Technology and Your Teenagers: To School or Not?

I am the first person to admit that I have a technology addiction. If I’m not on my computer, I’m on my iPhone. If I’m not on either of those, I’m on my tablet. My job as a blogger means that I’m “plugged in” to various social networks and I’m constantly checking out story ideas, planning my editorial calendar, looking for sources and information to include in my posts. I’m constantly plugged in. Even when I am asleep.


Just the other day I was lying across the bed with hubby watching a late night television show and I dozed off. He tried desperately to grab his phone and videotape me because he knew I would never believe him when he told me what I did. Sound asleep, I lifted my right hand up as though I were holding my iPhone, and with my left hand I began sleep-texting a message or a post. Just as he was about to hit the record button, I took my index finger on my left hand and swished it to the right of my screen and put my hands back under my pillow as if to say, “Message sent. Time for sleep.”

So … it goes without saying that I don’t think about the time my 11-year-old and 15-year-old spend on their iPod Touch or their XBox games or on their computers. They are, after all, their mother’s children. Instead of yelling down the hall to tell them something, I’ll send them a text message. We FaceTime each other when we don’t get an answer.

technology and your teenagers

School and Technology

Our county schools rank third in the state of Virginia. They are hip, they’re plugged in. Students from 4th grade through 12th grade are permitted to bring personally owned electronic devices to school “to be used solely for educational purposes. Now you know and I know that they are NOT used “solely for educational purposes” while our kids are in school. These are the guidelines in the 2014-2015 Parent-Student Handbook that each parent and child receive at the beginning of the year:

  1. The Device will be used only for school assignments acceptable to and approved by the teacher and will not be used for other purposes, such as text messaging, social networking, or downloading non-educational material, such as gaming, music, and videos, from the Internet.
  2. A student must use the Hanover County Public Schools (HCPS) Guest Internet service provider and filters to access the Internet with his/her Device. Students are prohibited from accessing the Internet using any external Internet service.
  3. The Device must only be used at appropriate times, as allowed by the teacher or school administrator. The use of a Device during classroom time must be for educational purposes and not for personal use. Students must turn off and put away a Device when requested by the teacher.
  4. The presence or use of a Device must not be a distraction for students.
  5. General school rules for behavior and communication apply to the use of Devices. Guidelines found in the Code of Student Conduct will be supported as related to Search and Seizure of a Device. A teacher or school administrator may examine Devices and search their contents if there is reason to believe that a student has violated school policies, regulations or rules through the use of a Device. Students are responsible for reporting to a teacher or school administrator any inappropriate material received on the student’s Device.
  6. HCPS will not provide technical support to any Device. Students are responsible for maintaining and securing their Devices with virus protection.
  7. HCPS will accept no responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged Devices. A Device remains the sole responsibility of the student while it is at school.
  8. School administration and teachers will take disciplinary action against any student who violates any HCPS policies and regulations or any state or federal laws while using a Device on the HCPS wireless network, and/or report such violations to appropriate law enforcement authorities.
  9. A student should immediately reset his/her password using a school division computer if the student believes his/her password has been compromised.

The following are not allowed when using a Device on HCPS property:

  1. Using a Device during class time without teacher consent
  2. Using a Device to take photographs or videos without teacher consent
  3. Sending text, images, sound or video files on a Device for the purpose of cheating
  4. Sending or displaying offensive messages or pictures on a Device
  5. Revealing personal information (last name, home address, phone number, etc.) on a Device
  6. Using obscene language on a Device
  7. Using a Device for commercial purposes, which means using a Device to offer, provide, or purchase products or
    services via the HCPS network
  8. Using a Device to harass, discriminate against, or attack others, or to engage in an illegal act
  9. Using a Device to knowingly post false or defamatory information about an individual, business or organization
  10. Using a Device to post private information about another individual
  11. Using a Device to damage another electronic device, computer system or computer network
  12. Using a Device to violate copyright laws
  13. Using another individual’s password
  14. Using a Device to trespass in another individual’s folders, work, or files
  15. Using a Device to access the HCPS network for any non-educational purpose

These rules and regulations have been in effect since August, 2012. As a parent, if you wish for your child to bring their personal electronic device to school, then you must sign the Student-Owned Electronic Device Acceptable Use Regulation Agreement with your child. Any violation of the agreement and the student may lose the privilege of bringing the device to school.

Therein lies the golden word – PRIVILEGE.

As you can see, the rules and consequences as they are set out do not leave much leeway in terms of negotiating or being able to say “I didn’t know about that.” So, as a parent, I had both of my boys read their handbooks, read this particular section, and we signed the agreement and returned it to the school at the beginning of the year.

Grades and Technology

The first month of school, not many problems. The boys used their devices to listen to their music to and from school, and during lunch they would listen to their music and play their games like Angry Birds and Temple Run. No harm there. Jonathan was able to download a calculator app that he could use in Algebraic Concepts so we would not have to purchase a $100+ scientific calculator for him to use in class. So far so good, right?

Then the phone calls started. Not from the 11 year old’s school as you might think, but from the high school. “Jonathan had his phone out in class and wouldn’t put it away when asked.” A few weeks later, “Jonathan was listening to his music too loudly in the hallway – everyone around him could hear what he was listening to and it was inappropriate – and he refused to turn it off when asked.” Twice I’ve had to go to the school at the end of the day and sign to get his device back. I don’t expect it to happen again because the third time, the device stays locked in the office cabinet until the end of the year. Being completely cut off from social media and being able to text his friends and listen to his music is enough to have deterred him from pushing the envelope on that one.

Grades are suffering though – for both. I know that the teachers are doing their job. They are giving the boys the tools and the information necessary to complete their assignments … only the are not being turned in. One says that they never got the assignment (because it was posted to Blackboard which is on their device) or it mysteriously gets lost between the front door of the house and the front door of the school.

I’ve received emails indicating that they aren’t paying attention in class. Doodling, listening to music, talking with their friends, etc.

So what do you do when you feel as though the technology is interfering with the learning? You remove the temptation, you deny the privilege. Having an electronic device is not essential to your survival, therefore it is not a life necessity. If there is no electronic device to distract them during class – then they can pay attention and take the necessary notes to complete their assignments.


There is a good debate going on at – Should students should be allowed to bring electronic devices to school? 79% of the responses are in favor where only 21% are against it. Both sides give valid points and arguments.

Statistic: Mobile devices used daily at school by students in the United States as of March 2014, by education level | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

In Conclusion

In the end, the decision is a personal one. Not between the school and your child, but between the parent and the child. If you feel that your child is abusing a privilege, then it is time to remove that privilege until they demonstrate responsibility and demonstrate that they have earned the privilege back.

Does your tween/teen’s school allow personal electronic devices during the school day? If so, do you allow your child to take their devices to school? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

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