The Pros and Cons of Allowing Cell Phones in School

young boys using cell phone in school
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One of the more controversial and most discussed issues that school administrators face on a daily basis is where they stand with students and cell phones. It seems that virtually every school takes a different stance on the issue of cell phones in school. No matter what your school’s policy is, there is no way to completely keep all students from bringing their phones unless you do student searches every day, which is simply not feasible.

Administrators must evaluate the pros and cons of allowing cell phones in schools and make a decision based on their own student population.

The fact is that almost every household owns multiple cell phones.  The age of students who own a cell phone has progressively been trending downward.  It has become increasingly common for students as young as five to possess a cell phone. This generation of students are digital natives and thus experts when it comes to technology. Most of them can text with their eyes closed. They are often far more adept than most adults at using their cell phones for many purposes.

Should Cell Phones Be Banned or Embraced in Schools?

There are essentially three core stances most school districts have taken with their cell phone policies. One such policy basically bans their students from having their cell phones at all. If students are caught with their cell phones, then they can be confiscated or fined.

In some cases, the student may be suspended. Another common cell phone policy allows students to bring their cell phones to school. Students are allowed to use them during non-instructional times such as time in between classes and lunch. If students are caught with them in class, then they are confiscated from the student.

Another cell phone policy is leaning towards a shift in administrators thinking. Students are not only allowed to possess and use their cell phones, but they're also encouraged to use them in class as learning tools.  Teachers incorporate the use of cell phones regularly into their lessons for purposes such as research.

Districts that ban their students from having their cell phones or limit their usage do this for a variety of reasons. Those include not wanting it to make it easy for students to cheat, being afraid that students are sending inappropriate content, playing games, or even setting up drug deals. Teachers also feel like they are distracting and disrespectful. All of these are valid concerns and are why this is such a hot issue among school administrators.

The movement towards embracing the use of cell phones by students begins with educating students on proper use of phones at school. Administrators who are shifting towards this policy often say that they are fighting an uphill battle with a policy that has a complete or partial ban on cell phone possession and use. Administrators who have transitioned to this type of policy say that their job has become much easier and that they have far fewer issues of cell phone abuse than they did under other policies.

This type of policy also clears the way for teachers to embrace cell phones as an instructional tool. Teachers who have elected to use cell phones in their daily lessons say that their students are actively engaged and more attentive than they typically are. A cell phone can be a powerful educational tool. Smart phones have the ability to provide students with so much information at an instant that teachers cannot deny that they can be powerful tools that enhance learning in the classroom.

Many teachers are using them for a variety of purposes such as small group projects with research races or text competitions for correct answers. The website polleverywhere.com allows teachers to pose a question to their students.  The students then text their answers to a particular number that the teacher provides them.

The website collects the data and puts it into a graph, where teachers can project their answers on a smart board and discuss the answer choices with the class. The results of these activities have been very positive. Teachers, administrators, and students have all provided positive feedback. Many teachers and students would argue that it is time to move into the 21st century and begin using the resources we have available to engage our students in the learning process more readily.