Legal contexts and digital identities.

An Ethical Dilemma linked to used of mobile phones while at work in an Early Childhood Centre.

I remember the time when our Mobile phones used to be a (handy) device we choose to carry with us because its useful for time when you need to contact someone while you are on the go or in case there is an emergency and we can’t get to a phone.

Our mobile phones have evolved not just in the technology and size but in its significance to our lives. This is especially true of the Y & Z generation, also known as the technology natives or the “touch Screen” generation (Rosin, 2013), who are practically “at one” with their mobile devices.

I realise that this introduction seemed to have nothing to do with the topic of ethical dilemma but knowing the characteristics of our young teachers, who are most probably fall in the Y generation category, helps in understanding the issue I am about to unravel.

This little excerpt from The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Blog page (Clarke, 2013), summarises a similar dilemma I came across on one of my practicum placement when I was a studying to become a teacher.

The situation was that the a couple of the teachers at the centre were actively engaging with activities (texting and checking messages) while we were with the children during the outdoor activities time. Although I “felt” at the time that their behaviour didn’t seem very professional, I was unaware of the policies regarding use of cell phone at the centre and was perhaps a little ignorant to question the professional etiquette with mobile phones so it seemed at the time to be a non-issue. I was also under the impression that non of the children appear to be neglected in anyway although the teachers were engage in “multi-tasking” mode with the children as well as their phones.

Fast forward a few years. I have now graduated from my teaching degree and have been teaching for a number of years. When I reflect on the incident during my practicum placement a few years ago, I believe it would have been a tricky dilemma for me as a young teacher if I had to decide whether to “confront” the other(more experienced) teachers on their actions in using their mobile phones when supervising children.

Although The New Zealand Education Council’s Code of Ethics (Education Council of New Zealand, 2015) doesn’t specifically mention the use of Mobile phones, our obligation and professional etiquette while caring for young children and toddlers is to … “develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners” (Education Council of New Zealand, 2015, Criteria 1). In most Early Childhood Centre (ECC), including the one that I am attached to, this professional etiquette is usually translated in the ECC policy, disallowing the use of mobile phones during centre hours when teachers are with the children except during non-contact or break time.

Some teachers argue that mobile devices are needed for capturing the children’s work for their portfolios or learning stories but for the purpose of these activities, the centre should provide specific devices that can be use to capture videos or take photos of the children.

Currently, at the centre where I am attached to, we sometimes have student teachers and relievers (from the Y or Z generation) who may not be aware of our mobile phone policy and have never had a second thought about keeping their phones with them whatever they may be doing. In these situations, we make a conscious effort to point out the centre policy toward the use of mobile phones but I sometimes find myself in a dilemma with a decision whether to confront them when they (couldn’t stop themselves and) pull out their phone to respond to a notification or to “close a blind eye” if it only occurrs occasionally.

I am in concurrence with Jennifer Carsen, in her article, ‘Sample Child Care Cell Phone Policy’, published on the LinkedIn site suggesting that the toddler environment is so volatile and things can happen or change in an instant, it is the responsibility to the teacher to be attentive and be on the lookout all the time. A few seconds on the phone with their attention distracted may result in a child being hurt or endangered (Carsen, 2015). She offers some good advice on how to deal with these situations when a teacher does not comply with the mobile phone policies such as:

  • Making sure we Do enforce the policy and followup with fair reminders and subsequent action for non compliance
  • Make sure the teachers are confronted but with respect, such as not confiscating their phones (treat them as adults and not children)
  • Involve the parents in the mobile phone policy to ensure that the safety of the children while at the centre.
  • Ensure that some allowance to make sure that they are contactable by family if required

With this in mind, I believe that when face with a dilemma, it is always a good idea to discuss the situation with the Centre Manager or Team Leader and if necessary, have a conference with the teacher or teachers involve together.

Out primary objective for any solution is to ensure there is harmony within the team and that the children’s wellbeing and safety is non compromised.


Education Council New Zealand. (2016). Teachers & Social Media published on the New Zealand Education Council Website. Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from

Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from

Feeney, Stephanie and Freeman, Nancy K. (2015). Smartphones and Social Media: Ethical Implications for Educators. Article published in the National Association for the Education of Young Children March 2015 publication Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from

Education Council of New Zealand. (2015). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers Retrieved from The New Zealand Education Council web site on 12 March 2016 from

Rosin, H. (2013). The Touch-Screen Generation. Article published in The Atlantic on Technology, April 2013 Retrieved 1 February 2016, from

Clarke, G. (2013). Should teachers have cell phones in the classroom? Members Feedback posted on The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Site on 1 August 2013 Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from

Carsen, Jennifer. (2015). Sample Child Care Cell Phone Policy. Article published on the LinkedIn Site on 24 September 2015. Retrieved on 12March 2015 from

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