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ChoralNet: Should we allow Cell phones on the tour bus?

Colleagues, I was inundated with responses to my question about your
policies on cell phones on choir tours ( I have a high-school age church
youth choir ). Here are the edited replies. Many thanks to all who
responded.
Noel Piercy, 1st Pres, Caldwell, NJ
Npiercy(at)comcast(dot)net
******************************************
Bravo!! I completely sympathize and support your stand on
cell-phones. [Our summer choral academy] invites singers from all over the
country. Participants may bring their cell-hones but must leave them in
their dorm rooms (where they spend very little time). There will be an
adult present at all of their activities with a cell phone in the event of
an emergency...if a cell phone rings during a session ... we take possession
of it...
We have had this policy in place for three years now, since we noticed that
students who found it difficult to adjustment to this very intense program
were usually those dependent on their cell phones for social activity...
****************************************
We allowed cell phones last year and it created problems. The kids
were distracted and not as focused on the group but were calling their
friends at home. They were also calling their parents every time they were
unhappy with another youth or a chaperone.
At one point I had to take away a cell phone from a youth who had
been drinking at the host home (the host parents left our youth with their
own child who then gave alcohol to this youth). Our youth was calling his
buddies from the choir on his cell phone late that night so most of the
choir knew about it and was harassing the other 3 youth who were with him
not to tell. We found out and that youth was sent home.
*****************************************
We went on tour with my children's choir to Oregon 2 summers ago, and many
of the kids brought cell phones. It was an incredible distraction, with one
girl having the phone permanently attached to her ear talking to her
boyfriend back home and missing the whole point of bonding with the choir.
After a day of this, we collected all the phones and handed them out only at
specific times when it was appropriate in our schedule for them to call. ..
The phones make it easy for the kids to touch base with their parents, but
almost too easy to keep in touch. Again, part of traveling with a group is
to teach them some independence from mom and dad.
****************************************************
I empathize with your dilemma. As a parent I can relate to the parent's
concerns. Being able to keep in touch with your child on such a big trip is
a big deal. On the other hand, I know what you'll be up against if you have
how ever many kids making and receiving phone calls... If there were one
cell phone available for emergencies that parents could reach and kids could
call from, that might stem some of the parental concern.
*****************************************
At my high school, I encourage the students to have cell phones while on
tour. I can keep in touch with them if we are in a place such as a theme
park and they can keep in touch with me. I haven't run across problems with
them leaving the phones behind because, in our area, those kids would rather
leave their brains behind than their cell phones. It has been a life saver
a few times when emergencies have arisen and I've had to gather the troops
quickly. We even publish a cell phone list to the students so that they can
keep in touch with each other.
*******************************************
I understand your concern completely. I outlaw CD players on trips becuse
the kids get so in tuned to their music that they get no benefit from field
trips.Can they put phones on vibrate? Have significant consequences for
those that don't turn the ringers off.
******************************************
No phones - it's a distraction and unnecessary chatter and gossip only
interfers with the music. With teenagers - the slightest incident from home
becomes a 'drama' - a catastrophic event - it effects the group - and
jeopardizes the sound. NO PHONES. I know of choirs that do not even let
the kids call home! If parents are concerned - let the kids call home at
designated times - when the music isn't compromised.
****************************************
As a parent, retired teacher and long-time choral director, I find this
policy apalling.

Going on tour ought not include isolation from friends & family. While the
kids are working, the phones should be off, but during free time, your kids
ought to have the freedom to assoicate with those who are important to them.


Do not trivialize the cell phone by assuming that it is used solely for
"gossip." Social ties are every bit as important to a healthy upbringing as
aesthetic ties. The cell phone ban sounds more like somnething to make the
responsible adults' lives easier.
[Absolutely correct! NP]
*************************************************
No. Absolutely none allowed. These events are for the kids to have a chance
to be together and have community together. If parents need to talk to their
child there is an itinerary with phone #s. If a kid can't go without calling
home becasue they will feel homesick maybe they should consider not going.
*************************
Teaching kids responsible phone use would be my recommendation. ...As a
parent, I would want my child to be able to contact me any time in case of
emergency. As a music director, I would want my singers to turn them off or
leave them off-stage during rehearsals and performances.
Yes, they may lose them or forget them. ...have a system whereby anytime a
kid has his phone ring during a rehearsal, they lose the phone for the day -
and if it happens again, they lose it for the rest of the trip
*********************************************
I think on an international tour, it's reasonable for the parents to want to
have a way to get in touch quickly with their children, especially with the
heightened concern people have in a time when terrorism seems to be a real
threat. There are ways to rent international cell phones ahead of time.
Phones can be forbidden in rehearsal or during group meetings. Cell phones
can also be lifesavers while traveling when people get lost or have other
mishaps.
************************************
We used to have the NO CELL PHONES policy in previous years, but about a
year and half ago revised our policy. Our boys (ages 11-20) are allowed to
bring their cell phones, but there are several rules relating to their use.
They are to keep them on vibrate at all times and are only permitted to use
them for specific reasons. They may use them to call home to their parents
and they may use them in the event of a problem or emergency. We made our
change in policy, because it is much cheaper to call home using a cell phone
for many people and also because of the safety aspect. Should a child be
placed in a compromising situation at a host family, they have the ability
to contact someone.
*********************************************
Stick to your policy!! As long as there is a clear way for the parents to
get in contact with the group at any time in case of a real emergency, day
or night, that should suffice. This is an opportunity for the kids to grow
in their relationships with each other, to mature in their social
interactions, to test their wings away from their families, and to focus on
an activity that is not about them as individuals. The kids are clearly
more than adequately supervised and cared for. If and of the parents can't
respect that, or don't trust it, they really should keep their kid home.
************************************************
My own kids went to Spain and China with their high school orchestra and
band and had phone cardsone was before 9/11 and one was after. The tour
after (to China), the directors had a cell phone (& gave us the number)the
kids could use. The kids were encouraged to take their cells... Perhaps you
could have rules (parents calling at certain times ONLY or cell phones off
at all times, until the evening)or insist that the kids call their parents
once a day. The world has changed, my friend, and the parents concerns are
justified.
**********************************
We have a voice mail extension set up on the school system at home. One of
the chaperones updates the outgoing message several times a day with news of
our progress. If parents want news from their child, they call the school
line and get an update.

If parents really must know what is happening with thier child, they should
purchase a ticket and go along. I usually talk to parents that a trip like
is an important step for both the child and the parent towards the child's
independence. One of the reasons I do tour is to give students the
experience of being away from their parents in a safe, supervised structure.

**************************************8
There could be occasions where cell phones are needed. I think the approach
you need to take is "use it appropriately or it will be confiscated until
the end of the trip" and then spell out what "use it appropriately" means.
And if they lose the phone or leave it behind, that's too bad.

Talk to them bluntly about the "rigorous" task they are engaged in, and say
"during this time we expect no distractions from cell phones." If it is a
rehearsal you could just collect them and put them in a box to be picked up
after rehearsal.

One of the best lessons the kids can learn on a trip overseas is that there
are understandable reasons why the term "ugly American" came to be.
Learning to be aware of their behavior as others see it is important. While
Europeans use cell phones a lot often instead of a land line because it
takes forever to get one! they are still a lot less "conspicuous" in
their overall behavior than Americans.
When I would send students out of the US for field research we had a session
called "Continental Drift" where we would talk about cultural differences,
social graces, etc. These are graduate students, not high schoolers, but
the point is that we in the US often DON'T think about these differences,
and don't think that it applies to us if we do.

If you talk to the students about overall behavior, the appropriate use of
cell phones may be a natural part of that.
***************************************
I have found cell phones on tour to actually be quite valuable. I have a
master list of student cell phone numbers, and if/when students get
separated from the group it is much easier to hunt them down . Also, when
the tour leader calls disruptive hotel rooms on personal cell phones it
seems to have a greater impact. And of course, it gives some comfort to the
parents to know they can directly get a hold of their child without needing
to go through a chaperone or hotel...

We do stress a cell phone policy, though, of phones OFF when we are
rehearsing/performing, etc. We have never had a problem. We have found
that when we expect them to act like adults, and we tell them that we expect
that, they rise to the occasion... rather than think they will continually
gossip or lose their phones.
******************************************
I can appreciate that the parents would raise concerns about possibly being
able to keep in touch with their children, or even feel like you are being
too "controlling" by not letting them bring the cell phones. After all
"everyone is doing it".

In my opinion your reasons for not allowing them are still valid, and don't
necessarily require any further justification. The question is probably are
you more willing to deal with the possible backlash from parents...?
******************************
Cell phones are a part of life now, and many parents have become dependent
on them to stay in touch with their children. This is especially true when
they travel.

I would suggest that there be no ban, but that during times when calls or
interruptions are inappropriate, then collect them all in a box and return
them after the performance or rehearsal.
...Cell phones are too ubiquitous to ban altogether I think and I would be
some parents would squawk if they didn't have that ready means of
communication with their kids.
*****************************
I allow cell phones because if someone is lost or late for a bus departure,
I can call them and get them going faster. Obviously, they manage them so
that they are not a distraction.
*************************
On my tours I strictly forbid my college age students from carrying cell
phones for the same reasons. The only exceptions that I make are in the
event the student has a life-threatening disease which dictates a constant
line of communication with home, doctors etc.

Example: Two students are insulin dependant diabetics with insulin pumps.
After one pump failed in Poland you bet I was glad they had their cell
phones. In Poland, there were three phone systems at that time and none of
them worked very well. Between an international cell phone and my ATT card
we were able to get help. It saved her life.
******************************
All personal electronic devices are forbidden on our tours. They interfere
with one of the wonderful benefits of these tours relationships!!
In addition, they aren't necessary. The chaperones should all have them.
The parents need to allow you to be the director. If they aren't
comfortable being "out of contact" with their children, invite them to
chaperone.
*******************************8
Dear Listers,

Here are the results of my query regarding cell phone policies on trips.
Thanks to all who responded. It¹s a topic that created some strong
opinions.


Christine Jordanoff
Aritistic Director, Children¹s Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh
jordanoc(a)duq.edu





We absolutely refuse to let our kids take them along on retreats or summer
tour. The last thing we need is for kids to be disjointed from our group
while they are socializing with friends or talking to parents at home. Our
chaperones will have a cell phone for emergencies, and kids can use calling
cards to check in from time to time, but that is also discouraged. Any cell
phones found on tour are "confiscated" and returned at the end. Tour is a
growing and learning experience.


One year we hosted a group of kids on their tour. The whole time a few of
them were at their hosts' homes, they were gabbing to friends back home.
Not a very respectful or polite behavior example!

Sue Meinholz
Wisconsin Children's Choir
www.wisconsinchildrenschoir.org



Our policy is that no cell phones are to be taken on the trip except the
director, chaperones and tour manager.. Our rationale is that we are
traveling together to become more closely bonded as a ensemble. While we
are together our focus should be on the group not friends or family left
home. We received some flack the first time but we provided an emergency #
for the parents to call. Now its SOP> Good Luck.


Fred Sang
Artistic Director
Kalamazoo Children's Chorus

Last spring when we did a trip to Orlando, we encouraged everyone to bring
their cell phones. The result was a much more relaxed and stress-free
experience. We had deadlines to meet and a fairly tight itinerary to follow,
but if anyone was missing or running late, a simple phone call was all it
took. No one got lost, and no one was ever left behind. There was an
understanding that cell phones were not allowed when dressed in concert
attire.

Scott Wickham
Centaurus HS
Lafayette, CO

Our singers are not permitted to call home (or have cell phones) on trips
because it is a group trip, not a time to check in with family. The point
of the trip is to be with the group, and build a dynamic (team building).
Our choir does provide daily summaries and updates while the choir is away.
The parents can check the website for pictures and a synopsis of our
experiences. This way, the parents are getting feedback from the trip, but
are not making contact with their children.

Emily Floyd
Northwest Community Youth Choir
Crystal Lake, Illinois

We allow them to have them on there person but they are only allowed to use
them to call home. If they are caught using their cell phones to make other
phone calls they are taken away until we arrive home (this is our trip
policy)

Robbie Doelger
Director of Women's Choirs
Bay Port High School
robedoel(a)hssd.k12.wi.us
662-7287


we have given up trying to prohibit them as we have in the past.

our newest [and likely changing] policy is that phones may be carried but
used ONLY with permission, which is usually granted for all at the same time
for just a few minutes to say that they are safe and sound. Hard to manage
and monitor, but it is better than hearing the complaints from parents! It's
working fairly well with a few exceptions. I am anxious to read responses
from others.

Hope this helps

Mike

Michael Sanflippo
Director, Apprentice Chorus
Newark Boys Chorus School
1016 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
973-621-8900 x25
(fax) 973-621-1343
email: ">ms07052(a)aol.com


Christine - Great query. Please, if you would be so kind, share with
me the collective experience and wise of the replies you receive. I
would be most grateful. All the best and thank you. Larry K. Ball
lkball(a)juno.com


Unfortunately the reality is parents are starting to pull kids form events
that don't allow them to have cell phones. I would suggest and time
allotment for each day when the kids can have the cells on and talking. If
everybody know about the windown of time and it is enforced you may stem the
flood of inattentive kids. I think texting should not be allowed at all and
if kids are cought using phones in "off" times or texting the phone should
be held by a chaperone or director. Parents need to be notified about this
and understand that constant contact with their child is not a necessity.



_______________________________________
Mr. Jason M. Horner, M. M.
Choral Conductor
guitarjuice(a)hotmail.com


>Christine,
As a parent, I would appreciate being able to leave a text or voice message
for my child, and I especially would appreciate the child calling me once in
awhile (!) just to check in. Unless you have a kid who is carrying it on
stage, I'm not sure it would be a problem. Just make sure they are turned
off for rehearsals and not even in the auditorium or church during concerts.
That's easy enough to accomplish.

micki Gonzalez

We do not allow our singers to carry cell phones when on a trip with one
exception: the two children who had strong medical concerns. Our
chaperones have cell phones and will gladly share their phone with a child
who truly needs it (which are few of them). Trying to monitor kids calling
each other at all hours of the day and night is a task I will not ask my
chaperones to do; their job is tough enough already....and my experience has
been that kids who have a tendency to be homesick are worse after they call
their parents.
Before the cellphone days I had an experience that just re-inforced my
feelings on this topic. I was awakened at 11:30 PM by a mom calling from
home who had just had a phone call from her daughter. It seems the daughter
was mad because her chaperone had insisted on the "lights out" curfew and
mom wanted me to switch her to a different group right then! Who needs that
kind of added frustration on a trip?!
It is getting harder all the time to stick to policies that we think are
important when we have so many "entitled acting" families who want their
child to be the exception. Good luck! Peggy


Hi Christine - I have had the same problem with our top choir of boys, both
at summer camp and when we travel. Boys have even brought their cells with
them to concerts...including symphony concerts!

What we did, was put into writing that cell phones are not permitted at
camps or on tours. Cell phones, if brought to concerts must be turned off
and given to the director, who will return them at the end of the
performance. The parents sign this form [which includes other things] and
each boy must sign it too.

Since doing this, we have not had one incident of problems -- it works for
us.

Good luck with this one ~

Bill Adams
Founder/Artistic Director
The Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas
www.fbbctx.org
wra(a)fbbctx.org


Speaking as a parent who has had a child travel as far away as
Australia, we have become quite used to our children having the means
to contact us in an emergency or vice versa, and also the feeling of
security in knowing that they can check in with us.

It's a different world than when we were young :-)

I would recommend a couple of okay times during the day, and having
some mandatory dead air times, depending on your schedule. The
flipside is that it's awful when the kids are all texting rather than
listening!

Good luck!

Anthony Toohey


re: cell phones

When I work with children's groups and are on the road, all the parents are
given the cell number of one of the adult leaders and this is the number
used to communicate emergencies, etc. No other calls are necessary, are
they. Life happened before cell phones didn't it ? I seem to recall.

Heather Irons

Unfortunately the reality is parents are starting to pull kids form events
that don't allow them to have cell phones. I would suggest and time
allotment for each day when the kids can have the cells on and talking. If
everybody know about the windown of time and it is enforced you may stem the
flood of inattentive kids. I think texting should not be allowed at all and
if kids are cought using phones in "off" times or texting the phone should
be held by a chaperone or director. Parents need to be notified about this
and understand that constant contact with their child is not a necessity.

Christine,
As a parent, I would appreciate being able to leave a text or voice message
for my child, and I especially would appreciate the child calling me once in
awhile (!) just to check in. Unless you have a kid who is carrying it on
stage, I'm not sure it would be a problem. Just make sure they are turned
off for rehearsals and not even in the auditorium or church during concerts.
That's easy enough to accomplish.

micki gonzalez



_______________________________________
Mr. Jason M. Horner, M. M.
Choral Conductor
guitarjuice(a)hotmail.com

We do not allow our singers to carry cell phones when on a trip with one
exception: the two children who had strong medical concerns. Our
chaperones have cell phones and will gladly share their phone with a child
who truly needs it (which are few of them). Trying to monitor kids calling
each other at all hours of the day and night is a task I will not ask my
chaperones to do; their job is tough enough already....and my experience has
been that kids who have a tendency to be homesick are worse after they call
their parents.
Before the cellphone days I had an experience that just re-inforced my
feelings on this topic. I was awakened at 11:30 PM by a mom calling from
home who had just had a phone call from her daughter. It seems the daughter
was mad because her chaperone had insisted on the "lights out" curfew and
mom wanted me to switch her to a different group right then! Who needs that
kind of added frustration on a trip?!
It is getting harder all the time to stick to policies that we think are
important when we have so many "entitled acting" families who want their
child to be the exception. Good luck! Peggy


Speaking as a parent who has had a child travel as far away as
Australia, we have become quite used to our children having the means
to contact us in an emergency or vice versa, and also the feeling of
security in knowing that they can check in with us.

It's a different world than when we were young :-)

I would recommend a couple of okay times during the day, and having
some mandatory dead air times, depending on your schedule. The
flipside is that it's awful when the kids are all texting rather than
listening!

Good luck!

Anthony Toohey


re: cell phones

When I work with children's groups and are on the road, all the parents are
given the cell number of one of the adult leaders and this is the number
used to communicate emergencies, etc. No other calls are necessary, are
they. Life happened before cell phones didn't it ? I seem to recall.

Heather Irons

Cell phones - we had a real problem with this several years ago, when
one of our choristers had the thing glued to her ear talking to her
boyfriend constantly. We had to take the phone away. We have since
instituted a policy that cell phones are collected if it becomes a
problem, and restricted to use. We explain to parents that they really
need to cut their ties and let their kids be on their own. It's the
only way they are going to grow up!!!

Good luck!

Joy Hirokawa
Founder and Artistic Director
Bel Canto Children's Chorus
www.belcantochildren.com
joyhirokawa(a)comcast.net
215-679-4978


Hello Christine,

Our choir allows choristers to have their cell phones with them for
emergency purposes, but prohibits them from turning them on (except in an
emergency).

I would be interested in knowing what you hear from others.

Best,
Denise Hayes


Denise Hayes
Artistic Director,
Princeton Area Homeschool Choir
http://www.pahc.org/



I DEFINITELY allow them to take cell phones.

One simple rule - If we are doing anything at all musical they need to be
off (not vibrate) or I will hold onto it for as long as I see fit.

This includes, of course, concerts, exchanges, rehearsals, etc. I also slide
in museum visits and other educational things so as not to be rude. Parents
are quick to agree to this since the main reason they want them is so they
can keep in touch. And it turned out very helpful when parents are nervous
and then they get a call of how much fun they are having and how they are
performing...it actually is a good thing!!!

If you do not get 100% agreement from parents and students I would use that
as a bargaining chip and go back to the original policy of none at all.

I have taken cell phones and I keep them for around 2 days...I let them call
home and tell their parents this is happening, I talk to them, and I keep it
on in my bag so I know if they receive a call from mom or dad. It's not much
work at all.

Good Luck!

-brian dehn


Don't give in to those requests. If the parents are putting their children
under your supervision for a trip, you have to be able to control the
conduct of the children. I assume that the goals of the trip include
strengthening communication and social ties WITHIN the group, and giving the
children an experience of being away from home for a day or two. The
individual "needs" of the parents and the children are trumped by your need
to have consistent and complete attention.

As long as the parents can reach you in case of a real emergency (not just
to check on their darling), and you have 24-hour contact numbers for the
parents in case of any problems on your end, there is no need for individual
cell phones. They are a total distraction from what you are trying to
accomplish ON BEHALF OF the parents. (If you are staying in hotels, the "no
phone, period" rule will have to be enforced there as well.

If there are other adult chaperones along, the rules regarding use of a cell
phone should apply to them as well, although you may want some of them to
have cell phones to communicate with you and in case of emergency. But they
must also stick to the rule, and not use the phone casually, or allow it to
be used by students. (I assume computer use is also off-limits for the
children.)

If you have any potential EMERGENCY needs of both the parents and the
children taken care of, the answer is simply NO CELL PHONES. No further
conversation necessary.



Charles Q. Sullivan
cqsmusic(a)hotmail.com

On a trip, students are allowed to have a cell phone. However, they are not
allowed to use the phone without the permission of their chaperone. It may
only used it to be in touch with their parents.

This has worked well for me... But it probably depends on the kids and on
how much supervision the students have. I think *not* allowing cell phones
is more likely to cause a headache than allowing them. When parents
complain, watch out! If it's just the kids complaining-- we're used to that.
=)

Hi Christine - I have had the same problem with our top choir of boys, both
at summer camp and when we travel. Boys have even brought their cells with
them to concerts...including symphony concerts!

What we did, was put into writing that cell phones are not permitted at
camps or on tours. Cell phones, if brought to concerts must be turned off
and given to the director, who will return them at the end of the
performance. The parents sign this form [which includes other things] and
each boy must sign it too.

Since doing this, we have not had one incident of problems -- it works for
us.

Good luck with this one ~

Bill Adams
Founder/Artistic Director
The Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas
www.fbbctx.org

This is a late response to your question but I just read it this morning.

I teach high school.



My policy is that cell phones remain off and out of sight on the bus, in
restaurants, in any guided tour (including outdoor tours) - anytime we are
inside a building. I allow calls anytime we are off of the bus for rest
stops at in the hotel. I practically REQUIRE them when the students are off
on their own (in groups!) and I have each of their cell numbers. Plus, they
each have a designated chaperone cell number programmed in their list. All
parents have my number and they understand that their son/daughter will not
always be accessible. My cell is always on (except in concerts) to receive
emergency calls. These rules apply all year whenever we travel as a group.
We take the cell phone if the rule is broken.

I hope this is helpful!



Barbara Lutz

barbw2k(a)yahoo.com


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