[10/14/19] Putting Down the Phone? Not an Easy Call

From Bruce Springsteen to orchestras, performers are taking it into their own hands to marshal phone usage during shows. Several years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda refused to invite Madonna backstage after she continuously used her smartphone during his performance of Hamilton. Just recently, a video of an Off-Broadway actor who, mid-song, took an audience member’s phone and tossed it aside has given this debate more life in the limelight. These headlines address only the surface of a deeper conversation as, as a society, we are grappling with what is deemed appropriate — and perhaps even healthy and safe — with regard to how, when, and where we use phones.

Scott Talan and Eunju Namkung

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Putting Down the Phone? Not an Easy Call


CBS New York: Broadway Fighting Back Against Cellphone Use During Performances

Tripp & Tyler: A Conference Call in Real Life

PBS NewHour: Are smartphones making a generation unhappy?

*For more on the research and issues discussed in the PBS NewsHour special, see these bonus articles:





  • Writing: Imagine you are not able to have or carry your smartphone device without you for a day. Reflect on what this would make you feel and do. What would you experience? What would be made inconvenient or convenient? How would you behave or make decisions differently?
  • Debate: Should phones be outright banned in classrooms?
  • Poll: “I have my phone use under control, meaning I have full control over when I use it, exercise respectful and safe phone etiquette, and feel that how I use my phone is healthy and enjoyable.” Do you disagree or agree with this statement?
    • Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly disagree
  • Short Answer: What do you think the phone usage etiquette/policy should be in the following situations:
    • at a party with peers?
    • at work?
    • on a date?
    • in the classroom?
    • at a movie theater?
    • in a museum?
    • while driving?


Current Events Quiz

  1. What did actor Joshua Henry of the musical “The Wrong Man” do when an audience member continued to use his smartphone throughout the performance?

a. He allowed it.

b. He seamlessly took the phone and threw it aside mid-song without stopping the show.

c. He courageously stopped the show to ask everyone to respect the theater’s space and each other’s theater-watching experience.

d. He left the stage offended.

  1. Dave Chappelle, Lincoln Center and schools have been known to use Yondr. What service does company Yondr provide?

a. A system that allows people to stash their devices in locked pouches

b. It silences all phones in a given perimeter through a cell-suppression technology

c. Education on how cell phone usage can be detrimental to your health

d. None of the above

  1. According to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte, on average, American consumers now check their smartphones an average of ___ times each day.

a. 181

b. 99

c. 52

d. 11

  1. According to the October 10 The Atlantic article “Technology Sabotaged Public Safety,” a combination of what two things has reduced driver use of cellphones while driving recently?

a. State regulations and social media fatigue

b. Hands-free laws and distracted-driving awareness

c. Classroom programs and screen-locking apps

d. User interface design and voice command

  1. According to the October 13 Quartz article “The dangers of digital distraction—and how to overcome it.” in how many U.S. states is it illegal for novice drivers to use a cellphone while driving?

a. 12

b. 27

c. 38

d. 50


Featured Image Credit: “IMG_6633” by Skinny Guy Lover is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 

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