Last week’s blog discussed the facts that 1. Mobile devices seem to be here to stay. 2. They are addictive for young and old alike. 3. They cause serious distraction...
The Call on Cell Phone Policies in Schools – Part 2
Last week’s blog discussed the facts that 1. Mobile devices seem to be here to stay. 2. They are addictive for young and old alike. 3. They cause serious distraction and social interaction challenges. 4. They increase bullying.
Before diving into the various cell phone policies in schools which schools can take towards mobile devices, I’d like to further discuss the addiction factor. A 2011 study found that removing a Smartphone from a high-user for 24 hours resulted in both physical and mental withdrawal symptoms such as fidgeting, feelings of isolation and anxiety. The journal of Computers in Human Behavior found that 9 out of 10 undergraduate students admitted to experiencing “phantom vibration syndrome”-a feeling that your phone is vibrating when it isn’t. Additionally, people felt isolated in their own company and had a deep feeling of missing “what was going on outside” when away from their phone. Quiet, down-time seems to be a thing of the past.
Furthermore, although many schools find that students are spending too much of their day texting instead of concentrating on their studies, when a “no phone” policy is in place, parents tend to complain that they are unable to reach their children in an easy fashion. Additionally, educators note an increase in cheating since the advent of mobile devices. Students can text answers or even photograph tests for the incoming class. Another worry is being able to prevent pictures from being taken in locker rooms and bathrooms.
These are serious issues which need to be considered when establishing a school mobile device strategy. What school policies for cell phone use can be realistic and responsible? There are a large range of choices. We’ll explore a few.
- Prohibition on cell phone use during school hours and on school premises except in an emergency. As everyone’s definition of an “emergency” is different, rules need to be very clearly defined.
- Phones are checked in upon arrival. Some schools have the phones handed-in to the office or homeroom teacher. Others use local stores at a rate of $1 a day for the “privilege” of having their phone held for them. This can amount to a large chunk of change, especially for lower income families.
- Cell phones can be on school premises in locked containers, such as in lockers or backpacks and must be turned off.
- Cell phones can be used before and after classes as well as during lunch and recess. This is seen as a compromise for those who might be going through “cell phone withdrawal”. On the other hand, these are often the main times for students to build social skills, make real friendships and get some physical activity. If students spend their outside-of-class time mostly on their phone, the chances of making up these losses are slim.
- Mobile devices are embraced as educational tools-often far superior in speed and capabilities to school computers. Forward thinking schools provide training on the permissible uses of cell phones on school grounds and proper cell phone etiquette.
No matter what policy your school adopts, there are two other factors to consider. The first is that schools should be sure to limit their liability when it comes to mobile devices. They should not be responsible for lost, stolen or broken phones. In addition, they should remove themselves from responsibility if unauthorized calls are made or inappropriate texts or photos are sent from school grounds.
Secondly, disciplinary policies need to be clear and known. Will phones be confiscated for broken rules? For how long? (an hour, a day, a week, a year) Can detention be given or even suspension for the misuse of a mobile device?
On a positive note, a high school teacher named Jamie Williams has embraced the wonders of Smartphone’s in his classroom. He teaches his students how to take advantage of the amazing potential of their phones.
As a teacher of art and technology, he might have his students use photos they’ve taken on their cell phones as the basis for their paintings. “During tests, Williams allows his students to use both their handwritten notes and those they’ve saved on their phones.” He encourages his students to make large-scale mosaics of student life created solely from their cell phone images. Williams feels that if adults are lost without their phones, how and why should we force students to do without their phones?
It’s an interesting consideration. What do you think about mobile devices in schools? What should cell phone policies in schools be? What policies has your school implemented both successfully and not so much? We’d like to hear from you.