Should Students be Allowed to use Cell Phones at School?
Having been employed in education for two decades now, I have seen a vast amount of change in this field. In truth, the only thing that stays the same in education is the fact that it is always changing! That being said, one of the biggest transformations which I have seen take place is in the area of technology. It is being used in ways we never even dreamed of when I first began teaching. It is quite remarkable and educators have clamped onto technology in order to engage their learners and prepare them for the future. As with any innovation however, it does come with some growing pains and controversy. One of these problems has to do with cell phones. More to the point… should students be allowed to use cell phones at school? This can tend to be a divisive issue with strong opinions on both sides. When considering the question we need to examine the positives and negatives of students using cell phones at school. To do this, I have listed the points typically made by the proponents of both sides of the issue below.
Cell Phones SHOULD be Allowed at School:
1. Safety: A common argument made in favor of students having cell phones at school is the safety concern. They need cell phones in case of emergencies and need to be in contact with their parents. Others will argue that kids went ages without cellphones and managed just fine, so why all of a sudden to children need them to be safe? We do live in a different type of world these days and it usually means both parents are working and may be some physical distance away from their children. It also means more children are walking home on their own. Cell phones provide another layer of safety and security for children and parents alike.
2. B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device): Lets face it, education budgets are tighter than they have ever been. To combat this, students could bring their own device to school. A majority of students have ready access to cell phones and these can be used for free in schools. This can save the education system a vast amount of funds and can be a win-win for all.
3. Educational Usage: Cell phones are not going away, that much is clear. These devices are becoming more advanced every single day and the modern technology is something our students need to know. Not only do they enable students access to the Internet and a variety of other communication networks, but they often provide such applications as list builders, planners and other tools which can be utilized by students. This is differentiated learning right at their fingertips.
4. Way of the Future: Cell phones are the way of the future. Instead of spending time and energy making sure students do not bring them to school, we should be investing that same energy into showing them how to use them properly. This includes teaching online safety as well as instruction on the huge amount of technological power and applications they have in their hands. This will be a life skill and it is the responsibility of educators to teach life skills.
Cell Phones SHOULD NOT be Allowed at School:
1. Health: The actual effects of cell phones upon health is somewhat unknown and subject to a variety of studies. Many frequent cell phone users have complained of headaches as a negative health side effect of cell phone usage. Also, a study by Gaby Badre (Professor Badre MD, PhD- NeurologistBOC Sleep Centre) shows that students that use cell phones a lot experience restlessness and disruptive sleep patterns. (1) This is actually a factor which will continue to undergo a variety of studies in order to see the true correlation between cell phones and health.
2. Inappropriate Usage: There is absolutely no doubt that cell phones can be used by students inappropriately. There is actually a rather extensive list of how this can be done. For instance, cheating on tests through texting, cyberbullying, taking photos or videos of others, including teachers, without their knowledge. Many of these things can be done impulsively without proper reasoning and forethought.
3. Distractions: As if there are not already enough distractions in schools….cell phones brings yet another one. Ringing phones, online chats, and teachers stopping the class to deal with such issues not only serves as distractions, but ultimately prevents the students from obtaining the learning they are there to get in the first place.
4. Writing Habits: With cell phone usage comes texting. This is something which is virtually a whole new different type of language! Many will argue that by allowing cell phones in schools we are encouraging, and will exacerbate poor writing and grammar skills and is therefore counterproductive to the reason we are there in the first place.
5. Equity: I have listened, read and talked about many reasons for and against students having cell phones in schools. One point I do not see brought up very often is that of equity. We need to remember that not everyone has equal access to such technology as cell phones. They are expensive! If we allow students to bring cell phones and 95% of the students can afford to do so…what about that 5%? This can create a very inequitable situation based upon a variety of reasons, including socioeconomic status.
There can be little doubt that there are many powerful arguments on both sides of this issue. Essentially there really is no easy answer. The world is an ever changing entity…and we need to change with it. However, before doing so we need to weigh all factors and put a proper plan into place. This is especially true when working with children. The brain of a child is continuously developing right into adulthood and therefore matters such as impulsivity and not always thinking things through adequately are concerns. When weighing the pros and cons a plan needs to be created which will balance the factors. For instance, with the money school districts save by having students bring their own devices to school, they could create a fund for students who are not able to do so and therefore address the equity concern. Education is a continually transforming entity…that is true. We need to change with it, but also need to ensure planning and supports are put into place which will make it a productive and beneficial change for all.
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