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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

What do you mean I can’t connect w/my kid 24/7?!

November 22, 2010

In a rare but not unprecedented move, we sent our intrepid Time Traveler back to the late 1980s to report on the historic role of  parents in their children’s education. What she uncovered may be hard for us 21st Century parents to believe, but we’ve verified her account by cross-referencing it with archival documents as well as first hand reports from today’s Elders and young adults who swear this is the way it was. Her report is excerpted here:

On weekdays during the 1980s, parents kissed their kids goodbye at the front door and sent them out into the world. The children either marched themselves to a bus stop, walked to school or rode a bike (yes they had helmets, though nowhere as cool as the ones we’ve got)  From the moment they turned the corner, parents could not directly communicate with their kids.

WARNING: If you find yourself feeling anxious reading the above, we recommend  putting your head between your knees and breathing in slowly through your nose and exhaling slowing through you mouth. If that doesn’t alleviate your symptoms, shut down your computer and take a warm bath, with or without bubbles.

All during morning classes, lunchtime, recess, afternoon classes and onsite after school programs, kids were incommunicado. You’re probably wondering, “What if the kid left a lunch, a book or assignment at home? How could Mom or Dad rush to school to help if they didn’t know there was a problem?” The teachers and school administrators of the ’80s had a simple answer for that one: If the kid doesn’t bring something (s)he needs to schoool, then the kid figures it out and deals with the consequences. Period.

Cruel and unusual punishment, granted, but that’s the way it was.

In case you’re shaking your head thinking, “That sounds like a lockdown!” 20th Century schools weren’t entirely lacking compassion. For example, if a kid complained of a headache, (s)he asked the teacher’s permission to go to the office where she’d plead her case to the school nurse and likely be given an opportunity to rest quietly. If the nurse felt the situation warranted it, the school placed a call home or to the parents’ office and the problem was solved. Are they for real?! Think of the precious moments lost using that antiquated system!

Today, thankfully, we can call and/or text our kids at any time, including 9-3 and we do…often! Yet, apparently, some schools are cracking down on in-class cellphone use. They say the constant ringing and buzzing is a distraction to teachers and any students interested in receiving an education.  (What kind of lame excuse is that?) In addition, schools limiting students’ cellphone access also justify it by saying the policy reduces in-class cheating and cyber-bullying. Hmm. Well, maybe we can see some logic there, but who cares?! Schools have no right to prioritize education over a parent’s access to their children. This is the 21st Century, Ms. Principal, and these are Anxious Times.

Your thoughts?



  1. LOVE IT! I think the whole cell phone thing is out of control! Believe me I could take it one step further…what about the days that a wife/mother could leave her home and go out for a while without her husband or her children constantly in touch demanding to know when she will be home, where she is and asking permission for everything under the sun. Sometimes I think we all need to “misplace” our cell phones for a while…

    Comment by Vivi — November 22, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

  2. Mobile phones aren’t allowed to be on during classtime here in Australia, and I believe it’s been that way since kids first started taking them to school. My eldest gets a bus to school, he leaves at 8:15am and gets back home at 3:50pm.. Sometimes he will call me at recess to ask for something he’s forgotten.. Usually I apologize and tell him I can’t because I’m busy. He will survive, and figure it out, and hopefully remember next time!

    Comment by Joanne — November 22, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  3. A VERY interesting article and a concept those of us parents who went to school in a pre-cell phone time have surely thought about. First, in hindsight let me say I’m glad my parents couldn’t “track me down” 24/7 – but now as the parent, I take that option for granted! Just last week, my daughter a high school freshman had her phone taken away; well actually not taken – exactly. The process goes something like this – kid comes home, tells parent(s) about what happened and then turns phone in the next day & then parent has to go to school and retrieve the phone. Sounds like an excellent way to push kids to have to talk to parents, cause if they don’t – how are they going to get their phone back? Regardless of what you think, it worked in my situation – at least for right now it did.
    I have over the last several years, taken advantage of being able to reach my kids during school hours. I will now need to discipline myself that I cannot expect a response from 9-3; I’ll have to wait – patience never was a strong suit but guess what – It’s for the best.
    Cell phones are a distraction in the classroom – they have no place in the classroom. I’m not sure how an educator could possibly police the use of cell phones, is it an all or nothing situation with regards to cell phones in school – I think so but thanks for making me think twice!

    Comment by Dee Dee Sorg — November 22, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  4. I’m waiting as long as I can before getting my kids a cell phone. I’m sure just knowing I can call them any time would keep the option on my mind. I’ll remember this amusing article when that day comes.

    As for phones in the classroom, these kids have so many distractions anyway. I hope my kids always attend schools that don’t allow them in the classroom.

    Comment by Selah Cambias — November 22, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

  5. […] What do you mean I can’t connect w/my kid 24/7?! – In an unusual move for this publication, we sent our intrepid Time […]

    Pingback by The Coopmike48 Daily, Education « Parents 4 democratic Schools — November 22, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

  6. Kids need to connect and parents need to connect to their kids. BUT cell phones are great. you can get a message and not hear it, respond to it or do anything UNTIL you are free between classes. Then you can quickly respond back and everyone is happy. When a child is in school as a parent you know what and where their classes are so there is no need to ‘touch base’. It is in their free time that parents worry. Free time is a great time to connect. School time is a great time to be 100% involved in the class and learning.

    Comment by Julia Simens — November 23, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  7. I was a kid in the late 80’s and it’s hard to imagine how it would have been for me to be constantly reachable by my parents while I was at school. It’s crazy to me that not all schools have a strict policy about phones being off in class. I’m sure it must be ridiculously distracting for the kids, texting each other in class, etc. Great point that parents shouldn’t add to the distraction. Your kids will be okay, honestly.

    Comment by Fayette — November 23, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  8. My experience, as a High School teacher a few years ago, is of kids taking calls from parents during class frequently. On 3-4 occassions I even had a conversation with the parent on the spot and politely asked them to call the office and go through “official channels of contact”. At least one parent thought this was really unreasonable, so I explained that these kinds of calls were highly disruptive to student learning. In every school I’ve taught in, mobiles have been banned but there is a general trend towards ignoring them as long as they stay in bags. Of more concern, I found, was when you start laying down the law (being firm) and all of a sudden 3 phones are recording your every word. I have no problem with accountability but this seriously undermines normal discipline. Then you either have to confiscate the phones or risk ending up as the narky teacher on YouTube or similar. Unfortunately, many teachers aren’t overly tech savvy and this whole phone thing is getting rapidly out of hand. (IMO)

    Comment by Meghann — November 23, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

  9. Any cell phone communication between kid and parent at school is too much. Emergencies need to be handled by adults, nothing in a kid’s life is an emergency that requires going around the school personell. Kids’ cell phone use at school interferes with the mission of the school and can prove dangerous. Schools act in loco parentis when kids are at school and Ned to be allowed to do their jobs.

    Comment by Anna — November 24, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  10. Oh Annie – I could go on a tangent about this one. I am starting to hate my cell phone – let alone the fact that the “child” has one. Can we be on our phones unlimited in our offices? That would be using the companies time for our personal gain. Why should students have access to their phones while in school? And..what for? They forgot something. PFT. Suck it up. I forget something and I just don’t have it. (like lunch for today – and I’m hungry). We have micro-managed (yes, I said WE) our kids to death. This is the reason so many can’t even keep up with their own schedules…because mom or dad does it for them. BOO! I’ve seen the damage I have done to date – and I am stopping NOW! Forget the cell phones to school. Even if my daughter has an after school event – I know what time the event is over and I am there to pick her up. I don’t need her to call me and say I am waiting or that we are done. I know that it ends at a certain time and if something changes use the school, sponsor or teachers phone as it was changed by their methods, not mine. I’ve seen kids texting in church. Seriously? Why not – if it is figured to be their phone, their time, their life. NOT.

    Ok – I’m done. For now.

    Comment by pAM — November 24, 2010 @ 11:56 am

  11. […] That’s all I’ll say in the way of set-up for the article: Click here to read it! […]

    Pingback by No cell phone use during class: What? [Humour] — November 26, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  12. Cell phone usage has become out of control. ADULTS are just as bad as children with their phones (probably worse) They feel it is their right to use it anytime anywhere. They don’t worry that they just be interrupting someone or an event. They simply do not care. It’s very annoying how juvenile our society has become.

    My parents survived without a cell phone and my brothers and I survived. Plus, we NEVER wore helmets.

    Comment by Lori — November 28, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  13. My friends think I’m a throwback from the dinosaur days because our two teens don’t have cell phones, have never instant messaged, and don’t have their own email accounts (we have a family account which we rarely remember to check). Oddly enough, my kids are proud to announce to their classmates that they aren’t “plugged in.” My daughter says she feels special because she doesn’t have to rely on these gadgets to function. If there’s an emergency, they can use the school’s pay phones to call me at work. Incidentally, my son made only one phone call to me last year. When I was in high school, I never once had the need to call my parents; I made sure I was prepared for school because the consequences were my own to deal with.

    Comment by Mimi — December 3, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  14. I agree with all the points made in previous comments, but there is another extremely important issue to consider: increasingly scientists are worried about the effect of cellphones on the brain, especially on children and teenagers’ brains. Please go out and buy Devra Davis’ book Disconnect for a thoroughly researched and balanced (but still frightening) overview of the current science on cellphone safety. And please make sure your child or teen–if you feel they must have a cellphone–uses a headset.

    Comment by northTOmom — December 4, 2010 @ 9:30 am

  15. I guess I’m one of those parents whose kid doesn’t have a cell phone. There’s a place and time for cell phone use in school and one is not during class time. There are classroom phones so I’m not disconnected with my child.

    My other thought on if a child forgets something and has to call their parents to bring it to them, what does that teach the child? That Mom and Dad will come to their rescue every time they holler? Time to face reality and real life that there are consequences. Time to teach the child some responsibilities in remembering what to bring to school. As an adult if you work out of your home and you forget something, do you call someone to run to your house to bring what your forgot? I don’t think so.

    Comment by Sophia — December 13, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  16. I agree that students should be focused on school while they are in school. Parents should also respect that & instill the importance of school by not communicating with them while their child is in school.

    Yet, I do believe that it is our responsibility to use the tools our students use outside of school in the classroom. If we do this we are telling them we understand & appreciate their world. We are also teaching them responsible use of technology & its applications. It may also be possible that if we use cell phones & other mobile devices in the classroom, they will become less of a hot commodity. Had one of my teachers used an Atari (& later Nintendo) in the classroom, I would have played it a lot less at home.

    Comment by Tracy — December 13, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

  17. Great article. I cannot believe that parents expect to be able to contact their kids during class time.

    My kids – all FOUR – walk to school each day. Unless it is pouring with rain (a few drops do not count), in which case I will drive them. We make the Year 6 work the Year 4 to and from school.

    I think this is part of the problemn in the workplace – I have younger course attendees in work courses who EXPECT to be able to use their phone while trying to learn what I am teaching. Not going to happen. I have confiscated young adult’s phones more than once and cannot believe they think this is acceptable behaviour to be so rude, not to mention inattentive.

    Now I see it is coming from the parents!

    Comment by Robyn — April 24, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

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