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Lesson 4 : Mobile Phone Usage and Utility

Updated: May 6

By the end of this lesson, students will: 

  • Consider phone culture and how phone culture developed.

  • Understand the main ways in which phones are used in general, and how that differs from  kids and teens versus adults.

  • Consider what they want to use phones for, and why.

Overview of Ontario Curriculum Connections in this Lesson

A2: Digital Media Literacy

  • A2.4: Forms, Conventions and Techniques

B1: Oral and Non-verbal communication

  • B1.1: Effective Listening Skills

  • B1.2: Listening Strategies for Comprehension

  • B1.3: Speaking Purposes and Strategies

  • B1.4: Oral and non-verbal communications skills

  • B1.5: Word Choice, Syntax, and Grammar in Oral Communiacation

C3: Comprehension

  • C3.3: Analyzing Texts

  • C3.4: Analyzing cultural elements of texts

D1: Developing Ideas and Organizing Content 

  • D1.2: Developing Ideas

Background Knowledge for Teachers: Usage

Who Has Access

The following information is extracted from the 2022 Media Smarts, Phase IV 2022 survey of Young Canadians in a Wireless World. 

Most of the students have phones or access to phones. 77% of youth have a smartphone, 85% of youth with a smartphone received theirs prior to age 14. Almost half of youth without a smartphone have access to one. 

How They Are Engaging

Students are active consumers and creators of content.

  • 86% of youth aged 9-11 have an account on a platform that requires users to be 13+

  • Social connection is the primary reason for online engagement.

  • 97% use phones to connect with friends and family

  • 62% have talked to someone online whom they’ve never met in person

  • 78% follow celebrities and influencers on social media

  • 74% post comments, pictures, videos or memes

  • 81% play online games


Top Five Platforms include:

  • 50% YouTube

  • 42% TikTok

  • 38% Instagram

  • 37% Facebook

  • 28% Snapchat


How Much Are They Consuming

Phones are a big part of student lives:

  • Youth average 1-2 hours on phones weekdays, and 3+ hours on weekends outside of schoolwork.

  • 80% keep a phone in their bedrooms at night.

  • 44% worry they spend too much time online.

Lesson 4 Activities

4A. Student Usage

Exploring students’ background knowledge of phone usage.

Materials: Scraps of Paper, pencils, tape


  • Pre-reading: Prepare students for reading the first half of the poem Lock Picking Level 1 by asking about whether they feel phones are important, and why? 

  • Ask them what different ways phones are used. Record their thoughts, connections, wonderings and insights on chart-paper or on the whiteboard (wherever you capture ideas generated by students). Do students use phones differently than adults? How so?


Read the first half of the poem Lock Picking Level 1 from Seeking Draven with students.  


Lock Picking Level 1

At school, during recess, I stand and watch my friends on their phones. Me                      alone.

Dad doesn’t know what it’s like

To be the last

To see.

To be the last

To have this thumb,

This extra limb,

That can connect me to

e v e r y t h i n g,

He says, we







  • Does Teagan see the phone as important? What about Teagan’s father?

  • Describe what an App is on a phone. Can the students name any apps that are popular, or that they might have used? What broad categories would the students place the apps on a phone? Discussion of three broad categories: Productivity/Social/Entertainment.

  • Think-pair-share to explore what students know about apps.:

    • Think: On a piece of paper, draw a phone, write in it the first apps you would download in order of importance (3-5 minutes)

    • Pair: Share your drawing with a partner (5 minutes)

    • Discuss: Which apps did your partner choose? Which are the same or different? What categories would the apps fall into? What does that say about how you want to use a phone? How many minutes per day do you expect to use each category?

    • Can you decide on the ‘number one app’ a student should download? 

    • Share: Each pair sticks their agreed-upon app ‘number one app’ on the white board or on a wall. Together, they describe the key advantages of the app and why it’s important with the class. Can the class decide which apps would be in the top 3?  (15 minutes) Is this also where you would expect to spend the most time?

Lesson 4 Reflection:

This lesson suggests that choices we make and the patterns of usage can determine the shape of our own networks. How do students feel their choices of number one apps will shape, grow, change their networks online and offline? How might it shape the overall community over time?


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