Monday, March 12, 2012

Teaching Cell Phone Etiquette (including the Cell Phone Manners Lesson Plan!)

    Educators often complain that cell phones are a distraction in class, but how much time have they really devoted to discussing proper etiquette? This can be weaved into a general discussion around behavior and etiquette in different situations. Inviting students into the conversation about appropriate etiquette and what to say to those not exhibiting polite behavior usually works better than telling students how to best behave  .The following are some circumstances in which you might want to address etiquette.  Remember to discuss different types of cell phone use i.e. talking, texting, looking up information, photos, emergencies, etc.  For each of the circumstances below ask, "What is proper etiquette in each situation?" and "What might you say to someone who is not exhibiting proper etiquette in each situation?"     

    • During class
      • When the instructor is addressing the class
      • When a classmate is addressing the class
      • When the class is engaging in a discussion (unless the discussion involves responding via text)
    • During lunch or recess
      • When sitting with friends
      • When sitting alone
      • Passing in the halls
    • At home
      • During dinner
      • During homework time
      • At bedtime
    • When out
      • In a bus/car/plane / train
      • Waiting in line
Knowing proper etiquette with cell phone use is an essential 21st century skill. We need to support students not only in developing appropriate etiquette for themselves, but also discuss with them how they may handle a situation when others are not exhibiting appropriate behavior.  This lesson plan will help teachers address this topic with students preparing them for using proper manners when using cell phones both inside and outside of schools.  Not only will their parents appreciate this, but many of the future employers will as well. 

Phone Manners-Making Good Choices with Cell Phones
Cell Phone Tool Used:  Flickr                                                               

Lesson Overview:

 Students will learn and practice good phone manners by considering good choices for public and private cell phone use.  The areas addressed are choosing when to call/text, choosing where to call/text, choosing who to call/text, choosing appropriate call/text content, choosing appropriate ringtones and signature lines, choosing appropriate pictures and having permission to take them.  Students will “practice” good phone manners through their role plays.   
Lesson Description:  
  • After discussing the choices available for cell phone use (see above examples), assign groups the following categories: Choices about When, Where, Who, and What;  Ringtones; Signature Lines; Pictures. 
  • Have students set up scenarios of appropriate choices (maybe comparing them to scenes of poor cell phone etiquette that we have all witnessed). The main information to be communicated in the slide show presentation is how to use GOOD phone manners by making good choices.
  • In designing their Good Phone Manners Slide they could stage a scene of good phone manners and bad phone manners and/or go out on the scene and capture real examples of good and bad phone manners (with the subject’s permission).
  • Have students email the pictures to your class’s Flickr account.  Each photo will become a part of the class’s, "Good Manners" slide show. 
How the Use of Cell Phones Enriches This Lesson:  
  • Cell phones make the subject matter relevant because they are using the device they are advising about.
  • There is no cost of camera or video equipment for the school, no need to purchase tapes/disks/film.
  • The lesson will take less time because all groups can get started immediately.
NETS-S Standards Addressed:
Creativity and Innovation 
Communication and Collaboration
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Digital Citizenship
NET-Teacher Standards Addressed:
Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
Research-based instructional strategies:
Cooperative Learning
Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
Nonlinguistic Representations


Using a cell phone requires the same common sense that is used for using the old-fashioned home or desk phone combined with the common sense used for sending emails and instant messages which are akin to texting.

Here are some guidelines to consider.
  • Unknown calls
    Don’t answer calls from people you don’t know.  They will leave you a voice mail if it’s important and once you know who it is, you can determine if this is someone you wish to speak to.
  • Unknown messagesIf you receive a text from someone you don’t know, it could be spam or the wrong number. Use your discretion in replying as you would if someone called the wrong number or was selling you something i.e. I’m sorry, who is this, I think you have the wrong number.  If anyone texts you something inappropriate, the text can be ignored, deleted, or the number sending them blocked.  If they continue, the message should be shown to a trusted adult.
  • Stranger DangerJust as in face-to-face or online communications, you should not communicate with people you don’t know on your cell phone.  Online and via text, it is very easy for people to impersonate someone they are not.  Stick with those you know and never agree to meet someone you only know online or via text.   Meeting up with strangers (even if you’ve communicated virtually) is dangerous.
  • Block callsKnow how to block others from calling or texting your phone.  
  • Do Not Call RegisteryAvoid unwanted solicitations by registering with the “National Do Not Call” registery at or call 1-888-382-1222.  This is a sensible whole class activity and also something the teacher may consider sending out as a group text.
  • Act appropriately and expect the same from those whith whom you communicate Act appropriately on the phone as you do in your face-to-face and online lives.  Your digital identity whether on a cell or computer is often not private.  Don’t write or share (via pictures or video) anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable having others know about publicly. If someone sends you something inappropriate address them as you would in face-to-face encounters. If you are uncomfortable doing this, speak with an adult you can trust, such as a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor.  If messages are of a bullying or sexual tone you and the trusted adult you are confiding in may decide to save the messages and contact the police.  
  • Photos/VideosBefore taking and/or sharing pictures or video you should get the consent of the subject(s).  Ensure they know your intentions if you are sharing.  Once it’s uploaded to the internet, it is public for the world to see.  Never share any photo or video that contains inappropriate material.
  • Protect against loss or theft
    Place an “If lost” sticker on the phone with your email and the number of someone they could call who can notify you if your phone is found.
  • Cyberbullying
    Cyberbullying can be defined as messages or images that are mean, hurtful or threatening.  Do not respond to messages that you feel are bullying.  Instead, block the sender, report the incident, save the messages as evidence. If the message involves threats of violence, extortion, obscene messages, harassment, stalking or other unlawful acts, they should be reported to law enforcement. 
  • Using Cell Phones to Coordinate Fights
    There is a real fear among educators that students may use cell phones to coordinate fights.  The reality is that students can use a variety of tools to engage in inappropriate behavior from cell phones, to laptops, to the good old fashion pencil/paper note or even just by talking.  Instead of banning phones, clearly explain to students that using cell phones in this way will not be tolerated and that any students engaging in such activities will be referred to proper services.  They should also be informed that anything on their phones can be used as evidence will result in consequences of discovered by school staff.
  • Sexting
    Sexting is the act of sending explicit messages or semi-nude or nude photos via cell phones.  The law outlines three categories of sexting. 
  • Production/manufacturing = creating
  • Distribution/dissemination = sending or forwarding
  • Possession = keeping (receiving is not an offense, but keeping is and the longer it remains, the more serious the offense)
  • Never create or send messages or pictures of a sexual nature.  If you receive such a message--block the sender, share the message with a trusted adult, a teacher, or law enforcement, and delete it.

For more check out Teaching Generation Text !

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this is sound advice. When I am calling someone and need to spend more than a minute on the phone with them, I usually start off by asking them if this is a good time to talk.