Should Smartphones Be Allowed in the Classroom?

Like it or not, there’s no denying the fact that we live in a device-driven world (specifically, a smartphone-driven world.) When we need to know what time it is, we look at our cell phones. When we want to communicate with friends, we send a quick text. When we want to check the weather or find out what’s happening in the world, we do a quick search on our phone. A smartphone is a tool that entertains us, performs complex tasks for us, and allows us to be exponentially more productive and efficient.

Adults and kids have become so conditioned to checking their phones that bringing them into the classroom has become an issue.

More Younger Kids Now Own Smartphones

While there is no reliable conclusive data indicating exactly how many or what percentage of U.S. kids have their own cell phones, you can simply observe students waiting at their school bus stop, waiting in line or simply existing anywhere to discover how pervasive cell phone use is among children. And, according to a 2016 survey conducted by the research firm Influence Central, it begins early; the study found that most kids get their first smartphone at age 10.

Helpful or Harmful?

Considering that it’s a safe bet that the majority of kids in any given high school, middle school, and even elementary school have a smartphone, educators face an interesting dilemma. Should they embrace cell phones as learning tools? Or should they ban them from the classroom? Compelling arguments can be made either way!

Smartphones literally put a world of information at students’ fingertips. In seconds, they can search for information and find what they need. Most include calculators, which students can use to solve math problems. There are benefits to that easy access to information and drawbacks (ie: potential cheating and taking academic “shortcuts.”) Smartphones have cameras that students can use to snap photos of homework assignments … and to send Snapchats to their friends. Text messaging allows students to communicate with their parents, and to communicate with each other instead of paying attention in class—which goes hand in hand with the number one reason why educators don’t like having smartphones in the classroom: They can be a huge distraction.

A Challenging Dilemma

Considering that the parents of students who own phones have spent significant money on those phones, it can be controversial to tell them their kids are not allowed to bring them to school. That’s why many schools have cell-phone policies that are a bit of a compromise. And, some schools or teachers schedule “device days” where students are allowed to use their phones in class (the period after final exams and before holiday break, for example).

Cell-phone policies run the gamut from offering voluntary classroom “cell phone caddies,” having mandatory cell phone collection boxes, and awarding students whom the teacher believes has made the best use of his or her phone during class. Even teachers who do allow phones in the classroom typically have strict policies involving silencing the ringer, not making or receiving phone calls, and prohibiting use of phones during exams and quizzes.

So … what do you think? Do your kids have cell phones? If so, what age were they when they got a phone? Do you think cell phones at school are more of a help or a hindrance? Let us know in the comments section.

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