The debate about whether children should have cell phones at school or not arose with a heated fever in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings. During this incident, children from assorted locations within the school utilized their cell phones to contact emergency personnel. In fact, the first caller to alert authorities about the situation was a student hiding in the building using his cell phone. Chances are many lives were saved due to his use of this technological device.
Today, however – the debate is still on. In the United States, the Federal Board of Education has left the decision for students to utilize cell phones during school hours, up to individual school districts. And around 74% of all school districts report that they have rules and regulations in place which prohibit children from using cell phones in class or on school grounds. Most require that any cell phones brought to school remain turned off, in lockers or backpacks for the entirety of school hours. And should the rules not be followed, school personnel are allowed to confiscate the devices indefinitely.
These rules may seem harsh to some, but school officials believe they are in place for many good reasons. The most important being that the school environment is one, first and foremost, of learning. For children with such access to all sorts of media that is available on cell phones; they can be seen as one of the highest educational distractions in children from middle school through high school. If rules did not exist about whether they can be brought to school or not, and when they can be used – young students would likely not have the self-control nor discipline to make good decisions. And teachers, who are already fighting against social distractions and behavioral issues, would be threatened even further from ringing cell phones and students more concerned with texting than learning.
Essentially, the ideas behind the bans are that there is a time and a place for cell phones. Just like in the olden days when notes passed between students during class were taken by teachers and read to the class to prove the point of distraction, cell phones are simply the newest form of ‘passing notes.’
With bullying laws and enforcement being even more stringent in today’s school environment, cell phones are often seen as another easy way for students to target one another during school. Because most cell phones carried by students also have access to the internet and social media sites, they can be used for bullying other kids as well as for cheating on tests in the classroom.
Another good reason to ban cell phones in school is because they also pose another form of responsibility on school systems that already seem heavily burdened. Teens are notorious for stealing one another’s belonging, and cell phones can be another target for sticky fingered teens. This one however, can have criminal implications, which the school systems feel they should not be involved in. By banning the phones to begin with, parents and children take the burden of responsibility upon themselves, should a cell phone be damaged or stolen during school hours.
Certainly, the times are changing. Today, nearly 90% of all teenagers – from varied backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions have cell phones. But are they really necessary in school? Some advocates to allowing the phones in school forget that just a decade ago, people made out just fine without having the use of a telephone during school hours. If they needed to phone a parent, or needed to use a phone, they simply went to the office and utilized a school phone under administrative supervision. Today, each and every school in the United States is fully equipped with a functioning phone system that provides ease of use for students that may need to use a phone.
Of course, there are the arguments that allowing students to keep their cell phones at school is helpful during times of disaster. What if there is an electrical black-out or emergency at the school that disables or ties up the schools phones. A fire at a school can cause mass confusion among students, which the use of cell phones could in actuality help control. Plus, since parents and children today are busier than ever, many parents feel that giving their child a cell phone provides them with a sense of relief and safety. And situations like one that occurred last year in a Nevada school where a female student was being raped by another student in a remote area of the school, and used her cell phone to obtain help – can make the reasons to allow phones at school seem even more relevant.
Because many school districts see both sides of the debate about whether cell phones should be allowed in schools, most have rules that allow kids to bring them – but that don’t allow them to be utilized during instructional hours. The truth is that the educational system is intricately designed to provide equal opportunity for learning and education during school hours. Not socialization. Banning the use of the phones does not violate any personal rights, and is perhaps the best thing that school districts can do to protect themselves from numerous distractions during the day. Certainly, they have their uses – and they can be a solid safety net for students to use in the event of an emergency. But barring an emergency, children need to realize that their number one priority at school is learning.