Being all ears on cell phone limitations

It seems like the inmates are running the asylum to me. Why does it require legislation by the state to ban smartphones from our public schools? It does not make sense to me but then I went to school in a time when gum chewing was not allowed in class.

It really surprised, indeed shocked me, when I read in last week’s OBSERVER that Assemblyman Keith Brown, Republican, of Commack on Long Island was introducing legislation that would prohibit students using their cell phones during classroom instruction time.

What shocked me was that our public school administrators had not already barred cell phone use some time ago. Given the fact that many students are not testing at grade level in our schools I believe that it is imperative that administrators heed numerous warnings that cell phone usage has a serious impact on academic achievement.

According to a 2023 UNESCO report one in seven countries ban the use of mobile phones in schools because of the adverse impact on student learning.

These countries include France, Netherlands, Finland, Israel, China, Australia, Greece, Ghana, Rwanda, and Uganda.

In the U.S. several states have begun taking action to limit or bar smartphone use in public schools. In Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has asked that all school districts and the state board of education remove cellphones from all classrooms. In February, the Alabama State Board of Education adopted a resolution which stated that “it is in the best interest of students, administrators, teachers, and employees to minimize distractions and disruptions during instructional time, which is so important to increase academic proficiency.”

A proposal in the Vermont General Assembly would prohibit personal device use in public and private schools, career, and technical education centers.

In 2023 Florida became the first state to place serious limits on smartphones in school banning their use during class time. In fact, several Florida school districts have placed absolute bans on the use of smart phones during the school day.

One study quoted in the story was done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that tests fifteen year olds in 80 countries every three years and found that students who spend less than one hour using a cell phone tested 50 points higher than students whose cell phone usage was five or more hours per day.

A study done by Kent State’s College of Education found that among college students frequent cell phone use was linked to anxiety, reduced happiness, and generally lower grades. Further a study done by the U.S. Department of Education also found that there was a correlation between frequent cell phone use and lower grades.

Studies done by Common Sense Media state students are bombarded by notifications with some receiving over 230 a day. They also found that smartphone use in schools is universal with policies often varying from classroom to classroom and that schoolwide policies are often unenforced.

The area schools that I checked all have policies regarding the use of smartphones. All of the policies I looked at allow students to have their phones in their possession during the school day and may be used at breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria. All of the schools spell out what will happen if a student is found using their phones at other than authorized times although most seem to include some wiggle room when it comes to enforcement.

One school did mention that it understood that parents of children in middle school and elementary school provide their children with cell phones for safety reasons.

That makes me wonder how it was possible that back in the 1950s we survived without cell phones and were forced to be incommunicado in school for six hours a day. However, we did, knowing full well that in the event of a family emergency that we would be contacted.

There is an old adage that goes this way, “Give an inch and they will take a mile” which I think is very applicable when you mix teenagers and smartphones. If you tell them that they can bring their phones to school but that they cannot be seen or heard and can only be used at certain times, rest assured that a large number will be violating the policy.

Why tempt them?

My wife and I have often discussed the fact of how lucky we were as parents because our children graduated from high school and college before the advent of the cell phone era. I know this is a tricky issue for parents and educators because you don’t want to over restrict student lives but it seems to me that cell phone use should be limited to weekends and the hours before and after school. School hours should be free from any distractions from learning.

After examining all the evidence, I agree with Assemblyman Brown’s proposed legislation to prohibit students having their cell phone during classroom instruction time. With all the hand wringing from educators, parents and politicians about our children falling behind academically the passage of this bill is really a no brainer.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today