concerned parents can start this on a school by school basis (i.e. for their own schools). At a later stage - and to have broader impact - we could have this at the CHT level.

Like, say, a petition website with a couple hundred thousand signatures (the more the better, of course) would add a lot of weight and awareness. The petition could ask for schools to adhere to a covenant drawn up by CHT and offer a program / checklists to implement good policy.

You will probably get schools to be willing to be on all sides on the scale… ranging from zero tech to full tech. For all of these there are best-practices to be found. We could provide certifications, rating system and a logo program, similar to this discussion for apps and websites: Idea - Humane Technology Logo Program

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Yes this sounds amazing!! Information is power to make informed decisions about technology in schools. Thus will make it better for everyone tech heavy and no tech alike. Washington DC public schools have high tech and no tech schools. In my daughters school they don’t tell parents anything. I’ll say my daughter’s school district does have a sensitivity though- they do not allow phones during school hours at all and this is k-8.

Hopefully this system will address the displacement of time lost in regular pen to paper development of motor skills because of changing to keyboards to write- this only benefits certain students- some kids need repetition to properly learn writing. So a bill of rights with “right to develop motor skills without interference of technology”. There is a kid in my daughters 3rd class that can’t write on paper now because they did too much keyboarding.

Some compliance rating with regards to ergonomics and using certified ergonomic specialists should be in ithe mix somewhere too. Kids musculoskeletal development is affected by hunching over iPads and laptops.

Above all, technology in schools should not harm a child’s neurological, musculoskeletal, social emotional or motor development including innate creativity.

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What petition service does CHT recommend? @aschrijver @metasj

I can make a list of points to include in the draft and people can add to the list to be sure all points are being covered.

Also- it sounds like there may be a case for making 2 petitions here-

-a phone free one across the board- teachers included- or teacher guidelines for phone use-

-one in using technology in schools- guidelines for use or no use- maybe a rating system on types used (video gaming to simple textbook type so patents know what “tech” means in a particular school) including a developmental bill of rights- bill of rights in regards to innate creativity not being interfered with etc…

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For petitions I would think of Avaaz, as it has global reach…