Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools?

Helpful or Hinderance?

cell phones in school
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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 many schools, especially private schools, have changed their rules and now allow smartphones and tablets to be a part of daily school life. In fact, some schools now have 1-to-1 device programs, that requires students to use laptops, tablets or even phones as part of their daily work.

Most schools still have rules about using cell phones, in that ringers must be turned off and phones must be put away at certain times, such as during tests or presentations. But some teachers are capitalizing on students' constant need to be connected. From text 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 is Mainstream 

In private schools, the prevailing view is that cell phones are here to stay. They are not only an essential line of communication between frantically busy parents and their children but are also a tool that many educators and coaches rely on to keep students engaged. As a result, most private schools allow cell phones on their premises with the understanding that students must adhere to 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.

Learning Opportunities

Believe it or not, smartphones and tablets are more than just social communication hubs. Some schools have even worked mobile devices into the daily curriculum, allowing students to use their phones for school work during class. With the growing number of educational apps, it's no wonder that these devices are becoming a valuable part of the educational environment. Students today are using apps in robotics, presenting directly from their phones and sharing documents with teachers on the fly thanks to the implementation of mobile devices in school.

There are many apps to choose from, ranging from polling and testing apps to language-learning apps and math games. 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.

Boarding Schools and Cell Phones

Every student has a cell phone at home these days, and there is no exception when home is a boarding school. In fact, many boarding schools capitalize on the fact that their students are chained to their mobile devices, using them to communicate and keep track of students. Many boarding schools use apps that allow students to check in and out as they come and go from different buildings and activities, and leave campus. These apps often feed a dashboard accessible by teachers, administrators and dorm parents, helping the adults on campus ensure the safety and well-being of students. 

Cell Phones Provide Connections with Parents 

Any parent will tell you that their worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is. A thousand gut-wrenching scenarios run through their mind: Is my child ok? Has he or 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, we are 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!). 

The Opposing View

There is still evidence of cell phones being a distraction in school if not properly managed. Small size and inaudible, high-pitched ringtones make cell phones easy to hide and use in situations that don't warrant them. It is a proven fact that adults over 30 cannot hear some of the high-pitched ringtones that 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, some teachers and administrators want cell phones banned from school, however, studies have also shown that educating students on proper usage and providing strict guidelines with consequences for infractions will actually benefit students and prepare them for life after high 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

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Robert. "Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Kennedy, Robert. (2020, August 27). Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools? Retrieved from Kennedy, Robert. "Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).