Open main menu
A mobile phone cage used for keeping the students' phones away from them to stop their uses of mobile phones during school hours.

The use of mobile phones (also referred to as cell phones, phones and cellular devices) by students in school has become a controversial topic debated by parents and teachers. Parents who support the use of cell phones believe that these phones are essential for maximizing safety, allowing children to communicate with their parents. On the other hand, those opposed to students using mobile phones during school believe that cell phones cause disruption and may be used for undesired purposes, such as cheating on tests, taking inappropriate photographs,[1] playing games and messaging others. Rather than absorbing important information from lectures, students are spending more time distracted by their cellular devices.[2]

To prevent distractions caused by mobile phones, some schools have implemented policies that restrict students from using cell phones during school hours. Some administrators have attempted cell phone jamming, but this practice is illegal in certain jurisdictions. Software can be used to monitor and restrict phone usage to reduce distractions and prevent unproductive use. However, these methods of regulation raise concerns about privacy violation and a potential abuse of power.[3][4]



A 2015 study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, demonstrated that among undergraduate students, total usage of mobile phones (measured in number of minutes per day, and not limited to school time) was "a significant and negative predictor of college students' academic performance, which was objectively measured as cumulative GPA." [5] Moreover, the abundant use of mobile technology among young people largely explains the inadequate use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in both personal and school environments. This justifies the need to promote actions that contribute to more responsible use of this type of technology in all areas of students' personal, school, and social lives.[6]

In 2016, researchers Julia Irwin and Natasha Gupta of Macquarie University, performed an experiment testing the effect of Facebook-related distractions in the classroom. The researchers found that students who were interested in the subject material and the way it was presented were less likely to be distracted by Facebook. However, the students with access to phones still performed poorer than students that were not allowed access to cell phones during the lecture.[7]

A 2017 collective study, published by Applied Cognitive Psychology, indicated that college students retained less knowledge when allowed to use or possess a cell phone during lectures. During the experiment, students that were not allowed access to a cell phone tested better than those who had access to cell phones.[8]

Despite the numerous drawbacks that come with the use of cell phones in classrooms, there are certain benefits to having them available in a school setting. In 2017, Dr. James Derounian conducted a study involving 100 participants at the University of Gloucestershire. His study revealed that 45 percent of students believe that the use of phones in classrooms support their education. One of the most commonly mentioned ways that phones provided such academic support was the digital access to textbooks. The ability to access scholarly material on mobile devices allowed students to engage deeper with the information presented. Still, Derounian mentioned that there could be "an element of social desirability conveyed in the student views given."[9]

An article by Emma Henderson, a journalist for the United Kingdom (UK) publication The Independent, goes over "phantom vibrations" caused by "learned bodily behavior." The part of the body to which the phone is closest becomes very sensitive. As a result, even the slightest vibrations can cause a person to believe that the phone has vibrated when, in reality, it has not. These are known as "phantom vibrations." Nine out of ten people have claimed to have felt these phantom vibrations in their pockets, raising serious concerns about the overuse of cell phones and the resulting dependency that people develop. Therefore, breaking the habit of frequently checking one’s phone can not only be beneficial for students, but it can also convey more respect towards the professors and teachers whose lectures are constantly interrupted by cellular distractions. [10]


In the UK, a survey showed that in 2001 there were no mobile phone bans in schools but by 2007, 50 percent of schools had banned mobile phones while students are in school. This number increased to 98 percent by 2012. These bans were implemented by either forbidding students from bringing phones on school premises or by making students hand their phones in at the beginning of the day.[11] According to a study by the London School of Economics, students' academic performance improved when policies were implemented to ban cell phone usage in schools. This ban not only helped students score higher on exams, but it also reduced the students' temptations to use cell phones for non-scholarly purposes.[12]

Secondary schools are introducing strict new laws on mobile phone where students under 16 (Sixteen) will have to lock their phones away for the entire day after evidence was shown that students became more sociable, alert and active in the school environment without them[13]. Student were given a registered locker for when they arrive at the school where they were only allow to obtain them back once school has finished. With this happening schools had a positive impact on the students with having more students be more active outside, attended clubs and social events. Nick Gibb told The Times. “I believe very strongly that children should be limiting their own use at home. Every hour spent online and on a smartphone is an hour less talking to family, and it’s an hour less exercise and it’s an hour less sleep. And of course it is a lack of sleep that research is showing can have a damaging effect on a child’s mental health.”[14]

The schools did notice that the positive impact was better for students under the age of 11 (eleven) rather than the older students, it was shown that the older student suffered from a restricted platform of learning basics such as using educational apps to involved study or learning skills. [15]Students that were caught with their mobile phones between the school time period were given punishments such as detention, expulsion or warnings. In doing so, it has shown that children were taught to limit the amount of time they spend online and focus more on their school lives along with other social activities. People in England have argued against this though by saying, "There's a fantastic range of apps now for revision - and the students are really motivated to use them." - Patsy Kane.[16]

United StatesEdit

In the past, some United States schools had installed mobile phone jammers to prevent cell phones from working on campuses.[17] However, the sale and use of jammers is illegal in the US under the federal Communications Act of 1934, because jammers cut off 9-1-1 calls and can disrupt air navigation if placed near airports. In 2012, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) became more strict when enforcing the law.[18] Mt. Spokane High School in Washington state once installed a jammer to prevent students from calling and text-messaging, but removed the device after deciding that it was "probably not legal" under federal law.[19] In 2015, a Florida science teacher received a five-day unpaid suspension for installing a jammer in his classroom.[20]

In 2005, the New York City Department of Education imposed a citywide ban on mobile phones in public schools.[21] However, according to The New York Times, the ban was "inconsistently enforced, with some schools allowing students to carry phones as long as staff members [did] not hear or see them, and other schools—particularly those with metal detectors at the doors—maintaining a strict ban."[21] The ban was unpopular among parents as well, because it impeded communication between them and their children.[21] In March 2015, the citywide ban was lifted,[22] fulfilling a campaign promise made by Mayor Bill de Blasio.[21] 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.[22][21] While the default rule would be that phones must remain hidden, principals may also elect to "require students to store phones in backpacks or other designated places, allow the use of phones during lunch, or allow phones to be used for instructional purposes."[21] De Blasio said that the policy-shift would allow parents to stay in better touch with their children, especially in case of an emergency. The New York City Schools Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, supported this policy by noting  that the change means that students in schools with metal detectors would no longer have to pay outside vendors to store phones for them during the school day.[22]

When asked which type of phone-restriction policy they prefer, students tended to support the side that grants them the opportunity to bring mobile phones onto the school campus, arguing that phones allow them to reach their parents if any problem occurs. In response to the issue of parent-student communication, parents also argue that there isn't a replacement for mobile phones or a communication equivalent, making phones an essential device for students to have accessible. If a child were in danger or didn't feel safe, he or she should be able to reach out to  a parent and receive assistance. Parents also believe that giving a child a phone teaches  responsibility.[23]

Theft of mobile phones is another concern in some schools. In 2012, following an undercover investigation, 13 juvenile students in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 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.[24]

An increasing number of schools are now allowing the use of cell phones as learning tools.[25] However, the collective use of cell phones in schools poses other technological challenges. Some schools reported that allowing all students to use cell phones at the same time slows down school bandwidth speeds and hence some schools have blocked phones from accessing the school WiFi.[26]

Phone use in schools is not just an issue for students and teachers but also for other employees of educational institutions. 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.[27] School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using their phones or text-messaging while driving.[28][29]


In Australian schools mobile phones are advised to only be used in case of emergency towards students and parents or guardians and that only if the parent or guardian allows them, to be brought along during school activities such as school excursions, camps and extra school curricular activities.

Mobile phones with cameras are banned within school premises and certain sections within a school such as changing rooms, bathrooms / toilets, gyms and swimming pools and that to only film or take photographs of people is with only their signed permission or if under the age of 18[30], to have a parent or guardian to give a sign permission note allowing for these actions. If a student is found with these mobile phone or devices within these areas, the phones will be confiscated and depending on the situation charges or consequences with be given.

Mobile phones are NOT allowed to be used for sending harassment or threatening messages. If a student does do such a thing higher authorities will have to get involved including the police due to this being a violation of privacy and harassment. Due to bullying, privacy, and harassment issues being a large deal in Australia, if a student or teacher does break this law, it may leave a mark within criminal records leaving the student or teacher at a disadvantage in the future,

Mobile phones are discouraged in terms of the use of mobile phone with the classroom unless they can be appropriately incorporated into the learning environment. "We want to ensure mobile phones and other smart devices complement students' learning, and are handled at school in an age-appropriate way," - Premier Gladys Berejiklian ABC news[31]

Australian educations and academics have been divided on whether phones should really be banned in the classrooms or only allowing certain amounts time during school hours to use their mobile phones but the New South Wales government have banned phones completely from NSW primary schools which will commence in 2019. "Technology should be there to help a child learn it should not be there to upset them or make them feel uncomfortable," Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The reason for banning them is due to stopping bully both online and psychically and to remove distractions from the classrooms. "Mobile phones, unfortunately, are not only distracting but also causing stress for young children - and we can't have that continue," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Seven's Sunrise. [32]This will be done by students not having access to phones during the day but can have only one (1) exception, if the parents or guardian request that the student needs it. But even in that case the teacher will have it kept with them somewhere where the student is still able to access it before and after school.

Messaging ApplicationsEdit

Cellphone applications (apps) have been created to support use of phones in school environments. As of February 2018, about 80,000 applications became available for teacher use.[33]  A variety of messaging apps provide communication for student-to-student relationships, as well as teacher to student communication. Some popular apps for both students, teachers, and parents are Remind and ClassDojo. About 72 percent of iTunes’ top-selling education apps are for preschoolers and elementary school students.[34] Apps like Remind and ClassDojo offer many different services, such as language translation, scheduled reminders, and parent messages.

ClassDojo is widely used throughout schools. The app offers a platform for teachers to share pictures, videos and reports with parents and administrators.[35]

The Remind app is another way for teachers to communicate with parents and administration. This app not only allows teachers to send out scheduled text messages to parents, but it also provides a class blog for teachers to share upcoming due dates, tests/quizzes, and other class information.

Another app that allows students to communicate with one another is GroupMe. GroupMe allows students to communicate in a group-chat format through Wi-Fi instead of using cellular data. Even some college-aged students use this app for sharing course information.[36]

Technology in schools is becoming a common academic feature throughout many grade levels and age groups. The creation of messaging applications helps support this boom of phone usage in schools. This new technology comes with both pros and cons. An advantage of messaging apps is their easy usage and accessibility for students, teachers, and parents.[34] These apps make efficient communication easier for parents with disabilities, parents with demanding full-time jobs, or parents who possess language barriers. [37] One disadvantage to cell phone usage in schools is that not all students and parents have this technology available to them. This can cause a socioeconomic gap between students who have cell phones and computers and those who do not. Another problem is that the ease of sharing of information can lead to academic dishonesty. Colleges and universities, in particular, have had many issues with academic dishonesty via digital sharing of tests and other sensitive materials. As a result, these institutions are becoming more strict with their policies and increasing the severity of consequences for committing plagiarism and other acts of academic dishonesty.

With time, messaging applications will be consistently improved, and if administrators, teachers, and policy-makers work hard to minimize both student and parent entitlement, set communication boundaries, state expectations early, and reinforce student responsibility, some of the problems caused by messaging apps can be eliminated.[37] Advancement in this field of technology will hopefully allow for higher frequency of use, increased emotional connection, and higher convenience for users.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Essex, Nathan L. (2013). The 200 Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions for Educators. Simon and Schuster. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-1-62087-520-9.
  2. ^ Arshi (March 13, 2019). "4 Harmful Effects Of Mobile Phones On Kids". Mom Junction. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Magid, Larry (April 14, 2016). "School Software Walks The Line Between Safety Monitor And 'Parent Over Shoulder'". Forbes. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  4. ^ Cook, Henrietta (July 16, 2017). "How schools are tracking students using their mobile phones". The Age. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  5. ^ Lepp, Andrew; Barkley, Jacob E; Karpinski, Aryn C. (February 19, 2015). "The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students". SAGE Open. 5 (1). doi:10.1177/2158244015573169 – via Sage Journals.
  6. ^ Rodríguez-Gómez, David; Castro, Diego; Meneses, Julio (July 1, 2018). "Problematic uses of ICTs among young people in their personal and school life". Communicar. 56: 91–100. doi:10.3916/c56-2018-09 – via Communicar.
  7. ^ Gupta, Natasha; Irwin, Julia D. (February 2016). "In-class distractions: The role of Facebook and the primary learning task". Computers in Human Behavior. 55B: 1165–1178 – via Elsevier Science Direct.
  8. ^ Lee, Seungyeon; Kim, Myeong W.; McDonough, Ian M.; Mendoza, Jessica S.; Kim, Min Sung (April 17, 2017). "The Effects of Cell Phone Use and Emotion‐regulation Style on College Students' Learning". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 31 (3): 360–366 – via Wiley Online Library.
  9. ^ Derounian, James Garo (December 17, 2017). "Mobiles in class?". Active Learning in Higher Education. doi:10.1177/1469787417745214 – via Sage Journals.
  10. ^ Henderson, Emma (January 10, 2016). "PHANTOM VIBRATION SYNDROME: UP TO 90 PER CENT OF PEOPLE SUFFER PHENOMENON WHILE MOBILE PHONE IS IN POCKET". The Independent. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  11. ^ Doward, Jamie (May 17, 2015). "Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  12. ^ Kottasova, Ivana (May 18, 2015). "Kids do a lot better when schools ban smartphones". CNN Business. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  13. ^ Hymas, Charles (2018-06-24). "Secondary schools are introducing strict new bans on mobile phones". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  14. ^ "Mobile phones 'should be banned from schools', minister says". The Independent. 2019-02-02. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  15. ^ Corbett, Stephen. "No, mobile phones should not be banned in UK schools". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  16. ^ Mason, Chris (2019-02-02). "Ban phones in schools, says minister". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  17. ^ Bell, Mary Ann; Weimar, Holly; Van Roekel, James (2013). School Librarians and the Technology Department: A Practical Guide to Successful Collaboration. ABC-CLIO. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-58683-540-8.
  18. ^ Koebler, Jason (October 17, 2012). "FCC Cracks Down on Cell Phone 'Jammers'". U.S. News. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  19. ^ "School scraps cell phone jammer program". KHQ Q6. March 10, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  20. ^ "Teacher suspended for jamming students' cellphones". abc 7 Chicago. June 4, 2015. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, Kate (January 6, 2015). "Ban on Cellphones in New York City Schools to Be Lifted". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c Blau, Edgar Sandoval, Dale Eisinger, Reuven. "Department of Education lifts ban on cell phones in New York City schools". Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  23. ^ "Future for cell phones in classrooms?". UPI. February 20, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  24. ^ Stamm, Dan (January 11, 2012). "High School Cell Phone Theft Ring Busted". NBC 10 Philadelphia. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  25. ^ Higgins, Josh (August 7, 2013). "More schools use cellphones as learning tools". USA Today. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  26. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (January 13, 2016). "Bronx Science Bans Cellphones From Wi-Fi as Students Devour It". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  27. ^ "Distracted Driving". Governors Highway Safety Association. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  28. ^ Solis, Steph (October 28, 2015). "School bus driver fired for speeding, texting". App. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  29. ^ "School Bus Driver Suspended After Cellphone Video Shows Her Texting". abc News. September 20, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  30. ^ "Students Using Mobile Phones". Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  31. ^ McKinnell, Jamie; Tiller, Stephanie (2018-12-13). "Mobile phones will be banned in NSW primary schools from next year". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  32. ^ "Mobile phones banned from NSW primary schools". SBS News. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  33. ^ "13 of the Best Apps for High School Students". The Tech Edvocate. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  34. ^ a b "Technology in the Classroom: The Good and Bad". HuffPost. 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  35. ^ "ClassDojo". Crunchbase. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  36. ^ "GroupMe - App Review". 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  37. ^ a b "The Pros and Cons of Using Technology to Communicate with K-12 Parents". Otus. 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2019-04-19.

External linksEdit