The use of mobile phones in school settings or environments is a topic of debate. Supporting parents believe that cell phones address their safety concerns by enabling them to communicate with their children. Teachers and administrators opposed to mobile phone usage in schools believe that they cause disruption, and may be used for malicious purposes such as cheating on tests or taking inappropriate photographs. Students become addicted to playing games and messaging others on their mobile devices, causing them to pay less attention in class and miss important lessons.
A study of a group of undergraduate students, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior in 2015, found that among undergraduate students, total mobile-phone use (measured in number of minutes per day, not limited to school time) was "a significant and negative predictor of college students' academic performance, objectively measured as cumulative GPA." The study controlled for various other factors.
In 2016, researchers Julia Irwin and Natasha Gupta of Macquarie University performed an experiment in 2016 testing the effect of Facebook distractions in the classroom. The study found that students interested in the subject material and the way it was presented were less likely to be distracted by Facebook, however, those same students with access to phones still performed lower than students that were not allowed access to cell phones during the lecture.
A 2017 collective study published by Applied Cognitive Psychology, found that college students retained less knowledge when allowed to use or have a cell phone on them during lectures. During the experiment, students that were not allowed access to a cell phone tested better than students that had access to cell phones.
Despite the numerous drawbacks that come with the use of cellphones in classrooms, there are also exist certain benefits. A 2017 study conducted by Dr. James Derounian at the University of Gloucestershire involving 100 participants revealed that 45% of students believe that the use of phones in classrooms supports their education. One of the most common strengths listed was the use of phones for accessing digital textbook and thus engaging deeper with the material presented. However, Derounian mentioned that there could be "an element of social desirability conveyed in the student views given".
An article by Emma Henderson for the Independent in the UK goes over "phantom vibrations" caused by "learned bodily behavior". The part of the body the phone is close to becomes very sensitive and the slightest vibration can cause a person to believe the phone has vibrated, hence the name "phantom vibration". 9 out of 10 people have claimed to have felt their mobile device vibrate while in the pocket when it in fact did not. It can be beneficial for students not only out of respect for the professor to have their mobile phones out of their pockets but also to themselves to help break this cycle.
In the United Kingdom, no schools banned mobile phones in 2001. However, by 2007, 50% of the schools had banned these devices, and by 2012, this number had increased to 98%. According to CNN Money, students' academic skills improved when policies were implemented to ban cell phone use in schools. Schools banning students from carrying phones helped students score higher on exams and reduced the students' temptations to use cell phones for non-scholarly purposes.
In the past, some U.S. schools have installed mobile phone jammers to prevent mobile phones from working on campuses. The sale and use of jammers is illegal in the U.S. under the federal Communications Act of 1934, because jammers cut off 9-1-1 calls and can disrupt air navigation near airports, and in 2012 the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) stepped up enforcement of the law. Mt. Spokane High School in Washington state at one point installed a jammer in school to prevent students from calling and text-messaging, but removed the device after determining that it was "probably not legal" under federal law. In 2015, one Florida science teacher received a five-day unpaid suspension for installing a jammer in his classroom.
In 2005, the New York City Department of Education imposed a citywide ban on mobile phones in public schools. According to the New York Times, the ban was "inconsistently enforced, with some schools allowing students to carry phones as long as staff members do not hear or see them, and other schools--particularly those with metal detectors at the doors--maintaining a strict ban. Outside those schools, small businesses have sprung up that allow students to park their phones inside a truck for a dollar a day." The ban was unpopular among parents because it impeded communication with children. In March 2015, the citywide ban was lifted, fulfilling a campaign promise made by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Under the new policy, school principals (in consultation with teachers and parents) may set rules on use and storage of mobile phones during instructional time and lunch breaks. The default rule would be that phones would be required to remain hidden, but principals could also choose to "require students to store phones in backpacks or in a designated place; allow use of phones during lunch or in designated areas; or allow phones to be used for instructional purposes". De Blasio said that the policy shift would allow to parents stay in better touch with their children, particularly in emergencies, especially in case of an emergency, and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña noted that the change means that students in schools with metal detector would no longer have to pay outside vendors to store phones for them during the school day.
Students tend to support the side that grants them the opportunity to bring mobile phones in school campus, arguing that phones allow them to reach their parents if any problem occurs. Parents also argue that there isn't a replacement for mobile phones, so phones are an essential device to carry around. If their child is in danger or doesn't feel safe, he or she has to be able to reach out to them. They also believe that having a phone shows responsibility.
Theft of mobile phones is a concern in some schools. For example, in the Wichita School District (USD 259) public schools, 80 cases of theft of cell phones were reported in 2014. In 2012, following an undercover investigation, thirteen students in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, all juveniles, were arrested and charged with running a cell phone theft ring that resulted in the theft of several thousand dollars' worth of mobile phones, tablets, and other electronics.
An increasing number of schools are now allowing use of cell phones as learning tools. However, the use of cell phones in schools is challenging. Some schools reported allowing all students to use cell phones at the same time slows down school bandwidth speeds.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, while no state bans all mobile-phone use for all drivers, 20 states and the District of Columbia prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile phones. School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using the phone or text-messaging while driving.
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