Oct. 2011 Column

    Webster defines addiction as a compulsive need, a habit-forming behavior characterized by physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. In broader terms, addicts are people who persist in a compulsive behavior known to be harmful. We’ve got all sorts of national and local organizations that specialize in the treatment of addictive disorders that run the gamut from hoarding to gambling and other addictions not as obvious as drugs and alcohol. These groups are instrumental in helping people deal with problems on a daily basis and, in many cases, save lives.
    So please understand that I am in no way making light of addictions. Yet I am afraid we, as a nation, have become dependent, if not addicted, to our cell phones. This is particularly becoming evident in our schools. And by schools, I’m including our secondary as well as elementary schools.
I see and hear of disciplinary actions against students regarding their use of cell phones in school on a daily basis.  When used properly, phones can be a vital part of our daily activity.  Several articles have been written about the advantages of using smart phones in classroom settings. Some schools are taking advantage of smart phones which have more graphic and web surfing speed than the computer sitting on my office desk. I personally am becoming as comfortable using my smart phone for scheduling, research, e-mail and other tasks as I was just a few years ago on my desktop computer.  
My major concern, however, is our ability to establish the difference between appropriate and inappropriate use of a cell phone/ smart phone.  I champion the idea of using smart phones during school as a resource for students and staff alike. Used appropriately, phones can yield instantaneous information as well as provide step-by-step video tutorials. On the other hand, I’m not sure texting someone to ask what they are doing for lunch has much for educational value.  This frivolous use is where I am torn between approving a valid educational tool and releasing a monster that can truly have a negative impact on the classroom setting. 
We have become so attached to our cell phones that when confronted, students have accepted suspensions or alternative placements rather than giving up their cell phone for a short period of time. HMS has experienced verbal battles with students and parents alike over the enforcement of school rules and the confiscation of a cell phone. This behavior is similar to that of an addict faced with a confrontation or forced to relinquish the item on which he or she depends. Again, I am not making light of people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, but there truly seem to be similarities.
Until we can create a happy medium for use of cell phone/ smart phones in the educational setting our teachers and principals will continue to monitor their usage.  Now for those educators who are cheering for a crack down on cell phone use, I must admit my disappointment in adult usage as well. I am just as guilty as anyone of wanting to check my email, texts, Twitter and Facebook accounts on my smart phone.
I propose we as a community, especially Hobbs Municipal Schools (students and staff like) dedicate Wednesday, Nov. 2, as “Leave Your Phone at Home” day. Let’s make and take the time to communicate face to face. Use the time normally spent texting and emailing as a time to reflect and speak directly your co-workers or classmates. I issue this as a challenge.  Break away from the addiction of the cell phone.  You can do it!



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