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Nancy Coolidge | Cell phone addiction is no joke

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One of our math teachers recently commented to her freshmen that they were “addicted” to their cell phones. After their vehement responses of denial, she challenged them: turn the phones over to her for the entire school day. Four of them took her up on it; all of them succeeded — sort of.

Lucy’s hands were shaking as she handed her phone to her teacher. One begged to check one more time to see if her dad had texted her. All were laughing, but nervous and uncertain. I tried a similar challenge with my juniors, but I didn’t get much response. The five students whose phones I really wanted didn’t want any part of it.

At the end of the day, all the students had survived. I did catch one of the freshman using another student’s phone — “I was helping her,” she said. They mentioned that they still reached in their pockets a lot to check their missing phones. Some felt “insecure” and “disconnected” and a little “anxious.” Keith said he kept reaching for it because he uses it to listen to music. But, all in all, they managed to go a day in school without their cell phones.

It’s easy to see how this dependency has developed. If you watch the awards shows or look at pictures in the tabloids, the celebrities always have a phone in one hand; often they are talking on it as they walk through the park hand-in-hand with their new relationship or their children. It would be so much easier to manage a couple of kids and strollers and toys if you had both hands free. It seems like a relationship could progress more easily if half of the couple weren’t on the phone. But that’s just me.

I worry about what our kids are missing because of their “addiction” to cell phones. I know they miss a lot of sleep. I don’t have the exact statistics, but over half my students take their phones to bed with them, often falling asleep while texting or talking to friends. One told me that she receives at least two calls every night after midnight.

Older teen girls ages 14-17 lead the charge on text messaging, averaging 100 messages a day. I thought maybe I could capitalize on what I perceive as obsession by showing them how helpful all their abbreviations are when taking notes in their classes at school. It didn’t take, even if I let them take notes on their phones.

I think we should have a national “Leave your cell phone at home day.” Everyone — parents, teachers, bosses, friends — should just leave the phone on the kitchen counter and see what life is like without our phones. If any of you do decide to try the experiment, I’d be very interested in your experience! Just don’t text it to me.

Wenatchee resident Nancy Coolidge is a classroom teacher, radio personality and director of several Sylvan Learning Centers. You can ask her a question by posting a comment on her Good Habits, Great Grades blog at wenatcheeworld.com or by emailing goodhabitsgreatgrades@gmail.com.