Cell Phones for Students: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mar 11, 2019 by

Most classrooms have a strict no cell phone policy for a variety of reasons. Not only are they distracting but students can Google test answers, record videos, and basically spend the entire instructional time scrolling through their Facebook feeds. But are teachers too quick to judge and label all cell phone use as, well, useless? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of cell phone use for students.

Communication with Parents

Most teachers can agree that cell phone use during instructional time is a no-no, but what about outside of the classroom? Sadly, today’s world is a much more dangerous place than it used to be. School shootings, emergency evacuations, and other extenuating circumstances leave most parents in a constant state of worry. Cell phones allow students to contact their parents almost immediately in an emergency. Students can also call home if they plan on staying after school, an activity is canceled, or to ask permission to go to a friend’s house. Many older students walk home and are home alone for several hours after school. Cell phones help them stay in constant contact with their parents, which helps both parties feel more safe and secure.

Unlimited Resources

Outside of looking up test or homework answers on the internet, a variety of apps and educational websites provide students with information they wouldn’t normally access. If a student is writing a paper or completing a homework assignment outside of school with no computer or Wi-Fi access, they can turn to their smartphone for assistance. They can also turn to their note or memo pads to jot down ideas or information they need for a later assignment. Smartphone cameras are also great for collecting data and information. Checking emails or homework assignments is also made easy using a cell phone. Simply put, having access to a smartphone with internet access wherever you are is convenient.

Learning Technology

Let’s face it. We live in a world run by technology. Students are given laptops in grammar school, obtain their degrees completely online, and possess the ability to communicate with other students across the globe. Navigating a smartphone is just one more step in the direction of mastering technology. A skill that was once insignificant is becoming a requirement on most job applications. Young learners know basic cell phone skills like how to sync contacts, Facetime friends, and download new apps. But on the education side of things, students are quickly learning how to access academic websites for webinars, discussion boards, and submitting homework assignments. And being able to do so from a smartphone means less missed assignments or confusion, since students can quickly send an email or message to their teacher for clarification.

Risk of Improper Use

No one is foolish enough to think that students are spending all their cell phone time watching webinars, completing homework assignments or performing research. When cell phone use becomes an addiction or is used for more bad than good, it can negatively impact a student’s academic performance. Some students become so engrossed with their social media accounts that it limits their in person interactions. This can cause a breakdown in communication and social skills. Students obsessed with social media are also at risk for low self-esteem and bullying. But social media isn’t the only risk of too much time on smartphones. Students can become obsessed with gaming apps and texting as well. Anything that takes away from concentrating on school work or real life interactions is a slippery slope toward isolation and poor grades.

Blurred Boundaries

The ability to contact your teacher directly if you have a question or need clarification about an assignment can be a very positive thing. But in some cases, the lines between student and teacher become blurred. If a teacher provides their cell phone number to students, it opens the door to inappropriate contact. Students and teachers should never become friends on social media or socialize outside of school. This is immoral and unethical on so many levels. Not to mention, it skews the students view of their role in the relationship. The teacher is no longer viewed as an authority figure but instead a friend. If this carries over into the classroom, the educator can be accused of nepotism.

There are currently 5 billion people with cell phones across the globe. Which means there has to be some positives to their existence and use. But when it comes to students, using their smartphones is often about the right time and place. It’s also about using them for the right reasons. While you can’t always monitor what they’re doing, you can encourage them to do the right thing and lead by example.

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