It’s my cell phone and I’ll talk if I want to

These days, everybody knows their rights, including teenagers. My generation has taught them well, but I think once you “know your rights,” you are in danger of forgetting your responsibilities.

Case in point: on March 31, the efforts of Port Hardy Secondary School Principal Steve Gray to curb cell phone use by students at his school on Vancouver Island was splashed all over the news.

Gray got sick of kids ignoring the school cell phone ban and purchased a jamming device from China. When it arrived, he set it up in the school library, plugged it in, and bang! Two-thirds of the school was blocked from cell phone usage.

Result: Yay! Happy teachers, confused students.

Until they figured out what was going on, that is.

According to news reports, some of the students were okay with the jamming device, but others didn’t like the principal obstructing their important messages.

They’re teenagers, you know…got plenty of emergency situations to sort out, like:

“What’d you get on your math quiz, man?”

“Ah, that teacher bites…she hates me.”

“Should we go see ‘Gory Movie 6’ Friday night? Terry said she couldn’t sleep for 3 days after!”

“Did you see what Nickey was wearing today? I can’t believe Billy likes her instead of me.”

“Gloria said that Peter said that Jill said that Fred said that Steve was looking at me in the theatre today. Do you think he likes me?”

So after lunch last Thursday, a group of students desperate to re-engage in their life or death communication refused to return to class, claiming their rights had been taken away. They told the principal that jamming devices were illegal in Canada, and Gray should pull the plug.

Which he did.

Result: vindicated students, unhappy teachers.

So the teachers went back to repeating the mantra, “Turn off the cell phone, please. Put your cell phone away, please. Give me the cell phone, please. Hands on your desk, please. Eyes looking forward, please.”

But what are they really thinking? “For ***##@ sakes, bring the cell phone over here and I’ll text a message for you, you whiny, spoiled brat. Whoops, I accidentally dropped it on the floor! Oh, no! What have I done? It’s just been crushed into a fine powder under my orthopedic shoe! How did that happen?”

(Well, that’s what curmudgeonly teachers would be thinking. )

So what do lawyers and the politically-correct, just-wanna-be-the-kids’-friend type of school officials say? They’d say the jamming device is not only illegal, but it, “violates the students’ right to contact parents to and from school.”

Baw! That’s ridiculous. When I was a kid, if you needed to get in touch with your parents, you used a public phone or you went to the school office. Furthermore, up until about ten years ago, if workers were out of the office, they were out of the office. You left a message, and they got back to you.

I’m amazed there aren’t more pedestrian/auto accidents…people walk and look down at their blackberry or gaze up in the air while they laugh on their pretty little red phone, “ha, ha, ha…you’re kidding? I can’t believe he said that.”

This every-teenager-needs-a-cell-phone bit is a just another unnecessary consumer trend, and kids are the best consumers of all. The shinier the phone, the better. And who’s benefitting the most? The service providers and phone manufacturers. I can just see them rubbing their greedy little paws together. They’re laughing all the way to the bank, seeing how much Boomer and Generation X’er parents are spending on their kids’ text messages.

On the CBC news website poll accompanying this story, 77 percent (972 out of 1264) of voters voted ‘yes’ to support jamming cell phones in school. And out of 617 story comments (which I did not fully scan) the few responses I read seemed split along age lines. Younger respondents were all against the ban, saying , “I know my rights and I have a lawyer…you can’t take my cell phone, you Commie , Nazi fascist.” Older responders seemed to like the ban idea, and said stuff like, “…deal, you little snots, with your false sense of entitlements, and your bullsh*t backtalk…”

And then there are those hovering in between, (presumably in their early 20’s) saying stuff like, “come, come, when are we going to learn that bans never work? We should be teaching teenagers phone etiquette, instead.”

Phone etiquette?

Kids may indeed need to learn phone etiquette, but first they need to respect authority and shut the phone off if there’s a ban at school. Didn’t American founding father and inventor Benjamin Franklin say, “He that cannot obey, cannot command?”


  • Rebecca H. on April 3, 2009

    I’ve never heard of jamming – that’s how out of the loop I am. I’m an avid cell phone user – so much so that I don’t have a ‘home’ phone – which used to mean that my phone was turned on 24 hours a day, and I’d jump to check on it every time it rang or whistled. That’s been changing lately, sometimes I leave it on the counter at home when I’m working, or doing laundry. It’s quite freeing and it eliminates the concern that my phone is lost in the spin cycle.

    As if being a teacher isn’t hard enough! I know how much it annoyed them when a student would be caught reading a novel when I was supposed to be reading a text book, never mind how aggravating it must be to find them texting and messaging throughout class.

    Good thoughts. If there was a petition, I’d sign it =]

  • admin on April 3, 2009

    I’ve owned a cell phone in the past, but I don’t have one right now. Apart from being able to be reached to buy milk when I’ve been out, or being a safety net when travelling long distances alone, it really wasn’t worth the money.

    My point was more about how people are increasingly more interested in fighting for their rights than they are in respecting rules or authority.

  • Charmaine on April 3, 2009

    Yeah, good word. Exhausts me how everyone thinks they have rights. It’s really exhausting. No one has rights except the right to respect others. Anyway, excellent article. Excellent.

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