Cell phone use in schools has been a hotly debated topic in recent years. Between the perspectives of teachers, the needs of students, and the demands of parents who want to be able to contact their kids directly at all times, there’s no easy end in sight for the K-12 cell phone debate.
Although phones are amazing pieces of technology, capable of performing a variety of useful tasks, growing evidence shows they can also detract from learning. As a result, many countries, including France, have taken steps to ban cell phones in schools.
Let’s take a look at three reasons why many schools don’t allow phones in the classroom and then consider the future of cell phones in the education system.
1. Cell Phone Use Affects Long-Term Memory
One of the biggest reasons schools don’t allow cell phones has to do with their effects on long-term memory and student performance.
One study found that students who were distracted by texts, videos and other digital activities while taking lecture notes on their devices retained less of the information they learned and performed worse on exams, even when their short-term memory wasn’t affected.
What’s more, students in classes that allowed cell phones also performed lower even when they weren’t using their devices, potentially due to the potential for distraction.
2. Smartphones Are Designed to Hold User Attention
Smartphones also can create trouble in classrooms due to their attention-grabbing nature. Many of the apps students use, from social media to games, are engineered to keep the user’s attention.
Though certainly fun, these apps can detract from a student’s learning by pulling some of their attention away from the lesson. Some students really can’t help but check their phones during class.
Placing phones out of reach in schools may help reduce this temptation.
3. Misuse of Phones Can Affect Student Mental Health
Of course, bullying takes place both on and offline. But a significant 69 percent of teachers believe that cell phones are mostly harmful to their students’ mental health. Cyberbullying and digital self-harm could play a part in this perception.
Every school has a responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of its students. In cases where online harassment gets out of hand, a cell phone ban might be seen as a viable solution.
The Future of Cell Phones in Schools
Today, it’s pretty clear that cell phones have the potential to impact a student’s learning. However, as schools enforce phone bans, other perspectives have emerged as well.
For example, some teachers argue that allowing phones on a limited basis could enhance students’ educations. Not only is banning phone use impossible, they say, it also prevents educators from teaching about digital citizenship.
Others consider phones a useful learning tool in the classroom, especially for students with disabilities.
Whatever your viewpoint, it’s clear that schools will need to strike a better balance between allowing all phone use and banning it outright. Schools might not be able to keep phones out of their students’ hands. But they might be able to help them use technology responsibly.