Are Teachers Allowed to Take Your Phone?

Phones are a necessary tool in today’s world. They keep us connected to other people and they let us gain immediate access to the world’s biggest knowledge library. They are also a useful tool for education. Phones can be used to look up words students don’t know, have a calculator, and they can also help with spelling and grammar.

But they can also be problematic. Phones can be a distraction in class. You are missing an important part of the lecture because you are busy browsing memes on the internet. Or, even worse, our phone could ring in class because we forgot mute it, disrupting the lesson. There are people who are addicted to phones, and will distract themselves by scrolling their screens, looking for the next dopamine hit. 

I know what you’re thinking. “But who cares if I am distracted? It’s my life, I can do whatever I want”. I agree with the sentiment, but there’s an issue. Using your phone leads to distracting your classmates too. Because phones are designed to hold our attention, resulting in you disturbing a lesson.

What happens when you disturb a lesson? You waste not only your time, but the teacher’s, and your classmate’s. Plus, you are wasting money. No, not because time is money (time is much more than money), but because you (or your parents) are paying for your privilege of attending class. And yet, there you are, disrupting class with your behavior.

There isn’t a one size fits all rule. Some teachers will let you use your phone without batting an eye as long as you aren’t disrupting the lesson. Others are stricter and will take your phone until the end of the lesson. Others will take it for much longer periods of time. It also depends on the school’s code of conduct.

In this article, we are going to analyze if teachers can take your phone. Under what circumstances can they do it? For how long? How do you get it back? Here you’ll find answers to these questions, and more.

The legality of taking your phone

Teachers can legally take your phone, but not forever. That would be theft. Check the school’s code of conduct to know how long they can take it for. In most schools it’s for a couple of days at most. Stricter school will confiscate it for up to a semester.

The thing is, a phone is your private property (or your parents’). Schools can’t take it for themselves.

Some teachers will ask students to give them their phones before a test. Phones can be a cheating tool, so it makes sense. When it happens, they will return the phones after the test though. That doesn’t count as taking your phone. It’s a safety measure to ensure the test is valid.

The punishment can escalate too. If a teacher has to take your phone once they’ll most likely return it by the day’s end. If you keep disrupting class and distracting yourself and your classmates, expect harsher punishments.

The first time you’ll only lose your phone until the end of the lesson. The second time, the teacher might keep it until the end of the day. The third time, you won’t see your phone for the entire week. And so on.

If you keep defying authority by using phone during class, the school will issue a suspension. Or they will call your parents. Or organize a meeting with the school’s principal to get you to behave. 

Neither of those outcomes is desirable. Also, you need to learn to stay away from your phone. Class is the perfect occasion to do so. You don’t need to be on your phone 24/7. Keep it turned off and pay attention in class.

What can the teacher do with your phone?

Teachers can take your phone, blocking you from accessing it. But that’s it. They can’t use it themselves, because that would be a privacy breach. If the teacher takes your phone and asks for your password to access it, don’t give it to them. It’s illegal for them to use your phone. You’d be helping them break the law.

Teachers aren’t allowed to take your phone permanently. They can only take it for as long as the school’s code of conduct lets them. Which is usually a couple of days.

If the teacher takes your phone and then answers calls or messages you get, report it immediately to the principal. The same goes if the teacher asks for your passwords and starts using it. They may not do so under any circumstance.

How to Recover Your Phone

This is the hardest part. Not because asking to get your property back is hard, but because some teachers might not want to collaborate.

Anyway, you should always talk it out with your teacher. Tell them you are sorry, and that you won’t use your phone in class again. If you don’t appear confrontational, most teachers will gladly give back your phone.

Don’t expect any sympathy if you appear confrontational. Humans are wired to answer aggression with aggression. Always admit you made a mistake, and that it won’t happen again. 

If your teacher refuses to give your phone back, you can take it up to the school’s principal. Mention that the teacher is breaking the code of conduct, and try to explain the situation neutrally. 

If you are a minor, you can get your parents to recover the phone, because technically it’s their property. Minors don’t have property rights, so your phone belongs to them. Even if it was a gift and they let you do whatever you want with it. 

Warning: These two methods can ruin the relationship with the teacher. Use them as a last resort. If the teacher is resentful towards you, the class’ atmosphere will be awful. Plus, the teacher has way more power over you than you think. Always try to work out a solution directly with the teacher.

Why you shouldn’t use your phone in class

Now that we explained what could happen if you use your phone in class, let’s see why you shouldn’t use it during lectures. While it’s true that students shouldn’t use their phone during class, it’s also true that schools should offer better education. 

Students use their phone in class because they don’t know better. Sure, they might be bored or not care about the lesson, but the issue is that they are uneducated on the matter. They don’t realize the consequences of using their phone during class.

Teachers understand the issues related to phone usage. They also understand that phones are a tool we can’t go without in our daily lives. Teachers also know that phones can be used for good reasons or not. 

Phones Are Distracting

Using your phone means not paying attention to class. That’s it. What’s wrong with not paying attention to class? You are wasting your time and not learning anything.

Sure, class can be boring, but boredom in class is an emotion that happens because of two main reasons.

Why are you bored? Is it because you already know what the teacher is talking about, or is it because you don’t understand the topic? If it’s the former, you should contribute to the lecture. Help your classmates or teacher learn something new today. If it’s the latter, distracting yourself with a phone is self-destructive behavior. 

The Addiction Problem

If you are a student, I suggest reading about the psychology of smartphones, and what happens when we use them.

I’ll give you a quick summary. Companies design phone to keep you addicted to them. The constant notifications, the ability to talk with anyone, anytime, and the internet, work together to keep you glued to the screen. They give our brain constant dopamine hits, which makes us feel good. They function like a drug. Learning to stay away from them is great. Your life will improve.

I understand some lessons are excruciatingly boring. That’s not an excuse to whip out your phone and minding your own business. I know you can still ignore the lesson with your imagination or scribbling on paper, but it’s way less destructive than fueling the addiction.

Potential Cheating

With internet access readily available on phones, they can be used to cheat. The internet is the biggest library in the world. You’ll find answers to any question you can think of. As long as humans know the answer, that is.

Teachers understand phones can be an excellent tool to help students learn, but they also know phones can be used to cheat.

And while I don’t expect everyone with a phone to cheat, having the option means cheating is always in the back of your head.


Teachers may take your phone if you are using it during class. They can’t confiscate it forever. In most cases, they can only keep it for up to a couple of days. Check your school’s code of conduct to know for how long.

We all make mistakes. If the teacher takes your phone during class, admit your errors, and ask nicely to get it back. Appearing humble and recognizing of your mistake, the teacher will gladly give it back to you.

Privacy is a serious concern. Teachers can’t use your phone when they take it. Don’t give them your password or tell them how to get access to your phone. It’s illegal.

The best way to not get your phone taken is to not use it during class. Easier said than done, but there are many resources online on smartphone addiction, and how to get rid of it. We suggest giving them a serious look. Breaking free from this addiction will make your life much better. It will also make you smarter. Literally.

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