15 Big Pros and Cons of Cellphones in School

Cellphones are an extension of who we are today. Many of us put our calendars, contacts, and personal information into our phones. It is our alarm clock, our link to the internet, and it even allows us to make a phone call or text someone too.

Many families are giving their students a cellphone today in the same way that families in the past provided other rite of passage items. In some ways, it is comparable to earning a driver’s license. Kids get one when they show they can be responsible with it or the family has a need for their child to have one.

That means more cellphones are showing up in schools every year. In the United States, Tech Crunch reports that the average age for a child to receive their first phone is now 10 years of age. Child tablet ownership has risen from 26% to 55% since 2012.

Here are the pros and cons of having cellphones in schools to consider.

List of the Pros of Cellphones in School

1. Cellphones offer students unique learning opportunities.
A cellphone provides multiple layers of learning assistance for students today. Educational apps can bring lesson plans alive, creating interactive learning experiences that help students retain more information. Music can be played, giving a student more chances to focus on the work they need to complete. It gives students access to a complete database of information about subject matters they are interested in while in school.

2. Cellphones provide another layer of personal security.
Between 1992-2016, the total victimization rates for students between the ages of 12 to 18 actually declined in the United States. Even specific crime types, such as violent victimization, theft, and serious violence all declined during this period. At the same time, however, 79% of public schools recorded at least one incident of violence, theft, or crime. By having a cellphone available for a student, there is another layer of personal security available to a student. If they feel they are in trouble, they can call an emergency contact number for help.

3. Cellphones offer an opportunity for social encounters.
Learning in school involves more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students are also learning how to interact with one another. Online interactions are just as important as in-person interactions as part of the learning experience. Cellphones give students a chance to engage with each other through text, social media, and other online forums. By teaching them how to have healthy relationships now, it becomes possible to prevent the toxicity found in so many online environments available today.

4. Cellphones provide opportunities for multimedia learning.
With a cellphone, teachers can tell students to look up a specific video and watch it at their desk or table. Then the teacher can talk about the concepts presented on that video as part of the learning experience. Students today are exposed to multiple forms of content every day. Visual learning makes it possible to retain large amounts of information in a short attention period. It also gives students a chance to experience lessons from a perspective different from their own or from their teacher.

5. Cellphones provide students with access to more information.
Video learning is just one type of information available to students with a cellphone. With this tool, a student can look up information about something they may not fully understand while it is being taught. Online resources can provide a full curriculum about specific subject matters for students to review. Learning tools, such as playing games, are more available through a cellphone than other learning opportunities. As long as students can identify authentic information resources, this is a benefit with almost unlimited potential.

6. Cellphones provide access to research.
A cellphone can also become part of the learning process when teachers use it to encourage students to complete research tasks. Being able to locate specific information items is becoming a component of many job responsibilities today. Practicing how to identify and use relevant research in a safe classroom environment gives students a skill that they can use for their future vocation.


List of the Cons of Cellphones in School

1. Cellphones make it easier for students to cheat.
Students don’t need to write the answers on their arm any more if they’re trying to cheat on a test. All they need to do is find the answer key to the test, then use their cellphone to record or text the answers. Students can also text each other with specific answers, copy reports directly from the internet, or even use a service like Fiverr to potentially hire a writer to complete their homework for them. Although taking cellphones away during testing and services like Copyscape can catch plagiarism, it takes more time out of a teacher’s schedule to ensure the learning process is authentic with cellphones around.

2. Cellphones are not free.
Not every student is going to have a cellphone in school. Some students may have parents which do not permit them to own one for various reasons. Some students may live in households where they cannot afford to own a cellphone at all. 95% of Americans may own a cellphone today, but 1 in 4 households do not own a smartphone. By allowing this tool to be permitted for some, but not all, it could create bigger educational achievement gaps instead of reducing them from a socioeconomic perspective.

3. Cellphones disconnect students from the real world.
For the modern student, an online friend can be a best friend, just like a pen pal could be a best friend from previous generations. The danger here is that more students are willing to meet strangers they’ve met online and consider to be friends than students who wanted to meet pen pals. Girls are especially vulnerable with this. 79% of girls who have met new friends online through social media are more likely to interact with them in other ways. Pew Research notes that 95% of teens spend time with their friends outside of school, which brings the “stranger danger” threat into the classroom when cellphones are present.

4. Cellphones offer ongoing access to bullying.
One of the biggest issues that students face with a cellphone is cyberbullying. In the past, home could be a place of refuge from bullies. If a student has a cellphone, then rumors, threats, and harassment can continue around the clock. 1 in 3 students currently reports that they have been bullied online at least once. 1 in 4 students say that they saw something mean or hurtful said about them online in the past month. 1 in 5 students said that they saw something false presented as being true posted online about them in the past month.

5. Cellphones create relationship disconnects.
With a cellphone, it is easier for students to feel connected to the world. That also means a cellphone makes it easier to be disconnected from your family and friends. Some students spend more time engaged with their cellphone than they do with family events, organized sports, or even social activities with their friends. When a cellphone is in the classroom, there is a good chance that these disconnects will occur there too.

6. Cellphones create a safety concern for students.
1 in 5 teens in the United States has received an unwanted sexual solicitation through their online activities. Only 25% of students talk to their parents about these unwanted conversations when they occur. That’s especially important considering the willingness of many students to meet someone in-person that they have only known online. 8% of teens say that they met someone in-person when they had only known them from the internet before.

7. Cellphones split the attention of the student.
Even in a perfect world, where nothing bad could happen to a student, a cellphone would still be a questionable call. That is because the student must divide their attention between the teacher and the device. This forces a change in attention, which creates a similar reaction within the brain to multitasking. Only 2% of humans are effective multitaskers, which means more information loss is likely to occur with cellphones in schools instead of information retention.

8. Cellphones offer access to mature content.
A student may do everything right. They might study hard every night, support charities, attend religious services, and perform community service and still accidentally reach mature content through their cellphone. With the prevalence of fake news, sexually explicit links, and websites that offer questionable content, no parent lock is foolproof. An accidental click could get a student into a lot of trouble at school.

9. Cellphones may also create health concerns.
The blue light produced by modern screens is known to be a stimulant for students dealing with hyperactivity issues. Increased screen time is also associated with impulsive decisions, addictive-like behaviors, and an overall lack of focus.

The pros and cons of having cellphones in schools must be balanced with other technology options. This debate happened when computers were first introduced into schools. We’ll likely have it again when new technologies are introduced. We must look at these key points for individual students to ensure the greatest benefits are achieved.


Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.