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Over The Last Few Decades, The

Over the last few decades, the growing popularity of cell phones, especially among teenagers, has resulted in school administrators questioning whether they should allow students to use cell phones during class hours. Before the popularity of cell phones increased, the biggest concern of school administrators was the possibility of drug dealing; however, as the prevalence of cell phones grew, the concerns changed to fears of inappropriate use and distractions. In the early 90’s, states began banning cell phones and pagers in schools as an attempt to stop communication between drug dealers (Ballaro, Ginsburg). According to Patricia O’Neill, a Montgomery school board member, “[t]here was a view that only drug dealers and gang members had cell phones” (de Vise). Because of these views, many schools denied students access to their cell phones during school hours, but as the popularity of cell phone grew within the next two and a half decades, state legislatures started to realize the difficulty of enforcing these bans. In addition to the school administrators’ worries of communication between drug dealers, many educators pushed for the complete ban of cell phones in fear that cell phones would distract students from learning (Ballaro, Ginsburg). Given the opportunity, many teachers worry that students would use their phones throughout their classes rather than learning. Though some school officials still struggle to believe that repealing the bans on cell phones can have beneficial results, Barrington High School in Chicago, Illinois has proven their doubts as wrong. At Barrington, the administration has installed rules that tolerate cell phone use at almost anytime and anywhere, as long as the student does not disrupt the class (Rossi). According to the Dean of Students, “[t]he reason [Barrington] went to that policy was hopefully to prepare young adults to turn their phones off when they’re supposes to be off and to use them in the right way”, and the policy has been rather successful. More schools around the country should adapt policies such as that of Barrington High School in order to help students achieve their potential in their classes. The ban on cell phones during school hours not only creates safety concerns, but also hinders students from reaching their full academic potential as they gain popularity among teenagers; thus, schools should consider reevaluating their cell phone policies.

Advocates for the repeal of cell phone bans in school argue that students should be allowed to carry their phones with them throughout the day for safety reasons as well as for the convenience of the student’s parents. Due to recent events, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook or even the terrorist attack on 9/11, many people, parents especially, have brought up that point that students should have their cell phones with them while at school in case an emergency occurs. Dr. Joyce D. Kenner, Principal of Whitney Young High School, believes that a cell phone “could be an educational tool and it could be a safety tool” (Rossi). Unfortunately, emergencies do happen at schools where students must remain in their classroom under a school lockdown; therefore, school administrators should consider this when deciding whether to allow cell phone usage in their school or not. For instance, if a man with a guns invades a school, everyone in the building benefits from students having their cell phones easily accessible because at least one person with their cell phone would be able to call the police (George, Cook). In this same situation, if nobody has their cell phone with them due to the bans in place, the probability of injury increases immensely. By allowing students to carry around their cell phones, schools lower the risk of injury or death in the case of an emergency as well as put parents’ mind at ease. In addition, schools should repeal the bans on cell phones so parents and students can communicate easier about rides, after school practices, clubs, and other activities. Chief executive of Duke Ellington School of the Arts Rory Pullens explains, ‘“Our students have a long school day, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with rehearsals and performances that often run until 10 p.m., so they must be able to communicate with their parents” (de Vise). Advocators also exclaim that “vast numbers of parents and children depend on cell phones to communicate their daily whereabouts and activities, to coordinate rides and pick-ups, and to update each other on changes in schedule” and as a result, cell phones “reduce the volume of phone calls a school office staff must field” (Ballaro, Ginsburg). Considering many students participate in after school activities, it is essential that parents and children can communicate throughout the day in order to keep one another up to date about plans that may have changed. Allowing students to carry around their cell phones gives them easy access to call or text their parents if a plan changes, which, in return, gives the parents more time to make arrangements if necessary. Additionally, students will not have to go through the office secretaries to contact their parents, making both their life and the secretaries’ lives easier (Ballaro, Ginsburg). Overall, cell phones offer a substantial amount of convenience to students, parents, and facility members.

Rather than banning cell phones in schools, teachers should treat this resource as an equivalent to a laptop so a larger number of students can gain access to advancing technology which will assist them academically. If teachers grant students permission to use their cell phones at school, the students will benefit academically due to the increasing functionality of cell phones. Nowadays, many phones offer functions such as various types of calculators, English to foreign language dictionaries, Wi-Fi accessibility, a camera for pictures and videos, and in some cases can make up for the lack of technology in schools (Ballaro, Ginsburg). These functions benefit students who can then use their phones to help them with homework or studying in the place of a computer which not every student has. In fact, a study done by Pew Research in February of 2013 concludes that “73% of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers said their students use phones in the classroom to complete assignments” (Higgens). Not only do cell phones have functions that can help students succeed in class, but by integrating cell phones into curriculum, schools make it easier for students to achieve their full academic potential. If schools start authorizing the use of cell phones, students will be equipped with better technology to learn (Watters). Essentially, a smart phone is a pocket-sized computer; therefore, teachers should treat cell phones as if they are personal laptops and allow students to use them as such. Another study by Pew Research Center affirms that, “78% of teens now have cell phones” (Madden et al.). The high percentage of students who have cell phones strongly outweighs the number of students who have personal computers that they can actually bring to school. Although nine in ten students have computer access at home, 71% of those teens share the laptop or desktop they use most often with another member of their family, meaning they cannot bring a laptop to school (Madden et al.). This reality hinders their learning abilities because nowadays the advancement in technology requires its use constantly to keep on top of projects and homework. Schools should treat cell phones as laptops so that students who do not have a personal computer still have an opportunity to learn using the technology. For better or for worse, today many teenagers rely on their cell phones excessively. Instead of ignoring this fact, teachers should embrace it and adapt their teaching styles to the new technology in order to help students learn better.

Opponents of repealing bans on cell phone usage in schools lack trust in their students in whether they know how and when to use a cell phone appropriately and worry that not every student will have adequate access to such technology. A George Washington University education technology professor, Natalie Milman, suggests that cell phones ‘“can be overused and used in ways that aren’t educationally meaningful”’ (Higgens). Milman continues saying the use of cell phones ‘“has create worries about cheating, visiting inappropriate websites, sexting, or overuse”. The biggest of those worries is that students will use their cell phones to cheat during exams. This fear only grew after an incident in 2008 when 385 college students discovered their scores for an AP exam had been voided due to fact that 10 students had been found exchanging texts during the test (Ballaro, Ginsburg). Though a valid fear, school administrators should realize students will find ways to cheat without texting, regardless of any restrictions that are in place. By worrying about texting as a form of cheating, administrators are ignoring bigger problems within their schools (Higgins). At Barrington High School, where students are allowed to use their cell phones while at school, “[s]chool administrators assume [their students] are mature enough to have this privilege and are responsible enough to not abuse it (Rossi). Another argument against repealing bans on cell phones includes that not every student owns a cell phone. These opponents “raise questions about students who don’t own personal devices and schools without necessary infrastructure” (Higgins). Unfortunately, “about 80% of schools in the country don’t have the infrastructure to support digital learning, according to government data”. Although it is true that all students do not own cell phones, according to a study “even in poorer areas—most students owned a mobile device”. In addition to most students having some sort of mobile device, “President Obama announced the ConnectED initiative of June 6, which aims to connect 99% of schools around the country to broadband Internet, and the Department of Education is working to prepare teachers to use technology”. If ConnectED gains success in its plans, opponents will not have to worry about students not having access to the proper technology. Lastly, due to the economic down turn, some schools have started to encourage kids to bring their phones to school to enhance the leaning capabilities of their students at little to no cost to the school (Ballaro, Ginsburg). *Add conclusion sentence and maybe analyze the quotes a little*

Due to the large amount of students who own cell phones, school administrators should consider reevaluating their bans on cell phones, possibly even repealing them completely, because they are one of the most prevalent forms of technology of this day-and-age. Cell phones present many opportunities for communication between children and their parents that could aid in the security of the student in the case of an emergency or a change in plans. Furthermore, cell phones provide academic benefits when used properly in the classroom due to the overwhelming reliance teenagers have on their cell phones. Lastly, schools should allow cell phone usage because cell phones are extremely present in teenagers life, more so than laptops or other personal devices; therefore, more students would have the accessibility to technology which will enhance their learning. For schools that remain uncertain about whether to repeal the bans, administrators should contemplate a compromise between their current policies and a system where students can use their cell phones for academic purposes. One solution may be granting a specific time to students when they are permitted to use their cell phones freely. High school senior Amy Hemati believes ‘“If students know that there is a designed time to use cellphones students may be less tempted to use them during class hours”’ (de Vise). Many students need as short as few minutes to take a break from school and check their phones so by giving them time to do just that, schools will reduce the amount students who use their phone during class. For example, school officials should grant students permission to use their cell phones during lunch because this poses no distraction or threats to their grades (George, Cook). In conclusion, cell phones have the potential to contribute to the academic success of students if used appropriately; thus, all schools should adapt policies where cell phone usage is permitted, whether during class for academic reasons or a designated time.

Works Cited

Ballaro, Beverly and Ginsburg, Jill. "Cell Phones In School: An Overview." Points Of View: Cell Phones In School (2013): 1. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

de Vise, Daniel. "Students Crave a Break on Cellphone Ban." Washington Post (Washington, DC). 01 Jun. 2009: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2014

George, Patricia and Cook, Kathryn. “Cell Phone Regulations are not Necessary.” Points of View: Cell Phones in School (2013): 1. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 29 Mar. 2014

Higgins, Josh. "BYOT: Bring Your Own Tech to School." USA TODAY. 08 Aug. 2013: B.6. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Kedmey, Dan. “Test Scores Rise After Cell Phones Banned From Schools.” Time, Time Magazine, 12 May 2015,

Rossi, Madison. "I Can Use My Cell Phone at School." Chicago Tribune. 17 Oct. 2013: 8.

SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Schoenberg, Nara. "Is Your Smartphone Hurting Your GPA?." Chicago Tribune. 17 Mar. 2013: 24. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Watters, Audrey. “Why Schools Should Stop Banning Cell Phones, and Use Them for Learning.” 29 July 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Madden, Mary, Lenhart, Amanda, Duggan, Maeve, Cotesi, Sandra, and Gasser, Urs. “Teens and Technology 2013.” 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 April 2014.

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.