Cell Phone Bans in School – Pros and Cons
By Paul Langhorst April 2, 2012
Student use of mobile phones during school hours is getting a fresh look and the results are surprising.
According to an article by Kevin Thomas, published in T.H.E Journal, 24% of K-12 schools ban cell phones completely, while 62% allow them on school grounds, but with use restrictions.
The data in this article comes from a April 2010 Pew Research study on students and mobile phone use, so these numbers are probably in need of update, but the underlying theme is the same – like it or not, cell phones are present on campus and are taken to school by students with parent approval.
As a parent, I encourage my high school junior to take her phone to school, but not to use it during classes. She drives to and from school daily, so having the phone handy is a big comfort. In one memorable instance I was taking her to school on a late start day due to snow and ice and was stuck in a horrible traffic jam. My daughter learned via a classmate’s “tweets” that the start was pushed back even further due to the massive traffic jams due to ice that day.
The pros of a student having a phone at school, can often be outweighed by the cons. Some pros include:
- Immediate access to parents in an emergency
- Independent class-room level access from the outside world during power failure, loss of phone system, emergencies, or lock down conditions.
- Access to information (via smartphone and internet)
- Additional security during before, after school hours
- Students can help spread necessary information to each other and parents/guardians
- Growing body of content and curriculum designed to integrate phone use
The cons include:
- Distractions of social media access
- Distractions from texting – some kids are addicted!
- Unwanted or premature dispersal of information to parents, i.e. texting parents about being on lockdown before all facts are known.
- Continuation of cyberbullying episodes during school hours
Cell phones are the soda shops of the 21st century. Just like kids in the 50’s hung out at soda shops after school, today they hang out on their phones – accessing social media sites, following each others tweets and staying connected with texting. Trying to take them away now, would be like turning back the social clock. Cell phones, smart phones and an increasing array of mobile devices are here to stay. Their use by kids will only grow, reaching down to younger and younger ages. One of our St. Louis area clients recently shared that “half of their third graders now carry cell phones,” which means 8-9 year old students!
Like it or not, cell phones are here to stay in school. The better solution is try to figure out how to control and integrate their use as opposed to banning them outright.