It is halfway through the period when Rosie* slides her black iPhone out of her Jansport backback.
She turns the volume off and lowers the brightness so the light from the screen doesn’t illuminate her face. After glancing up at her teacher she quickly reads and replies to a text before discretely slipping the phone into her back pocket.
“I do use my phone in class,” she said. “Mostly I do it when the teacher isn’t really looking, like when they’re focusing on something else.”
Though she is a frequent in-class texter, Rosie tries to keep her phone use from being too much of a distraction from her schoolwork.
She does not stay on her phone throughout the entire period, however she does use it for more than just talking to friends in class.
When she’s bored or can’t focus, she goes on Facebook and other websites on her phone. She also uses Snapchat and scrolls through her Instagram feed in order to pass the time.
While Rosie says she tries to hide her texting, Chester* says his in-class phone use is no secret.
“I use it on my desk, elbows up, thumbs primed,” he said.
He has his phone out in every class, usually using it for texting, Facebook, Snapchat, and games such as Temple Run or Fun Run. Though he knows his teachers do not allow phones in the classroom, Chester isn’t worried about getting his phone taken away, seeing as he has never had it confiscated.
And the two certainly are not the only ones sneaking in phone use during class. Of the 369 students polled, 63.5 percent use their phone in class.
Tamara Fox ’13 says she also uses her phone in class about once or twice a day, generally to “respond to a text or two.”
Because she recognizes the importance of paying attention in class, Fox limits the time she spends on her phone.
“Everything should be used in moderation,” she said. “We all use our phones in class every now and then, but it’s important to keep it at that.”
Byron Lazaroff-Puck ‘13 also uses his phone in class to check his email and respond to texts.
“I try to be as discrete as possible because I don’t want to be disrespectful” he said. “My math teacher caught me once and gave me a dirty look but didn’t take my phone away.”
According to the Upper School Student and Parent Handbook, cell phones “are not permitted to be used inside buildings during school hours.”
Breaking this rule generally results in a confiscation of the student’s cell phone for the rest of the school day.
Teachers and deans tend to disapprove of cell phone use during class time, finding it distracting and rude.
If a student is caught using their phone, their teacher can decide whether to confiscate it or to let them off with a warning.
“I definitely think [students who use their phones in class] are being disrespectful,” said math teacher Kent Palmer. “I just don’t always bring it up because it’s not always worth interrupting class for.”
Palmer’s reaction to the distracting activity depends on the situation. If he catches a student on their phone he will either ask them to put it away or will refrain from mentioning it as long as they don’t spend long periods of time on it.
Upper School Dean Rose-Ellen Racanelli says she disapproves of phone use in class because it can compromise a student’s ability to pay attention.
“I would be concerned about students using their phones in class,” Racanelli said. “I think that it’s very difficult for learning to take place when a student is being distracted, especially by their phone.”
However, despite the abundant amount of under-the-table texting, many students do refrain from using their phones in class.
“Personally, I just can’t multitask like that in class,” Emma Pasarow ’14 said. “It doesn’t bother me at all when other people do it, but I can’t focus on listening, taking notes and using my phone all at the same time.”
Though she does not use her phone in class, Pasarow says it’s not uncommon to see a classmate texting or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed under their desk.
*Names have been changed