Character Education Meets Cell Phone

Character education is the second most important subject a school can teach. It must not be taught in a vacuum, however. Character education must be taught in the milieu of day-to-day school, social, and home life. It must be presented with practical applications. In other words, character education must meet cell phone use!

What do you think will happen when it does?

In an August 19, 2009 article entitled “More and More Teens on Cell Phones,” Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project, wrote:

Teenagers have previously lagged behind adults in their ownership of cell phones, but several years of survey data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that those ages 12-17 are closing the gap in cell phone ownership… mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 – to 63% in fall of 2006 and to 71% in early 2008.

Character education recognizes those statistics and approaches the use of mobiles wisely. It does not storm into a teenager’s life and announce that all cell phone users lack high moral values (they don’t). It does not lecture loudly that mobile use should be regulated tightly so that teenagers cannot possibly abuse it (it shouldn’t).

Character education faces the fact that, like MP3 players, clothing, cars, or any other material item, these phones have acceptable uses. It admits that, when those acceptable uses are brought under the influence of high moral values, there is not a problem.

The question is this. When character education meets cell phone use, how will it impinge upon it? Of course, it will bring to bear all of the 66 moral traits, but let’s be more precise. Let’s look at six specific traits that moral training will teach and apply to this potential teen problem.

6 Traits that Affect Cell Phone Use

1. Attentiveness. Teenagers must recognize that just as they want others to focus undividedly on them when they speak, they should exercise this trait toward others. That means turning off mobile units at the family dinner table; in school; and in other settings where they could be disruptive. Character education must teach students to exercise attentiveness, even at personal sacrifice.

2. Contentment. Character education will help teenaged boys and girls develop awareness of what they have and who they are. It will help them accept their circumstances and persons, maintaining balance in thoughts, words, and deeds so that they no longer identify so closely with their cellular phones. It will help them be at ease even when they forget their mobile phones – a real source of trauma for many.

3. Cooperation. It has been found that teenagers are less willing to collaborate with others when they have access to cellular phones. Rather than work as a team with family, classmates, or co-workers, they retreat to mobiles. Character education teaches them the value of laying aside cellular phones and working with others to reach a specified goal for mutual benefit.

4. Respect. This quality is difficult for teens to build, and cell phone use often encourages disrespect instead. According to a national poll by market research group Synovate, about 72% of people in the U.S. agree that users’ worst cell phone habit is having loud conversations in public. Teens are among the largest group of those disrespectful, loud offenders. Character education helps them learn to value other people – to esteem highly the rights of others to a quiet, peaceful environment.

5. Responsibility. Another vital quality for teens, responsibility is often negatively impacted by cellular units. Teens who have a task or duty to accomplish spend time talking or texting on phones instead. The task or duty remains undone, or is done hastily and irresponsibly. Character education must help teenagers learn to set aside cellular phones until responsibilities such as homework are completed in every way and to the utmost of their abilities.

6. Self-control. Finally, character education will train teenagers to recognize impulses to use their phones in wrong ways, wrong places, or wrong times. It will teach them to restrain their use, taking power over self, and reining in phone use without being reminded by an adult.