Cell Phones in Schools: Supports for Administrators

Administrators play an important role in leading schoolwide approaches to limiting the distraction of cell phones in schools.  

Tips for Effective Implementation of Cell Phone Policy 

Be clear about policy 

Students, families, and educators benefit from clarity about the purpose and expectations related to a schoolwide policy. Specifically, administrators can be explicit about the details, including where cell phones will be kept during the school day and how misuse of cell phones will be addressed in all areas of the building and at various times in the school day. Delivering the same message every time is key to effective schoolwide implementation. 

When establishing behavior expectations, administrators can follow the best practices of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

  • Define and commit to the “why” of the schoolwide policy. Be sure to align any statement to the school's mission and vision. 
    • ​For example: “At our school, everyone is focused on learning and growing. Our cell phone policy helps us focus and limit distractions during all parts of the school day.” 
  • Phrase expectations positively. Emphasize what students should do instead of what they should not do.  
    • For example: “Limit distractions, keep cell phones off and in lockers from 7:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.” 
  • Teach expectations and what they look like in every area of the school. 
    • Review with students what the cell phone policy looks like in all school areas (bathrooms, cafeteria, hallways, classrooms) and times of day (arrival, school meals, dismissal).
    • If there are exceptions in certain areas, such as the school’s health center, teach expectations around the scope of cell phone use in those settings. 
    • If there are individual student exceptions, teach and explain the scope of cell phone use within those exceptions. 
  • Set and communicate clear consequences for not meeting expectations. 
  • Adults in the school can lead by example and have clear boundaries around their own use of cell phones consistent with the school’s policy. 

Be consistent in implementation  

Many schools have cell phone policies that focus on the classroom instead of the school building. These policies put pressure on individual teachers to uphold the policy. To avoid this, take a schoolwide approach that looks the same in as many areas as possible, including hallways and classrooms. Consider enforcing a cell phone-free school day that starts before instruction begins and ends after students safely dismiss.  

Strong support from administrators and leaders takes the burden off classroom teachers to maintain a distraction-free environment. Allow teachers to request support from administrators and other staff members to have a universal approach to enforcing the policy. 

Communication with Families 

  • Send the exact language of the policy and provide answers to frequently asked questions in multiple formats. Consider using the Sample Family Letter about Cell Phones in School to support communication. 
  • ​Accept questions or concerns from families and provide a response in a timely manner. 
  • Share information about your school and district’s formal crisis communication plan and social media strategy. 
  • Emphasize the positive impact the policy will have on student learning and social skills. 

Communication with Students 

  • Communicate the policy clearly and consistently so students understand what is expected of them. Consequences for violations should be presented up front and be easily understandable. 
  • Share how cell phone use can impact students — from learning to wellness — and highlight the positive benefits of opportunities that do not involve cell phone use, such as involvement in sports or clubs that promote social interactions. 

Communication with School Staff 

  • Emphasize the importance of commitment from staff in all positions. It is important for the policy to be enforced uniformly in all settings. 
  • Provide staff with signage about cell phone usage that can be placed within students' view in classrooms. 
  • Share information with staff about how violations of the cell phone policy will be addressed at different levels of the administration. Emphasize to teachers that their enforcement of the policy will be supported by all staff. 

Resources for Administrators 

Other Toolkit Resources

Last Modified: 5/29/2024 4:04:40 PM