With the beep of a received email, the ring of a phone call, the buzz of a text message, or the ping of a social media notification, cell phones envelope our society in whole. Undoubtedly they’re always within arms reach if not already in our hands being used. Nevertheless, should we let phones corrupt our student's learning environment? Or should students simply minimize their screen time and power off during school hours? This has become a highly debated issue among students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Should students be allowed to use them whenever they want? Should there be rules against their use during school hours? Or maybe even their use banned completely when in class?
Perhaps it would be a positive thing for students to take a break from their undoubtedly phone-addicted lives while at school. After all, a 2016 survey showed that “50 percent of teenagers felt addicted to their phones... and 78 percent checked their phone at least hourly.” (Cell Phones…). While many advocate for the use of cell phones in schools, there are many drawbacks to using your phones, some of which may be overlooked. Phones are used incessantly by people, especially teens, so withholding from the use of this technology may not be such a terrible thing. Putting down devices while at school would be advantageous to students in a multitude of ways. Phones can create a myriad of adverse circumstances that would impact not only the students’ academic standings but various other aspects of student life. Cell phones in schools have a negative effect on a student’s academic integrity, diminish the quality and quantity of social interactions throughout the day, and have an unfavorable impact on the physiology and psychology of students.
A negative impact on students’ academic integrity may be expected with the use of phones throughout school hours. For instance, refraining from cell phone use in schools could lead to higher test scores. If students wish to improve their grades, perhaps the answer lies in stifling the use of phones in classes. Research found that there was an increase in the average on standardized tests by six percent with sixteen-year-old students in the U.K. who didn’t have their phones in school. A student may be able to perform better in school, not just on standardized tests, but on quizzes, projects, class work, and similar tasks given in school. Researchers also found that cell phone use also affects others, “Students who didn’t use a device but were in the same classroom with those who did also scored lower.” (Riutzel). (Cell Phones...”)
In addition, these devices can be addictive to students thus creating a distraction, as they divert attention away from class lessons and involvement. A study from 2008 displays this concept saying, “Students with laptops had lower test results than those without. The reason? They were often not paying attention to their teachers. We should expect the same thing from cell phones.” (“Smartphones…”). If students would stop utilizing their phones, just during school hours, it would eliminate a disruption from their education. Some who justify cell phone use in schools say that parents want to be able to have a line of communication with their children for various reasons such as after-school activities and transportation arrangements. This stance on the issue is faulty, however, since parents can arrange such things before or after school, in days prior to activities of this nature, or at the end of the school day when students are no longer in class. If parents followed through with this, they would still be able to correspond with their kids’ and not disturb their work. (“Cell Phones...”)
Phones also decrease the number and caliber of social interactions throughout the school day. In the novel Of Mice and Men, the character Slim said, “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” (Steinbeck, 34). Although written over eighty years ago, it still holds a certain truth today, perhaps now more than ever, as this statistic may imply. A survey taken in recent years showed that cell phones are used by forty percent of millennials to avoid social interactions with the people they are amidst. Promoters of cell phones may say, “Those you maintain contact with most frequently using mobile devices are the people you confide in and who you see most frequently in person.” (DiGiulio). This, however, is a flawed argument because confiding in and having a relationship with someone via text or phone is unlike interacting with people face to face. It’s easier to say things you wouldn’t normally say in person and to let your guard down faster when you don’t have the intimacy of speaking with someone in person. Moreover, phones can foster the habits cautioned by child development experts. Cell phones “can prevent students from engaging in social interactions and developing interpersonal skills.” ("Cell Phones..."). (Matyszczyk).
Not only does phone use impact the number of social interactions in school, but it also reduces the nature of conversation and human interaction. Researchers are inclined to believe that phones are making the human population less empathetic. A study used, “... 51 kids who spent five days at an outdoors camp — no phones or laptops allowed. After time away from technology, the children were better able to read facial expressions and identify the emotions of actors in videos they were shown, compared with a control group of kids who didn't attend the camp.” (DiGiulio). Just another reason for people to repress the impulse to continually use their phone and to start the habit with teens, especially in a student’s learning environment.
Students’ psychology and physiology are unfavorably impacted by the utilization of cell phones. Stress has been linked with phones, specifically texting. “For the students in the study, there was also a strong relationship between number of texts sent and received and risk of emotional burnout and lower level of well-being.” (Vitelli). Furthermore, stress due to texting also has a physiologic effect on the body. “Other researchers have found that texting behaviour is linked to measures of physiological arousal such as increased heart-rate, respiration, and muscle tension.”(Vitelli). School hours would provide students an ideal time for a necessary phone break.
Cell Phones pose a threat to students’ health as they promote suicidal thoughts and actions. “Compulsive or excessive use of cell phones has been tied to mental health issues in teenagers, including higher rates of social isolation, anxiety, depression, and suicide.” ("Cell Phones..."). Utilizing school as an interval of time without phone use would contribute to a higher quality of mental health in students.
Refraining from phone use would promote healthier students because they would likely be able to get more sleep. “Individuals with a longer average screen time were more likely to have poorer sleep quality and less sleep overall.” (Scutti). Without cell phones during the school day students would inevitably have a shorter average time using phones allowing them a greater chance to extend the amount of sleep obtained. “‘When animals, including humans, are deprived of sleep, there are many body systems that fail. Not only does our performance, memory and attention span suffer, our immune system and endocrine system is also impaired.’” (Scutti). Therefore, if students could cut phone usage by not using them for the duration of the school day, they could likely get more sleep, accordingly allowing students to function more efficiently while at school.
The infiltration of cell phones in schools have a negative influence on academic performance, the number and quality of social interactions, and students’ physiology and phycology. If students would merely restrain themselves enough to withhold phone use during school they would be subjected to an abundance of benefits. Not only would students be healthier for it, but they would yield better grades too. Should students disconnect, they would be able to better build necessary social skills for future purposes.
Phones have helped bolster a catch twenty-two. People have become uncomfortable talking to one another and starting conversations in person so people use phones as a shield to keep from such interactions. This, however, only worsens the problem because the less face to face interaction people have with others, the harder it will be to communicate and the more people will hide behind phones to prevent socializing. It is not until we begin to put down our phones and talk that we will be able to overcome this catch twenty-two and begin to feel comfortable socializing with one another. It needs to start somewhere because, “People in the 21st century are alone. We have so many new ways of communicating, yet we are so alone.” and why not start by instilling these ideas in teens early? (Price).
Albert Einstein said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” (“Albert…”) We have the power to make sure that we don’t become the generation of idiots that Einstein feared. A balance between technology and human interaction is necessary. Curbing school phone use will help provide a balance, allowing us to reduce our technology use, stopping us from becoming too addicted. Students would feel healthier and get better grades, but more importantly it would instill an early discipline of limiting phone use and finding an appreciation for spending more time with people in lieu of a screen.