Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools?

Helpful or Hinderance?

cell phones in private schools

With Americans checking their phones 8 billion times a day (thanks for that stat,, most of us can agree that we don't leave home without them. That's also true for students. Only a few short years ago, many schools banned cell phones, but most private schools have changed their rules and now allow - some even encourage - smartphones and tablets to be a part of daily school life. 

Most schools have rules about using cell phones, in that ringers must be turned off and phones must be put away at certain times.

But some teachers are capitalizing on students' constant need to be connected. From texting reminders and notifications to school apps for turning in homework and checking into dorms, our devices are enhancing the learning experience.  

Using Cell Phones in Schools? 

In private schools, the prevailing view is that cell phones are here to stay. They are an essential line of communication between frantically busy parents and their children. As a result, most private schools allow cell phones on their premises with the understanding that phones must be turned off during class and only used under certain conditions and in specified places.

Most schools have very specific guidelines written into their handbooks and acceptable use policy manuals. All students agree to abide by those rules both while on the school premises and also while under the school's jurisdiction when off campus.

Cell Phones Provide Connections with Parents  

Any parent will tell you that his worst nightmare is not knowing where his child is.

A thousand gut-wrenching scenarios run through his mind: Is my child ok? Has she been kidnapped? In an accident?

It's much worse for a big city parent. The variables increase exponentially to the point where you become a nervous wreck. Subways, buses, the weather, purse snatching, hanging around the wrong friends - supply your own worries about your children.

That's why cell phones and other smart devices are such wonderful tools. They allow for instant communication with your child by voice or text message. Cell phones can turn an emergency into a relatively easily handled and controlled event. They can give instant peace of mind. Of course, I am assuming that your child is honest and is where he says he is when you call.

For boarding school students, the cell phone helps students stay connected with their families who are miles away. Gone are the days of waiting by the payphone for calls in the common area or obtaining a landline in the dorm room. Parents can now Facetime and text with students at all hours of the day (just not during the academic day!). 

Learning Opportunities

Some teachers are even including cell phones and tablets in the learning experience, taking advantage of educational apps for teaching tools. Socrative is an app that allows for real-time polling in class, while some schools are using Duolingo as a summer learning opportunity to help students prepare to take on a second language. Many games incorporate critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as physics to solve problems and maneuver through game levels.

Some schools are even offering classes that educate students on how to build their own apps, teaching them the skills they need to thrive in our digital world.

The Opposing View

There is ample evidence of cell phones being a distraction in school. Small size and inaudible, high-pitched ringtones make cell phones easy to hide and use. It is a proven fact that adults over 30 cannot hear some of the high-pitched ringtones teens use deliberately for that reason. Cell phones can be used to cheat, to call the wrong people and to bully classmates, especially over social media. For these reasons, many teachers and administrators want cell phones banned from school. The sensible approach is to create a set of rules and policies regarding cell phone use, educate students on best practices and ethical use, and enforce the rules that are put in place.


Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski