Like many other U.S. states, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recently announced it wanted districts to restrict or ban cellphone usage in schools. This move will likely be unpopular with K-12 kids. Conversely, 76% of teachers said phones are a distraction. However, nearly as many educators often add phone usage to lesson plans. One could conclude that teachers are on the fence about in-class cell phone usage. Parents also express mixed feelings.
Massachusetts DESE Commissioner Jeffery Riley said the department is considering matching grants of up to $1 million for districts piloting cellphone restriction policies. He further said DESE is not mandating banning or restricting phones right now. “But we’re certainly considering in piloting more of this.”
A 2012 study shows 95% of teens own cell phones. Most teens admit they bring their phones to school, regardless of the rules. One of the distractions teachers mention is that kids have difficulty turning away from their cell phone’s beckoning screen.
An 8th-grade student at Eliot K-8 Innovation School in Boston offered a noteworthy perspective on increased dependence on cell phones and other devices since COVID-19 lockdowns.
NBC News reported: “Gwyneth Zeeck said when [classes returned] to being in-person, she did not know how to make new friends. She spent most of her time with people she already knew or retreating into her cell phone.”
Furthermore, she praised her school’s cell phone ban because it forced her to start interacting with new people. Phone bans enable teachers to help students focus on “figuring out who I was beyond that screen that has been our lives for a year and a half.”
Cell Phone Extends Classroom Experience
Some teachers allow cell phones to be used in specific circumstances. They allow students to use task-related apps such as the phone’s calculator. Teachers could use educational apps to allow students extra practice related to the daily lesson.
Additionally, phone-based lessons could focus on creating digitally responsible citizens.
According to the Science and Literacy website, educators could teach students proper cell phone etiquette, which includes safety and texting. They can learn when it is okay to use their phones and when it is not. Additionally, students would learn to show respect when someone is speaking to them.
“Without this practice,” the website added, “students may not be prepared to interact with their phones and others properly in the future.”
Educators could go further and extend cell phone etiquette to safe social media practices. This would help parents who say parenting is harder than it was two decades ago. Sixty-six percent of this group cite technology as the reason why.
Further reasons to allow students to have cell phones in class include safety and improved communication with teachers and classmates using an app like Microsoft Teams. Parents receive the same texts their third through sixth-grade child does, and this is an especially helpful tool for ensuring the parents are aware of their child’s assignments and more.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Boston 10 NBC News: Massachusetts Eyes More Restrictive Student Cellphone Policies; by Sam Drysdale
Family Education: Cell Phones at School: Should They Be Allowed? By Charise Pohm Nulsen
Science and Literacy: Let’s Answer the Question, “Why Should Students Be Allowed to Use Cell Phones in Class?” With 9 Reasons; by Tim Floyd
Slick Text: How Do Parents and Teachers Really Feel About Cell Phones at School?
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