More Lessons Learned About Teens and Their Phones

This is a follow-up to some lessons my students and I learned about technology while on a school trip. For Part 1, click here.

Lessons learned, continued:

Don’t always assume they know what’s best.

It’s easy to get frustrated with teenagers for their phone use. They seem to break their phones out constantly, and often at the most inappropriate times. But they’ve grown up in this world, and they haven’t always had the best role models. They’re also part of the Insta-Generation, and they feel like it didn’t really happen unless it was shared.

They need to learn when it’s not OK to reach for their phones… and many of us adults do too.

Mealtimes are for socializing and enjoying food, but it’s something they might not understand. Many of their families eat with phones and tablets at the table. I had to remind them how it feels when they’re having a meal with their parents, and it feels like they’re sitting by themselves.

Showing this short video the week before we left certainly didn’t hurt.

When we got ready to start our yoga class, I was shocked to look around and see that almost half of the students had their phones out next to their mats. To me, this seemed like a complete lack of common sense, but to them, it was another activity, which meant another opportunity for a photo opp.

Fighting my instinct to get upset or frustrated, I explained to them the etiquette of yoga and that it involved meditation (a practice they all do regularly at school), and they apologized to the instructor and ran inside to put their phones away.

At our visit to the local school, they were upset when I asked them to leave their phones on the bus, but were understanding when I explained that they wouldn’t want the kids there to feel bad if they didn’t have smartphones too.

Also, meeting new people is awkward. And when things get awkward, we all want to reach for our phones. Sometimes it’s best to just remove the temptation.

And on the last night, when one of our students broke out his guitar to perform a song he and some friends wrote about our trip, I had to tell the kids to keep their phones away, and give him their eye contact and not their screens. I could record it for all of them and share it when we got back.

While a tech-free trip could have saved us teachers some of this frustration and hassle, these are lessons that must be learned in the moment, and can’t be taught with an all or nothing approach.

The road to mindful technology use isn’t an easy one, and it’ll be a challenge for the rest of our lives. But if one of our goals was to push the kids outside of their comfort zones, then I think we accomplished it.

See, not having your phone is hard. But having it with you—and resisting the temptation to reach for it—might just be even harder.

To teach your students to be more mindful of their technology use, check out this month’s #ChoicesChallenge: Unplug!, which is all about the digital detox.

And don’t forget to read the cover story from this month’s issue of Choices, “Help! I Can’t Put Down My Phone”

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