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In schools across the nation, cellphones have become as commonplace as No. 2 pencils and binders. There are as many different campus regulations as there are heated parental opinions on the matter.
As the Washington Post pointed out, there's minimal data on how different school systems tackle the phones-in-school issue and even less consensus on who's doing it "right." You've got elementary students toting phones to school. Plenty of middle schools allow cellphone usage during lunch and hallway periods, and there are high schools that allow them during class.
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As the mother of a newly minted teen, these trends neither shock, nor dismay me. It's all just part of modern parenting. There are aspects that let me rest easy and others that cause my brow to furrow.
I bought my daughter a phone as a safety precaution two years ago, and I don't regret that decision. Reading headlines about school campuses coming under threat, or even teachers behaving unprofessionally, it makes me feel more confident knowing that she can reach me directly in an emergency.
Our school only allows younger students phone access before the bell and after dismissal. Meanwhile, high schoolers can use their smartphones in class as part of teacher-sanctioned, ed-specific activities. Social media uploads are forbidden for all students.
So, I basically make sure my daughter's screen stays clear of tempting app clutter and remind her that, until ninth grade, her phone is mainly that: a phone. Owning it gives her a sense of responsibility and has opened up lots of valuable conversations about trust, cyber-safety, actions and consequences.
Of course, there are pitfalls to kids having so much power in their palms. There's the worry that they'll become too distracted to learn, that they'll disengage from the interpersonal experiences that school provides, or they'll use them to cheat. Beyond those headaches, there's the ever-present concern about the roles phones play in cyber-bullying. Risks like these have some parents calling for an all-out ban.
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I have a more "You take the good, you take the bad..." p.o.v. On the plus side, the National Education Association identified ways in which cellphones can help rather than hurt in classrooms. For instance, they can provide access in schools where computers aren't always available for students. They can also offer organization tools, which can be lifesavers for kids, like mine, who struggle with executive function issues.
I'm onboard with teachers incorporating educational apps and similar resources into their classes. They're engaging kids on their own wavelength. Why expect our kids to be educated the same ways we were decades ago? And if you think about it, which teachers had the biggest impact on you: the ones who just droned on from the textbook, or the ones who brought the lesson to life in a relatable, real-world way?
I say, as long as games and social media are treated like extracurricular activities — and kids are held accountable for this — let's let progress take its course.