Opinion Reader Contributed Schools

Studying and Cellphones are a Lethal Combination

Photo credit: Ronni Newton
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How to solve the dilemma? There’s an app for that.

By Susan Schaefer, M.Ed., M.A.T., Academic Coaching Associates

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

While studying with an active cellphone nearby doesn’t actually put lives in danger, it does kill grades. As I have told more of my students than I can count, turning off cellphones, or any distracting technology, is key to earning better grades.

Getting them to buy into it it is a whole other story. Since kids usually don’t know what’s good for them, parents should just take the cellphones away while they are doing schoolwork. Easy peasy, right? The reality is, this doesn’t make better students, only miserable ones.

Sandra Brown Chapman, author of the book Make Your Brain Smarter, tried this out in an experiment where students willingly gave up their phones, and she said they were “blown away” by how much better they do when they are not distracted by technology. “What they see is they are able to complete their homework almost in a quarter of the time it usually takes them,” Chapman said. “They see that they learn better the next day when they’re doing tests or trying to remember it.”

In the real world, students will not willingly give up their phones during study time any more than they will voluntarily shave off their eyebrows, and taking them away seems like a punishment. So how do parents deal with this Catch 22? The key is gradual release of control over time, and I know the perfect tool that does just that.

Recently, as I was enjoying coffee with my good friend David Polgar he was filling me in about his new position as communications director of CoPilot Family, I had one of those “why-didn’t-I-think-of-this” moments. Copilot Family is a new parental control app for mobile devices.

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Being tech awkward as I am, apps don’t usually inspire me, but this one is genius. Sure, there are numerous parental control apps, but this one does what others can’t. To quote David, “On one hand, you don’t want to be so aggressive in hovering over your child that you sow distrust or present a condescending attitude. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so hands-off that your child in left guidance-free online and with their devices. There needs to be a happy medium.”

This app, creates that happy medium. As it states on its company website, www.copilotfamily.com,“parents can schedule when and where functions and applications are available. At school, a phone can be just a phone; Copilot allows parents to temporarily remove downloaded apps and specify what other features of the phone are available. During evening hours, the internet browser and game center can be shut off automatically.”

The suggested initial implementation of this tool is to present it as a way for families to communicate. Parents are not shutting down kids’ phones, or holding them hostage; they are limiting the use of selected applications during times designated for academics, or any other time when cell phone use is inappropriate. These times should be decided upon, with parental guidance, as a family. At first the parent has more control than the child, but as a child gets older, and hopefully more mature, the control can be gradually shifted.

By the time the child is older, let’s say in college, doing schoolwork without the distraction of technology unrelated to academics will be the norm.

I wonder if the creators of Copilot Family ever though about going on Shark Tank. I think Mr. Wonderful would be totally into it.

Susan V. Schaefer, M.A.T., M.Ed., education consultant and founder of West Hartford-based Academic Coaching Associates, has been helping students reach their academic potential for over a decade. For more information about Academic Coaching Associates please visit www.academiccoachingct.com or email Susan at [email protected].

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