Some Schools Bringing Back Cell Phone Bans

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Some Schools Bringing Back Cell Phone Bans

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As recently as last school year, certain school districts have considered the negatives of cell phone use by students during the school day. In particular, the districts have considered how student cell phone use influences exam scores. Those most positively influenced by the phone ban were the lowest achieving students, whose test scores went up by a total of 6 percent when bans were put into effect. Most researchers and educators involved in this debate have agreed that cell phones are problematic to a healthy learning environment, as students are more likely to be more focused on their phones than on their school lessons.

In Canada, a school cell phone ban was put into effect which prohibited all cell phone use on school grounds. After four years, the ban was reversed, and was instead followed by very strict cell phone policies. According to Canada Research Chair on Technology in Education Thierry Karsenti, schools with flexible policies, with firm boundaries to educate students on proper use of phones, got better results.

Of course, students will always have the counter-argument that they absolutely need their phones in case of an emergency wherein they would need to contact parents. This was the case with concerned parents who had sparked a lawsuit with schools in New York City, where strong bans had taken place. These parents argued that it was ultimately their right to allow their children to have their phones while at school.

Although it seemed to be a valid argument to many, they didn’t progress too far in the debate as the bans are still in place. With these arguments comes a compromise to be made to allow satisfaction for concerned parents as well as school officials. Some compromises suggested would allow for students to store their phones in lockers or their vehicles, or have their phones completely turned off during the day.

Olympic Heights students and faculty members are able to see both the pros and cons of students having their cell phones on hand during class time. Freshman Ryan Marcus-Maritato says, “The ban of cellphones would help students concentrate more, but in case of an emergency it is better for us to have our phones.”

Sophomore Nathalie Calderon says, “We should keep our phones on campus as it is helpful for access to information and for apps like google classroom, which we use on a daily basis.”

Spanish teacher Ms. Margaret Sclafani says, “As a teacher it would be great to see students without cellphones in class to focus, but as a mother I would want my daughter to have a phone during the day to stay in touch.”

Junior Gabriella Bradford-Julianna adds, “My progress and education during school would be the same with or without my phone, but for many classes my books are loaded online so it is a big help.”

A 2015 Pew Research Center survey showed that 73 percent of U.S. teens own or have access to a cell phone. Of those, 92 percent go online daily, and one in four claims to be online “almost constantly.” With these percentages, it seems that too much access to technology can start to have negative effect on learning and study habits.

On the other hand, mobile devices can be quite handy at school. For example, there are apps for presenting or preparing graphs. As well, students can organize notes, use a calculator to figure out a difficult problem, and even replace a heavy textbook. Dr. Vincent Cho of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College in Massachusetts says, “If we have these devices, we can do a lot of things around student interests and projects.”

Still, cell phones appear to be a constant distraction in class as students tend to text or update social media instead of paying attention to lessons or doing their classwork. “You are putting yourself at a disadvantage when you are actively engaging in social media rather than what is going on,” warns Jeffrey Kuznekoff, who studies communications at Miami University.

This was the case for schools in Mansfield City, Ohio, where bans on cell phones during the school day have been completely enforced since the beginning of last year. Going into the ban, Superintendent Brian Garverick felt that parents would support the policy as the district added some tweaks and advancements to better suit the environment. “I’m sure they will support it, understanding what social media can do in terms of disrupting an individual’s life,” Garverick said. “If we can remove that during the school day, and we provide technology for their education, that just leads to better things.”

It is important for schools to be mostly distraction free and allow students a safe place to be when school is in session. As more and more school districts implement bans or stricter cell phone policies, it raises the question, “Will Palm Beach County Schools follow suit?”

To be clear, there is no indication that the school district is currently considering such a move, but should they?


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