Most of today’s youth don’t know what life is like without a cellphone.
Just last month, Herb Scribner of Deseret News National wrote the average American child gets his or her first cellphone at the age of 6, and it only goes up from there. A survey reported on by Education Week found that 51 percent of all high school students carry a smartphone with them to class everyday.
With nearly every school-aged child in America owning a mobile phone, the debate surrounding the role a phone plays within a classroom continues to cause controversy.
Earlier this week, researchers from Louisiana State University and the University of Texas found that when schools implemented a cellphone ban across campus, student test scores increased by as much as 6 percent.
“We found that the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days,” said the authors of the study, as reported by The Conversation.
The study surveyed schools in Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester, England. School officials were asked about their unique mobile phone policies that had been implemented since 2001, and then such policies were compared to student achievement levels, based off of national exam results.
Interestingly, no school surveyed in 2001 had implemented a cellphone ban. However, by 2007, 50 percent of the schools in the study had decided to ban cellphones. And in 2012, 98 percent of schools weren’t allowing cellphones on school campus.
Although the survey was conducted in England, where nearly 91 percent of teenagers own a mobile phone, implications of the research should resonate in America, where 78 percent of teens own one.
But lately, the discussion of banning cellphones in American schools has been touchy.
In 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg implemented a statewide cellphone ban in classrooms, which affected more than 1 million school children, and the ban wasn’t popular. Bloomberg heard complaints from numerous disgruntled parents and students, while others took him to court over the policy.
Despite the outrage, the Department of Education defended the ban, insisting that cellphones led students to cheat in class, participate in drug deals and share inappropriate pictures.
However, earlier this year, current mayor, Bill de Blasio and the New York Department of Education lifted the ban, saying principals should now tailor their cellphone rules to both parents and teachers.
“Parents should be able to call or text their kids,” said de Blasio to wnyc.org.
While many teachers say cellphones provide too much of an enticing distraction for students, others argue that cellphones can be useful in the classroom, like for taking notes or doing research, but they need to be monitored.
“Many students already have their own trusted devices, which they are comfortable using, it makes sense to use them in education rather than a machine that belongs to school which they leave behind at the end of the day,” wrote Carol Rainbow, a retired teacher on The Guardian. “It is crucial though, before anyone gets hands on their own mobile device in school, that the school infrastructure is made secure, that policies regarding e-safety are in place and the teachers are trained and confident about how the mobile devices can be used to enhance curriculum.”
Dave Stovenour, assistant principal at Dundalk High School in Baltimore, agrees that more mobile device training is necessary for both teachers and their students. To him, banning cellphones isn’t the answer — teaching children when to use them is.
“We realized that our students also need to be taught appropriate use,” he said to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. “Now, use in the classroom is still off-limits, but in the cafeteria or hallways, use is allowed. When students enter a classroom, they are greeted with a reminder about appropriate use. We have seen a drop in disruptions related to electronic devices, and parents have welcomed this more relaxed policy.”
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