Cell Phones in Class: Beneficial or Distracting?

Samantha Jones, Staff Writer

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Nowadays, many people around the world own a cellphone, teenagers included. Studies show that 88% of individuals aged 13 to 17 have access to a cell phone. The amount of high school students who own a cell phone is around 80% and as of 2015, even two-thirds of middle school students own one, too. It is also said that as of 2017, 1 in 3 students have admitted to using their phones to cheat.

More and more schools have begun allowing students to use their phones for class. According to thejournal.com, 62% of schools allow phones on school grounds but ban them in the classroom. According to usatoday.com 73% of teachers say that phones are technically banned in the classroom but are often used in the class to complete assignments.

It is common among many schools, including Mayfield Middle School, that cell phones are not to be used in class. It is also a frequent rule that students must keep their phones in a locker or they must keep them turned off. If the phone is being misused or goes off during class, the phone will be confiscated. Depending on how many previous infractions a student has had, the phone may only be kept until the end of the class or the end of the school day.  If a student has had a phone confiscated multiple times, the parent may have to come to the school to retrieve the phone.

Teachers do not have the right to search or read through anything on the phone without the owner’s consent to do so.

There are some advantages to having a cell phone in class. First, they could be useful in an emergency such as a threat, shooting, or fire by allowing students to communicate with concerned parents. Also, cell phones make it simple to do online tasks. Whether it’s quickly researching a question, engaging in a review game, collaborating with a chat tool, taking an online poll, or accessing course materials, personal devices keep learners engaged and connected.  While MMS students have access to laptops, computers, or Chromebooks to perform many of these tasks, some schools do not offer 1:1 access. Since so many students own a cell phone, the use of phones in classrooms allows students to access online tools even without school-funded resources.

Phones also offer organization for scattered kids. Students can use the calendar feature to keep track of due dates, set reminders, take pictures of class notes, or set timers to manage tasks.

Although having cellphones in class can be a good thing, there are the disadvantages as well. For example, if a student has a cell phone during a test, it can increase the likelihood of that student cheating by looking up the answers. Students have unlimited access to information on their phones, so it can be simple for students to pull out their phones discreetly and find the answers. It’s much easier to hide a phone in one’s lap than it is a laptop. Students can also cheat by texting answers or taking a picture of the test.

Another disadvantage to having phones in class is the element of distraction. It is difficult to resist the temptation to look at one’s phone, especially if a text or notification comes through.  Students feel social pressure to respond to texts right away.

Students having phones in school also increases the likelihood that social media conflicts will spill over into the school environment.

According to several students at MMS, cell phones are not a distraction to students in the classroom. It was also said during an interview with a student that listening to music while doing her work helps her focus because the music “blocks out noises and other distractions.” Another student stated that music helps him concentrate.

When asked if teachers should be allowed to confiscate a student’s phone, interviewees said that it should be allowed but only when a student is doing something disruptive or inappropriate on their cell phone–not simply because a phone is visible.

In response to the overall question, if students should be allowed to carry their cell phones with them, all students polled said yes.