As a childcare center director, managing your staff is a large part of your job. In some aspects, it may be easy and come naturally to you. However, there will always be challenges that come up as you deal with different personalities, being short-staffed, and dealing with changes in technology. Technology can be a valuable asset to your center: there are many tools that exist that can make everyone’s jobs easier and save hours in admin time (HiMama is just one example!). On the other hand, excessive use of cell phones and smartwatches in the classroom can negatively impact staff focus and attentiveness, and it certainly doesn’t set a good example for the children!
In order to manage the use of cell phones by staff members in your center, you have to put together and implement a specific cell phone policy for everyone to follow.
Why you need a cell phone policy
For better or for worse, our phones are available to us 24/7. Most people don’t leave the house without them, and the seriously addicted can’t go more than a few minutes without checking them. We even experience phantom phone vibrations when our phones are not in our pockets!
The average person spends over three and a half hours on their phone per day”Faces Magazine
In an early learning environment, educators are constantly role-modeling behaviors for children. Children are paying attention to their every action and often mimic them. It goes without saying that we want to encourage children to explore their physical environments, learn, play and grow, with technology supporting their development rather than being an obstacle to it.
To further drive home the importance of a cell phone policy, we have to ensure that educators are solely focused on the children in their care when they are on the clock. They need to be ensuring their safety, and well-being, and promote learning opportunities in the classroom. If they are using a cell phone in the classroom, it should be for work-related reasons only, e.g. taking pictures and videos, documentation, parental updates, etc.
What to include in your cell phone policy
When putting together your cell phone policy, make sure you include the following:
- Personal cell phone use is not permitted in classrooms during work hours.
- Personal cell phone use in the childcare center is permitted only during approved breaks, outside the classroom, or outside the presence of the children at the center.
- When educators leave the center with their children on an excursion during work hours, educators should carry a cell phone to be used in the event of an emergency.
- In the event that a staff member needs to take a personal call during work hours, this should be done outside the classroom.
- Explain that this policy is meant to ensure that the privacy and confidentiality of information about the center, children, parents/guardians, and staff are upheld.
- If parents/guardians have given permission for staff to take photos or videos of the children, ensure both caregivers and educators are aware of your center’s data privacy and security policy, as well as those of any app you’re using to record or share that data.
Tips to successfully implement your cell phone policy
Creating a cell phone policy and getting everyone to sign it is the easy part. Enforcing your cell phone policy is much harder. Staff members may push back and be quick to bring up reasons why they need to be texting during work hours. It is important that you do not budge or make special circumstances for specific staff members. Everyone needs to sign and be held to the same policy, including you!
When you see someone breaking the policy, call it out directly and promptly. Do so publicly but respectfully. It is an important reminder for all staff to see that the policy applies at all times to everyone and that it’s nothing personal.
The easiest way to ensure fewer rules are broken is to ask each staff member when they start their shift in the classroom to confirm that their phone is with the rest of their belongings in the staff room. If we know from the beginning that they do not have their cell phone, they are less likely to break the rule later on.
If your center uses a center management app, educators can access it and use all its features via tablets, which further reduces the temptation to indulge in personal cell phone use in the classroom.
Overall, enforcing a cell phone policy is not easy. Ensure you are consistent and clear. Eventually, everyone will get used to it and be on board. Good luck!!