Most schools allow students to bring their phones inside the premises, but require them to turn off the gadget in class as teachers attribute classroom distraction and disruption on the use of cell phones. Lenhart (2010) attributes this to the “widespread availability of unlimited texting plans [which] has transformed communication patterns of American teens, many of whom now conduct substantial portions of their daily conversations with their friends via texting”. These days, students communicate primarily through texting and cell phone calls, thus, students spend a huge amount of their time using the gadget regardless of situation and time. Akers (n.d.) argues that despite having policies in place with regard to the use of cell phones in the classroom, including bringing of the gadget in school, in the end, schools leave the decision on how to handle such situations to their local school districts because of the defiance they receive from both students and parents (1). As a result, many schools succumb to demands and implement more lenient policies. Lenhart (2010) further asserts that these policies usually implement a “no cell phone” policy during a school day or permission to bring cell phones provided that phones are turned off during school hours (2). Not following the policies result to confiscation of the unit and returned towards the end of the week, while a second offense could result to longer confiscation time. However, what school principals consider as a factor that weakens the implementation of such policies is when exceptions are granted to certain individuals due to parental pressures for policy exception. This leads parents and guardians to think that everyone is entitled to the same treatment (2).
According to Lenhart (2010), students are subjected to disciplinary action due to abuse of the policies. Faculty members experience receiving false bomb threat calls coming from students’ numbers or are used to harass other students (2). In addition, considering that cell phone companies pack the units with various features, teachers feel that all those new features add to the distraction students experience in their learning environment.
What are the common problems teachers see as points of concern when bringing cell phones in schools? Lenhart (2010) points out that “bullying and harassing other students with unwanted voice or text messages” (2) is one of the reasons cell phones should be banned in school. This act could lead to the victim’s embarrassment and instead of adjusting to the situation in school; the student could suffer from depression and other mental health disorders. Opposed members of society also cite inappropriate picture-taking of classmates and consequently, distributing those pictures also constitute bullying and harassment especially when it results to embarrassment of the affected party. In other localities, small-time gangs were said to communicate with other gangs in another district with the use of a cell phone. The same units can also be used as bomb detonator, which could further add chaos to school concerns. Finally, during school emergencies, school officials resent the fact that parents no longer follow protocol once their children call during emergency situations, and instead, go directly to their child’s classrooms (2). While some of the reasons are also valid, the problem lies in the interpretation and implementation of the policies such that not all terms used to determine whether a violation has occurred, were previously defined clearly.
Therefore, what are the points of argument of advocates of bringing and using of cell phone in the classrooms?
First is the educational benefit of using cell phones in school. Cell phones can help students with their assignments and research work. These days, the economic slump that certain members of society experience has also rubbed off in schools, especially with the unavailability of learning materials students’ are supposed to use in class. When schools lack the necessary tools, books, and readings, among others, the quality of education also diminishes. However, with the emergence of technology and its continued upgrades and developments, it is inevitable for some schools to implement the use of cell phones as another learning medium for students (Obringer and Coffey 41). This is because the Internet allows for numerous learning sources, which students can easily access with their cell phones. And if the fear is the cell phone will be used by students for cheating, this notion is incorrect because when students are taught about the use of cell phones in schools as a medium for better learning, then students will have a new orientation about when to use the gadget, how to use the gadget, and why it is used in schools premises as a learning tool (Higgins).
In addition, the National School Safety and Security Services (NSSS) recognizes that as times are changing, even the methods of communication of students are also evolving. Emailing, texting, and instant messaging are tools that students can also use for learning and which are readily available in various formats and applications. Therefore, espousing and recommending the banning of cell phones in schools is unrealistic and a backward approach to learning, aside from the reality that students will bring cell phones to schools anyway regardless of the policies. What schools can do is to outline their policies on the use and purpose of the cell phones so that students are properly guided (NSSS).
As a learning tool, cell phones help teachers fill in the gaps of learning when the computer laboratory cannot accommodate the number of students who need access to the Internet at a given time. Thus, those with automatic Internet access can easily carry on with the tasks at hand when they have a cell phone that is Internet-ready. In cases when teachers have to supervise students’ interview sessions with prospective employers, then the teacher can simply listen in to the conversation and observe the dynamics of the interview (Johnson and Kritsonis 4).
Second, cell phones are necessary student gadgets that are available to students for safety reasons. In cases of emergency situations, having a cell phone on hand allows a student to contact the parents or guardians immediately. In addition, it also gives the parents the peace of mind that although they are physically away from their children, they can easily contact them when the need arises. For instance, with the 1999 Columbine High School attack and the terrorist attacks in America, communication was immediately established between some parents and their children. However, while it is true that cell phones could also pose danger in emergency situations such as bomb attacks (as cell phones are known to be used to detonate bombs, too), ensuring that students, parents, and school personnel are properly informed about the risks of using cell phones in emergency situations can help alleviate fears among concerned individuals (NSSS). They must be properly educated about the impact on security of their actions and how it can sow fear and spread incorrect information about the real security situation.
Third, cell phones can help prepare students about proper etiquette when using cell phones. In time, students will join the workforce and will be exposed to more gadgets that they can use for communication. As early as their student days, students must be taught about the purpose of a cell phone and how it affects communication with potential clients or customers in the future (NSSS).
Fourth, the goal is to make the students independent and responsible users of such devices, aside from equipping with proper life skills to survive as an adult. Therefore, instead of punishing students for bringing and using cell phones in schools, a much better approach is to educate them about the pros and cons of using the cell phone. Decriminalizing the use of cell phones in schools only makes students defy the policies even more, but when they are informed and aware about the consequences of their actions, students tend to act reasonably and responsibly (NSSS). Moreover, students feel a greater sense of responsibility when they know that the administration trusts them.
Fifth, using cell phones in the classroom enhances learning motivation for students. When regular lessons integrate cell phone usage in lessons, learning becomes more fun and appealing to them, which results to more interest in varied subjects such as music, literature, and mathematics. This is because applications can now be downloaded from the Internet that makes learning easier for students. In addition, considering that the world is now highly and closely wired to one another, and with students’ natural adeptness in technology, they become more interested with their lessons when they use technological gadgets in schools. Because of this, teachers are highly advised to think of creative ways to incorporate technology in their lessons. This way, students become interested in their subjects and learn to be more proactive in understanding their lessons (NSSS).
Sixth, Internet-enabled cell phones allow students to perform quick researches instead of going to libraries or using a laptop or computer. Unlike in previous years when students had to physically visit libraries in order to do their research papers, students now have the luxury of information right on their finger tips. Just knowing what keywords to search will enable them to view the various search results that apply to what they are looking for. This is beneficial to both the students and the teacher as it saves them time when finding the required information about a topic. On the students’ part, their researching skills are further enhanced because of related searches that appear alongside their search results. In addition, students learn to decipher which among the thousands of results best satisfy the search requirements. Because of this, the confidence level of the student also increases, which could result to increased participation in class discussions and activities. On the other hand, this makes it easier for the teacher because of the varied supplemental reading materials available online, the educator can easily assign materials to be used to further the students’ knowledge on certain subjects.
Seventh, using cell phones in schools is cost efficient, and thus, benefits the academic institutions greatly. Currently, schools have began adopting the Bring Your Own device (B.Y.O.D.) method, which allows students to bring their own gadgets to school instead of the company investing in computer units that students can use. This is a major breakthrough in the education because if before, the concern was whether all students have access to the internet and to an individual unit, the answer is yes, because research found out that more students have their own cell phones. Using this learning method, students have steady and ready access to various online materials that will help them in school, thus, use of text books is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Many of the books can be accessed online, which saves the school thousands of dollars that would have been spent to purchase text books for the students.
Akers, Kennedy. “Student cell Phones Should Be Prohibited in K-12 Schools.” N.d. Web. 7 January 2014.
Higgins, Josh. “More Schools Use Cell Phones as a Learning Tool.” USA Today. 2013. Web. 8 January 2014.
Johnson, Clarence, and Kritsonis, William Allan. “National School Debate: Banning Cells Phones on Public School Campuses in America.” National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journals 25(4), 2007.
Lenhart, Amanda. “Teens and Mobile Phones.” Pew Internet & American Life Project. 2010. Web. 8 January 2014.
National School Safety and Security Services [NSSSS]. “Cell Phones and Text Messaging in Schools.” N.d. Web. 8 January 2014.
Obringer, S. John, and Coffey, Kent. “Cell Phones in American High Schools: A National Survey.” The Journal of Technology Studies, 41-47.