Should cell phones be allowed in schools? It’s a hot debate to dial into if you’re a parent, teacher, or student. The truth is that cell phones already are in most schools so in this article we’ll explore the pros and cons of such fact.
It’s impossible to escape the truth that modern life is dictated by screens. The question ultimately comes down to how schools should handle the ever-looming presence of screens.
While some people see cell phones as distractions in the classroom, others argue that they are necessities for helping tomorrow’s generation learn.
Take a look at the pros and cons in the argument over allowing cell phones in school environments.
Table of Contents
- Advantages of Allowing Cell Phones in Schools
- Advantage #1: Easier Parental Communication
- Advantage #2: Communication During Emergencies
- Advantage #3: Organization and Notetaking
- Advantage #4: Access to Research Beyond the Confines of the School Library
- Advantage #5: Opportunities for Social Learning and Collaboration
- Advantage #6: The Potential to Nurture an Environment of Trust and Independence
- Some Disadvantages of Allowing Cell Phones in Schools
- Disadvantage #1: Not Everyone Can Afford a Cell Phone
- Disadvantage #2: Cell Phones Can Encourage Cheating
- Disadvantage #3: Cell Phones Can Facilitate Bullying
- Disadvantage #4: Cell Phones Can Be Distracting
- Disadvantage #5: Excessive Technology Use Can Decrease Well-Being
- Disadvantage #6: Cell Phones Can Provide Access to Mature Content
- Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools in the United States?
- What Percentage of Schools Allow Cell Phones in the US?
- Final Thoughts: Is Allowing Cell Phones in Schools a Good Idea?
Advantages of Allowing Cell Phones in Schools
Is there anything to be gained from allowing cell phones in school? Plenty of people around the country think there is. Take a look at some of the main pros of allowing cell phones in schools.
Advantage #1: Easier Parental Communication
Cell phones allow students to stay connected to their parents throughout the school day. This can be essential when children want to speak directly with their parents about urgent problems related to health, mental health, and bullying.
In many cases, simply knowing that they can reach out to their parents makes students feel less anxious during school hours.
Parents also enjoy the benefit of knowing where their children are after school without the need to spend time communicating with school staff.
Many parents are in favor of allowing cell phones in the classroom because they use GPS tracking apps to keep tabs on their children.
Finally, a cell phone allows a student access to emergency contact information that can be useful if they become sick or injured while at school.
Advantage #2: Communication During Emergencies
Allowing students to have cell phones rapidly increases response times for emergencies. In many cases, phones capable of dialing out are only located in administrative offices.
This can make it impossible for students to report emergency situations that require responses from police, the fire department, or ambulances.
Advantage #3: Organization and Notetaking
Many students today keep their “entire lives” on their phones. Allowing them to bring their cell phones to school ensures that they can update their calendars with important information about assignment deadlines, tests, or school activities.
In addition, many students use their phones to take notes during class. Research shows that more than 40% of students report using a smartphone at least twice a week to complete schoolwork.
Advantage #4: Access to Research Beyond the Confines of the School Library
Today’s curious minds rely on the “hive mind” of the Internet to access data and information. Having the ability to research topics related to what’s being covered in school allows students to expand their minds.
In fact, having access to online research can be critical when students are working on homework and research projects during study hall periods.
Advantage #5: Opportunities for Social Learning and Collaboration
The classroom extends to online environments. Cell phones allow students to work on group projects more easily.
They provide easy sharing and collaboration that keeps everyone “in the loop.” In addition, classmates can share information regarding topics discussed in the classroom even after class is over.
Advantage #6: The Potential to Nurture an Environment of Trust and Independence
Making cell phones “legal” in school helps to foster trust and independence among students. When cell phones are forbidden, students get the message that they aren’t trustworthy enough to have access to their own property.
They also must go through school staff whenever they need to communicate with their parents. Allowing cell phones in schools empowers students to use their phones to access educational apps, get quick answers to research questions, record any negative events that take place during the school day, and reach out to parents or guardians for assistance.
In addition, a situation where cell phones are allowed encourages students and teachers to work together to create policies that ensure phones don’t cause distractions.
Some Disadvantages of Allowing Cell Phones in Schools
Many people are in favor of banning cell phones in school. They feel that past generations thrived in school settings without the need for this intrusive piece of technology. Take a look at some of the main cons of allowing cell phones in schools.
Disadvantage #1: Not Everyone Can Afford a Cell Phone
Not every student will have a cell phone. This can create a disparity between the “haves” and “have nots” on a school campus.
For educators, there is a real concern that integrating personal cell phone use into the classroom can create educational achievement gaps.
Disadvantage #2: Cell Phones Can Encourage Cheating
Unrestricted cell phone use in schools can make cheating easier. There are many ways that this can happen.
One is that students will access information using their phones during a test. In addition, students can potentially text answers back and forth during tests.
Finally, a student may be motivated to snap photos of a test as a way to make money by selling snapshots of tests to students.
Disadvantage #3: Cell Phones Can Facilitate Bullying
While cell phones can keep students socially connected in a positive way, they can also encourage negative communications.
A student will have no place of refuge from bullying if peers are exchanging messages, posts, and photos all day long.
Roughly 15% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 report that they have experienced “digital” bullying. One of the most common forms of bullying involves spreading false information about a person using texts and social media.
Disadvantage #4: Cell Phones Can Be Distracting
While much is made of the way cell phones open up worlds of research and information for students, the fact remains that a cell phone can be a major source of distraction for a student.
Cell phones are portals to games, streaming apps, entertainment websites, social media, messaging apps, and much more.
Disadvantage #5: Excessive Technology Use Can Decrease Well-Being
School can be a valuable setting for disconnecting from technology while interacting with the “real world.”
Multiple studies have found that an increase in use of a mobile phone can result in negative psychological consequences.
This includes higher rates of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and exhaustion. In addition to decreasing overall well-being, the negative effects of technology use may also decrease academic ability.
Disadvantage #6: Cell Phones Can Provide Access to Mature Content
One reason why many educators are in favor of banning cell phones in school is that they do not want to be responsible for “policing” the digital activity of students while on campus.
A cell phone opens up a world of mature content. Unfortunately, this creates a situation where minors can be exposed to adult content while on school grounds. This can create serious legal issues for students, parents, and school staff.
Are Cell Phones Allowed in Schools in the United States?
The answer varies by school district. While most districts allow cell phones in schools, most have policies that phones must be left in lockers or bags during instruction.
At the state level, only California has enacted a law that allows school districts or charter schools to limit or prohibit the use of smartphones during school hours. Arizona, Maine, Maryland, and Utah all attempted to enact similar laws that eventually failed.
What Percentage of Schools Allow Cell Phones in the US?
Restrictions on cell phones in school are actually trending downward. According to data released in a report from the U.S. Department of Education in 2019, 65.8% of schools have rules prohibiting the use of cell phones.
This figure is down from something around 90% of schools banning or limiting cell phone use just a decade ago.
Final Thoughts: Is Allowing Cell Phones in Schools a Good Idea?
The question over allowing cell phones in the classroom is one of the most complicated issues facing public education today.
Both parents and educators recognize the safety benefits of allowing students access to phones while they are on school grounds.
However, it’s impossible to deny that cell phones come with their own risks involving bullying, access to troubling content, and other issues.
Ultimately, this is an issue that can only be solved through collaboration between parents, educators, and students.
For many, the idea of banning cell phones from schools at this point is an impossible task that will take massive amounts of resources for constant enforcement of rules.
The most obvious answer for many is integration of cell phones into the classroom using reasonable measures.
Many see this as an opportunity to teach students about responsible phone usage that includes using phones respectfully, recognizing when it’s time to put phones away for a while, and being responsible about sharing content.
When done the right way, the use of cell phones can help to build safer settings where children have access to more information and ideas than ever before.
However, the potential negative effects of turning schools into zones where “anything digital goes” can be devastating for students.