Pondering Youth and Cell Phones

My friend calls me the “texting Nazi” because I’m such a stickler about letting students use cell phones during my classes. If I see you using a cell phone in my class you get a zero for the day no matter what else you did in class that day.  In my opinion in rude, disrespectful and distracting.  My students don’t get it.  Though I’m not willing to adjust my teaching to match, I’ve come to realize that cell phones are such a constant attachment to my students’ hands that they honestly don’t realize why it’s so rude to pull it out at certain moments.  I don’t like it, I do everything possible to discourage it, but I have somewhat accepted it as reality.

But something happened this week that gave me a whole new appreciation (and horror) for these kids’ complete lack of understanding of propriety with cell phones . And perhaps indicates something even darker about one of my students.  It happened on Monday and I’m still kind of shaken by it.

Week before last one of my students emailed me that his grandfather had passed away.  He wanted to work out a way to make up a quiz he would miss and I was happy to help.  I also let him know that I could excuse the absence if he got me documentation.  Now I hate asking for documentation when it’s because of a death in the family, but the fact is that people do take advantage of that excuse and at the end of the day it’s not even my rule.  I told him I’m really lenient about what I’ll accept as documentation and suggested an obituary, bulletin from the funeral, prayer card or even a note from his mom.

On Monday he approached me at the beginning of class with his cell phone and said, “I thought I’d just take a picture.”  I glanced up, not even knowing what he was referencing, and saw a photo of his grandfather’s corpse.  Startled I just stammered, “um… okay.”  It took a few minutes for the horror of the moment to sink in.

What has me so shaken is not that I saw a photo of a dead body.  I’ve seen them before.  There’s a long cultural precedent for it.  Back in the day taking photos of the corpse was standard procedure.  What bothers me is imagining the moment in which this photo was taken.  The knowledge that there was a moment at either the funeral or wake when this kid whipped out his cell phone to take a photo.  Did the rest of the family see it?  What did they think of it?  I can tell you how that would go over with my family.

Part of me is cynical enough to wonder if it even was what he said it was.  Or if he was just mad I asked for documentation and found a photo online.  I haven’t done an image search because I have no desire to look through photos of dead bodies.  I think I just want to believe this rather than the alternative.

And I wonder if it’s just this kid, or if there are a lot of kids his age who think it’s acceptable behavior.  I’m not sure I want to know.

Kids these days…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *