Crafting a Cell Phone Policy at School to Reduce Distractions and Enhance Learning With 9 Rules and 6 Tips for Teachers

Many schools are banning students from using cell phones in class, but this may not be the smartest move. The top reason most schools prohibit students from using cell phones is to keep students from getting distracted from learning.

Do You Use Cell Phone Policy in Your Classroom?

However, based on my experience, I think that cell phones definitely have a place in the classroom. They can be used in many ways to enhance the learning experience for students and provide them with access to materials and resources that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

A cell phone policy at school will help teachers balance these potential benefits of using cell phones for instruction while minimizing or eliminating the distraction potential cell phones pose.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how a cell phone policy can benefit all stakeholders at a school, keep reading! I’ll share:

  • The importance of crafting a cell phone policy for schools
  • Possible rules to include in your school’s cell phone policy
  • Strategies for managing cell phone use in the classroom

Why We Need a Cell Phone Policy at School

Despite the number of school districts that have banned the use of cell phones in school, banning phones from school is not the right answer.

Obviously, most students are against these bans. Watch what they say about it in this video.

There are actually a number of reasons students should be allowed to use their phones in school. These include increasing the use of technology in the classroom, improving communication between teachers and students, helping students stay organized, and saving schools money by allowing students to access digital materials rather than relying so heavily on printed materials. Learn more about why students should be allowed to use cell phones in class in this article.

However, We Also Just Can Let Our Students Have Their Phones Out to Play Games or Post on Social Media

Developing a cell phone policy at school is essential to ensure students and teachers are able to enjoy the instructional benefits associated with using cell phones, while also ensuring the cell phones don’t become a distraction from learning.

Cell Phone Policy at School — 9 Rules

Coming up with the right rules for using cell phones in school is essential. Below, I’ve put together some rules to get you started with creating your own cell phone policy for your school or classroom. Every situation is unique, so you will want to think about your specific students, and modify these rules to help them meet the needs of your building.

  1. Cell phones may be used on school grounds before school, during lunch, and after school.
  2. Cell phone use is prohibited in classrooms, restrooms, and school offices, unless otherwise stated by a teacher.
  3. During the instructional day, cell phones must remain out of sight and in silent mode.
  4. Unless explicitly allowed by a staff member, headphones and other listening devices may only be used before and after school hours.
  5. Cell phones must be placed in lockers, backpacks, or another location away from students and their desks during tests and assessments.
  6. If students need to place an emergency phone call during the day, they should request to go to the main office to use an office phone.
  7. Students may be subject to disciplinary action if their use of their cell phone disrupts the school’s educational environment. Examples of this include, but are not limited to: cheating, bullying, harassment, unlawful recording or photographing, violating other school rules.
  8. The school and its staff are not responsible for any damage to or theft of a student’s cell phone. Students must properly secure and take care of their own phones.
  9. Students and their parents must read the cell phone policy and return a signed copy to the office at the beginning of the school year. Signing the policy acknowledges acceptance. Students will not be permitted to have their phones at school until the signed policy is returned.

If students violate the school’s cell phone policy, the following may occur:

  • First offense: The student’s cell phone will be confiscated by a staff member and held in the main office until the end of the school day. Before being allowed to pick up their phone at the end of the day, students must discuss and review the cell phone policy with a staff member.
  • Second offense: The student’s cell phone will be confiscated and held in the main office until the end of the school day. The student’s parents will be contacted and informed of the refusal to follow the school’s cell phone policy. Students may pick up their phones following after-school detention.
  • Third offense: The student’s cell phone will be confiscated and held in the main office until the student’s parents are able to come to pick it up. The student will receive after-school detention and will be prohibited from bringing their cell phone back on school grounds for two weeks.

**The administration reserves the right to adjust these consequences on a case-by-case basis if needed. For example, extreme behaviors that break the law or engaging in bullying or harassment of other students may result in suspension.

You May Print Some Rules and Put Them on the Walls

In addition to using the tips above to help you create a cell phone policy for your school or classroom, you can also review the policies of other schools or school districts. This can help you gain additional ideas that can help you craft a policy that will work for you and your students. To help you in this measure, I did some research and looked up the cell phone policies for a few different schools and districts.

How to Maintain Cell Phone Management in the Classroom — 6 Tips for Teachers

Having a cell phone policy in place is just the first step. Proper management of your policy and cell phone use in your classroom is also essential. Use the tips below to help you manage cell phone use in your classroom. This will help ensure students are using cell phones in ways that will benefit their learning, not ways that will detract from it.

1. Purchase or Make Your Own Cell Phone Charging Station

A cell phone charging station and storage organizer can provide students with an acceptable place to keep their cell phones when they are not needed for instruction. You can add charging cables or allow students to bring their own chargers, to ensure their phones are ready to use when needed for instruction.

I Have 4 Charging Stations in My Classroom

You can learn more about cell phone charging stations and storage organizers here. For those who prefer doing something with their own hands, I recommend find some DIY ideas here.

2. Use a Pocket Chart or Hangin Shoe Organizer

Number each slot on the organizer and assign each student a number. When students enter the room, they can place their phones in the slot with their numbers. This will also help prevent students from getting distracted by their phones during instruction.

3. Create a “Cell Phone Jail”

You can make a classroom cell phone jail where the phones of students who aren’t complying with the cell phone policy can go for the rest of the class period. If you see a student using their phone, ask them to place their phone in ‘jail’ for the remainder of the period.

I Find It Quite Funny But Effective

4. Use Positive Reinforcement

Rather than only reprimanding students that have their phones out when they shouldn’t be out, give praise or classroom rewards to the students who consistently follow the cell phone policy.

5. Create a Classroom Signal for Cell Phone Use

Sometimes students need to use their cell phones just for a moment to look up an unknown word, find a synonym, or review a topic. There may be times when you’re willing to permit such use, and other times when you’re not, such as during a test. Create a classroom hand signal that students can use to ask for permission without disrupting instruction or other students that are working. You can either give them a thumbs up to go ahead and use their cell phone or a thumbs down to let them know that now is not an acceptable time to have it out.

Create Your Personal Ringtone, the Students'll Like It

6. Work in a Few Cell Phone Breaks During the Day

Setting aside just two or three minutes during a class period where students are allowed to use their cell phones may make it less likely for them to try to sneak them out during other parts of the day. This can reduce distractions and help students focus on instruction.

Useful Resources

Closing Thoughts

The right cell phone policy at school can help students learn and reduce distractions. When students are able to use their cell phones appropriately during instruction, they can be powerful technological tools for researching, engaging with a lesson, providing feedback to peers, participating in classroom surveys, and more. The best cell phone policies also prevent students from pulling out their phones during inappropriate times, which can distract them from learning. Are you ready to use what you learned and begin crafting a cell phone policy that will work for your students?

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  1. How do you stop students from texting when they have their phone out for instruction? I try to incorporate the use of cell phones into some of my lessons and have my students use their phones for educational apps or to answer poling questions, but I know some of them are still texting their friends rather than completely focusing on instruction.

    • Make it clear to your students that you’ll only be able to continue using cell phones in class if they use them as is directed. If you haven’t made your cell phone policy clear to your students, now is a good time to review the consequences for improper use of cell phones during the school day. You can also consider designating a few minutes of each class period where students can send a text, since this may help them remain focused during the rest of instruction.

    • not rlly a “waste” of time when you give out clear instructions. maybe if teachers were clear about it then they wouldn’t have to keep reminding students about this concern. also.. what if that student has diabetes and they have to have their phone out to monitor their health? think + research before you say that they are a complete waste. they are only a waste of time because you make it that way

  2. I have tried 1, 2, 4, and 6 of the strategies listed, and I still had chronic overuse of phones and airpods. I did some informal data analysis and found (not surprisingly) that almost every student who I had to remind often to put phones away ended the 21-22 school year with a D or F in my class. I grade for mastery, not behavior, but it’s clear that you cannot gain mastery of a subject if you are constantly on your phone. Our school has a no cell phone use during the day policy, but it is NEVER enforced by the administrators- all of the enforcement is left to teachers. Without explicit backup and consequences this will never change. I recognize that phones are just a part of life now, but they are absolutely negatively impacting our children’s brains and ability to learn. Every parent and education professional should watch the documentary ‘Childhood 2.0’. It is heartbreaking and shocking. I wish there was a way for schools to block access to everything on phones except for the ability for parents to contact them- that’s why parents push back on cell phone bans. I totally get the need to be in touch with one’s children. I am just at a loss and not looking forward to the coming school year and the constant game of whack-a-mole.

  3. I have known some teachers tell their students they are able to see anything they send when using the school wifi. Our school has very poor signal, so using the wifi is the best option, plus it saves their data. During a different lesson where phones are used she will remind them of this rule and will say something like, “last time you guys were able to use phones I logged into the system and was able to see texts involving ______ I wasn’t kidding about being able to read text or know what websites you visit.” As far as I know it wasn’t true, but it sounded close enough to topics they have been discussing, and knew best than to text. However, there’s always a student that tries to prove the teacher wrong and will do it on purpose to see if they get caught.


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