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Mobile phone use in schools

A mobile phone cage used for keeping the students' phones away from them to stop their uses of mobile phones during the schooltime

The use of mobile phones in school settings or environments is a topic of debate. Parents in support 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.[1] 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.[2]

Schools may have policies to restrict cell phone use at school. The use of cell phone jamming has been attempted but is illegal in some jurisdictions. Software can be used to monitor and restrict phone usage to reduce distractions and prevent malicious use. However, there are concerns over privacy and potential abuse of power.[3][4]



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.[5] Also, the use of mobile technology largely explains the inadequate behaviors in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the personal and school environments among young people. 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 life.[6]

A 2015 study by the London School of Economics, conducted in four cities of England, found that test scores increased by more than 6% in schools which banned cell phones.[7]

In 2016, researchers Julia Irwin and Natasha Gupta of Macquarie University performed an experiment 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.[8]

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.[9]

Despite the numerous drawbacks that come with the use of cell phones in classrooms, there 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 textbooks 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."[10]

An article by Emma Henderson for the Independent in the U.K. 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." Nine out of 10 people have claimed to have felt their mobile device vibrate in their 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.[11]


In the United Kingdom, no schools banned mobile phones in 2001. However, by 2007, 50% of the schools had banned mobile phones, and by 2012, this number had increased to 98%.[12] 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.[13]

United StatesEdit

In the past, some U.S. schools have installed mobile phone jammers to prevent mobile phones from working on campuses.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] In 2015, one Florida science teacher received a five-day unpaid suspension for installing a jammer in his classroom.[17]

In 2005, the New York City Department of Education imposed a citywide ban on mobile phones in public schools.[18] 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."[18] The ban was unpopular among parents because it impeded communication with children.[18] In March 2015, the citywide ban was lifted,[19] fulfilling a campaign promise made by Mayor Bill de Blasio.[18] 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.[18][19] 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."[18] De Blasio said that the policy shift would allow parents to stay in better touch with their children, 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.[19]

Students tend 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. 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.[20] They also believe that having a phone shows responsibility.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

An increasing number of schools are now allowing the use of cell phones as learning tools.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using the phone or text-messaging while driving.[26][27][28]

Messaging ApplicationsEdit

With the rise of the use of mobile cell phones in school, applications for these cell phones have been created to support this. As of February 2018 80,000 applications were available for teacher use[29].  A variety of messaging apps provide communication for student to student relationships as well as teacher to student. Some popular apps for both student, teacher, and parent use are ClassDojo, and Remind. This accounts for the 72% of iTunes’ top-selling education apps are for preschoolers and elementary school students.[30] Apps like Remind and ClassDojo offer many different abilities such as language translation, scheduled reminders, and parent messages.

ClassDojo is one of the apps that is used widely throughout schools. According to, it is a “means to encourage learning, skill development and character building among students.”[31] The app offers a platform for teachers to share pictures, videos, and reports with parents and administrators.[31] The Remind App is another way for teachers to communicate with parents and administration. The app allows teachers to send out scheduled text messages to parents, and also provides a class blog for the teacher to update with upcoming due dates, tests/quizzes, and other class information.[32] WhatsApp is different from the other apps because it provides communication for students to other students. The app offers group chats, video messaging, video class, and photo messaging.[33] Another app that allows students to communicate is GroupMe. GroupMe allows students to communicate in a group chat, while also only using WiFi instead of cellular data. Some college-aged students use this app for sharing course information.[34]

Technology in schools is becoming a common practice throughout many grades and age levels. The creation of messaging applications helps support this boom of usage in schools. This new technology comes with both pros and cons. An advantage of messaging apps is their easy usage and accessibility to student, teachers, and parents.[30] Accessibility of the messaging apps makes it easier for parents with disabilities, demanding full-time jobs, or language barriers to communicate more efficiently.[35] A disadvantage is that not all students and parents have this technology available to them. This can cause a gap in students who have cell phones and computers and those who do not. Increased access and transparency can make students shift their responsibilities to their parents, minimizing student ownership.[36] Another problem is that the ease of sharing of information can lead to academic dishonesty. This is a policy colleges are cracking down on.[37]

As the kinks of messaging applications become smoothed out over time, the future of them lies ahead. By minimizing both student and parent entitlement, setting communication boundaries, stating expectations early, and reinforcing student responsibility some of the problems arising from messaging apps can be eliminated.[38] There is hope that they become more advanced, specifically when using them for help via a bot.[39] Advancement in this field will allow for higher frequency of use, more emotional connection, and higher convenience for users. [40]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Nathan L. Essex (8 January 2013). The 200 Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions for Educators. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-1-62087-520-9.
  2. ^ Arshi. "4 Harmful Effects of Mobile Phones on Children". Mom Junction. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  3. ^ Cook, Henrietta. "How schools are tracking students using their mobile phones". The Age. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  4. ^ Magid, Larry. "School Software Walks The Line Between Safety Monitor And 'Parent Over Shoulder'". Forbes. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  5. ^ Andrew Lepp; Jacob E. Barkley; Aryn C. Karpinski. "The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students". Computers in Human Behavior. 31 (1): 343–350. doi:10.1177/2158244015573169.
  6. ^ Rodríguez-Gómez, David; Castro, Diego; Meneses, Julio (2018-07-01). "Problematic uses of ICTs among young people in their personal and school life". Comunicar (in Spanish). 26 (56). doi:10.3916/c56-2018-09. ISSN 1134-3478.
  7. ^ "Mobile phone bans 'improve school exam results'". BBC News. 17 May 2015.
  8. ^ Gupta, Natasha; Irwin, Julia D. "In-class distractions: The role of Facebook and the primary learning task". Computers in Human Behavior. 55: 1165–1178. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.022.
  9. ^ Lee, Seungyeon; Kim, Myeong W.; McDonough, Ian M.; Mendoza, Jessica S.; Kim, Min Sung (2017-05-01). "The Effects of Cell Phone Use and Emotion-regulation Style on College Students' Learning". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 31 (3): 360–366. doi:10.1002/acp.3323. ISSN 1099-0720.
  10. ^ Derounian, James Garo. "Mobiles in class?" Active Learning in Higher Education, 2017, p. 146978741774521., doi:10.1177/1469787417745214.
  11. ^ "Most people suffer from 'phantom vibration syndrome'". The Independent. 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  12. ^ Jamie Doward (16 May 2015). "Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Ivana Kottasova (May 18, 2015). "Kids do a lot better when schools ban smartphones". CNNMoney (London). Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  14. ^ Mary Ann Bell; Holly Weimar; James Van Roekel (23 May 2013). School Librarians and the Technology Department: A Practical Guide to Successful Collaboration. ABC-CLIO. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-58683-540-8.
  15. ^ Jason Koebler, FCC Cracks Down on Cell Phone 'Jammers', U.S. News & World Report (October 17, 2012).
  16. ^ School scraps cell phone jammer program, KHQ-TV (undated).
  17. ^ Associated Press, Teacher suspended for jamming students' cellphones (June 3, 2015).
  18. ^ a b c d e f Kate Taylor, Ban on Cellphones in New York City Schools to Be Lifted, New York Times (January 6, 2015).
  19. ^ a b c Edgar Sandoval, Dale Eisinger & Reuven Blau, Department of Education lifts ban on cell phones in New York City schools, New York Daily News (March 2, 2015).
  20. ^ a b Soloway, Elliot. "Future for cell phones in classrooms?". UPI. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  21. ^ Preventing cell phones from being stolen at school, KAKE (2015).
  22. ^ Dan Stamm, High School Cell Phone Theft Ring Busted, NBC Philadelphia (January 11, 2012).
  23. ^ Josh Higgins (7 August 2013). "More schools use cellphones as learning tools". USA Today.
  24. ^ "N.Y. School Blocks Cell Phones from Wi-Fi Network".
  25. ^ Distracted Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association (last updated February 2016).
  26. ^ Steph Solis, School bus driver fired for speeding, texting, Asbury Park Press (October 29, 2015).
  27. ^ Bethlehem Area School District bus driver suspended for allegedly texting and driving, WFMZ (October 29, 2015).
  28. ^ School Bus Driver Suspended After Cellphone Video Shows Her Texting, ABC News (September 20, 2013).
  29. ^ "13 of the Best Apps for High School Students - The Tech Edvocate". Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  30. ^ a b "Technology in the Classroom; The Pros and Cons". Parenting.Com.
  31. ^ a b "ClassDojo". CrunchBase.
  32. ^ "Remind - Review For Teachers". Common Sense Education. 2013-12-08. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  33. ^ "WhatsApp", Wikipedia, 2018-10-19, retrieved 2018-10-22
  34. ^ "GroupMe - App Review". Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  35. ^ Walker, Jordan. "The Pros and Cons of Using Technology to Communicate with K-12 Parents". Otus. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  36. ^ Walker, Jordan. "The Pros and Cons of Using Technology to Communicate with K-12 Parents". Otus. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  37. ^ (LSU), Louisiana State University. "LSU Code of Student Conduct | Student Advocacy & Accountability". Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  38. ^ Walker, Jordan. "The Pros and Cons of Using Technology to Communicate with K-12 Parents". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  39. ^ "5 things you need to know about the future of messaging platforms - Watson". Watson. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  40. ^ Forrester. "The Future Of Messaging Apps". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-10-22.

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