Having a cellphone has become a rite of passage for children today, much like a driver’s license was for a previous generation Many students have free access to the Internet at home. They can use their phones to text and talk with their friends, play games, take pictures, and enjoy all the other elements of smartphone ownership that are available today.
That kind of access in schools may not be beneficial to the student, the teacher, or the learning process. Technology in the classroom may keep students engaged. It may also create a distraction which makes the learning process more difficult.
There are several pros and cons to think about when considering policies that allow cellphones in schools. Here are the key points to consider.
List of the Pros of Allowing Cellphones in Schools
1. It offers parents and students an extra layer of security.
In the United States, school violence is an ongoing issue that students face as they get older. In an investigation by The Washington Post, U.S. students have endured an average of 10 school shootings per year since the events that unfolded at Columbine. That means almost 200,000 students have been exposed to gun violence in a place that is supposed to be safe.
It’s not just high schools either. There were 20 elementary-age children killed at Sandy Hook. A cellphone at school allows children to contact emergency services, speak with their parents, and have an extra layer of security during a lockdown drill.
2. It can be used as a research tool.
Cellphones offer students access to instant research when they need to learn something new. If a student is curious about a specific subject, they can use their phone to learn more about it. Instead of risking embarrassment by asking for clarification about something they don’t know, students can look up information on their phone to receive an instant answer without interrupting the rest of the class.
3. It provides access to more information.
Before cellphones and computers, students were at the mercy of their textbooks and their teachers for the knowledge they would obtain. Thanks to this technology, students now have the ability to access numerous resources that supplement what their teachers and textbooks offer. Cellphones provide access to learn a new language, play a new game, or develop skills they would not normally find accessible in the structure of the traditional classroom environment.
4. It offers access to video learning.
Before cellphones, video learning meant a teacher rolling in the television cart, forcing all students to watch it from the vantage point of their desk. With a cellphone, a teacher can have students pull up a specific video to watch on their own. With headphones or earbuds, students can listen to the video without disturbing others. That makes it possible to understand key historical events from a new perspective, without worrying about an unintentional bias from a textbook author.
5. It offers access to learning assistance apps and devices.
Listening to music while engaged in school work can enhance a student’s focus. Different types of music create different levels of focus for each student. With their own cellphone, students can listen to their music preference without creating a distraction for everyone else. This also gives students a chance to talk about their musical preferences, create connections with different students, and explore options that may not always be played at home.
6. It creates opportunities for social learning.
Social media can have a negative effect on students. It can create all-day exposure to bullying behavior, create feelings of inadequacy, and even inspire isolation. If social learning is properly focused, however, the presence of a cellphone in the classroom can help students engage with others when they may be uncomfortable with extroverted actions. Digital devices, like a cellphone, can create a feeling of separation that can help some students come out of their shell.
List of the Cons of Allowing Cellphones in Schools
1. It may create health issues for some students.
There are hyperactivity concerns for students who are frequently exposed to the blue light that cellphones produce on their screens. Even when warm tones are used in a “night shift” setting, there may be behavioral concerns with distraction or a lack of focus with the presence of a cellphone in a classroom setting. If students have screen time at school and at home, they may exceed more than 10 hours of time with an electronic device on a daily basis.
2. It gives students access to inappropriate information.
Although President Trump likes to tout the idea of fake news when referencing the media, the Internet is the first source of fake news. Students must be taught how to distinguish between credible sources and non-credible information. With the variety of websites that can be viewed on a mobile device, students may use inappropriate research for their schoolwork. They might use their cellphone to access pornography during the school day. Even if a firewall is in place, students with a cellular connection may be able to get around it to view these types of content.
3. It offers multiple distractions to students.
The modern cellphone does more than send a text or make a call. Apps for games, social interactions, and much more can be downloaded to create multiple layers of distraction. If a student is tempted to use their cellphone for pleasure more than for studying while in school, then their focus may be on developing friendship and social connections rather than maintaining good grades.
4. It creates potential safety concerns.
According to information released by Safewave, 20% of teenagers in the United States who use the Internet regularly say that they’ve received unwanted sexual solicitation while they’ve been online. Only 1 out of 4 teens say that they told a parent when such a solicitation occurred. With 75% of kids between the ages of 12-17 having access to a cellphone or mobile device, the issue of online child predators must be taken into consideration when discussing the issue of allowing cellphones in schools.
16% of teens have considered meeting someone they’ve only talked to online. 8% have met someone they only knew online. Since teens are willing to meet with strangers, parents and teachers must engage with students frequently if cellphones are permitted.
5. It creates concerns with bullying.
Cyberbullying is a major concern for students, especially when cellphones are involved. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 33.8% of students reported that they have been cyberbullied at least once in their lives. 22.5% report seeing mean or hurtful comments online in the last 30 days. 20.1% reported seeing rumors about them being posted online. Because a cellphone gives bullies access to someone 24/7, there is no place that can be truly described as safe. For that reason, limiting cellphone access may offer more positives to some students, even if that limits their overall access to information.
6. It provides a disconnect.
Is the quality of an online social connection of the same value as a personal connection? Being on a cellphone for an extended time period can create a disconnect for some students from face-to-face social activities, organized sports, and even family interactions. If cellphones are permitted in the classroom, a similar disconnect could occur with the teacher, the administrative staff, and even the subject matter being learned.
7. It creates issues of socioeconomic privilege.
As of February 2018, the Pew Research Center reports that 5% of Americans do not own a cellphone of any type. 23% of people who do own a cellphone do not have a smartphone in their home. Rural households have the steepest gap in smartphone ownership. Whereas 83% of urban households own a smartphone, only 65% of rural households own one. That means allowing cellphones in schools could create learning gaps not only in low-income households, but in rural households as well.
8. It could encourage cheating.
If answers are only one Google search away, using a cellphone to get around a tough test question becomes a tough temptation to avoid for some students. To avoid this issue, teachers or school districts could require that all cellphones be turned in before a test or have all phones turned off during the test. Students who are prone to cheating would also look for answers in other ways anyway, but the ease of answer access could encourage those who wouldn’t normally cheat to think about it.
Should cellphones be allowed in schools? There are several key pros and cons to consider here. Allowing technology in the classroom has provided many schools with learning improvements. It has also created new temptations for students to avoid doing their work. If students are taught how to be online safely and are shown how to choose a good-quality information resource, then it could be a positive experience for many.