Pros and cons of allowing mobile/cell phones in schools

A brief discussion of some of the pros and cons of allowing mobile/cellular phones in schools.
In our news roundup published earlier this week, there were reports that the Government of Barbados intended to revisit its posture on mobile/cellular phones in schools. From the articles on the issue, it appears that students are not allowed to carry phones to schools; hence the relaxation of the current ban could be significant.

However, mobile/cellular phone in schools has been a polarising issue, which strong supporters on both sides. Below are some of key arguments.

Con: Disruptive and a distraction

This argument is perhaps one of the strongest for those of the view that mobile/cellular phones should stay out of schools. In the classroom, it is feared that the devices will be a distraction to students – whether ringing or sending alerts at inappropriate times or students feeling compelled to check them or posting updates. Ultimately, they would be disruptive to the class.

The argument can also be made that students not having ready access to mobile/cellular phones is part of the disciplinary process. In other words, there is a time and place for everything, and the disruptive power of mobile/cellular phones ought not to be encouraged in schools.

Pro: Potential learning tool

An immediate rebuttal of the previous argument is that mobile/cellular phones can be learning tools in the classroom. Across the Caribbean, many countries have rolled out laptops and/or tablet computers initiatives in schools to give individual students access to their own device. However, it can be argued that today’s smartphones are almost as powerful as a laptop or a tablet, and could be utilised – or even replace the laptop and tablet – as a learning tool in the classroom as well.

Pro: Easier to enforce

In having a ban on mobile/cellular phones on the school compound, manpower and other resources had to be found to ensure that the rules were being enforced. In permitting those devices at school, the time and effort needed to search bags to ensure that the ban was being adhered to, would no longer be necessary and can be re-assigned to more other important matters.

Con: Increased instances of theft

Although considered integral to our daily lives, mobile/cellular phones, and smartphones in particular, can be considered luxury items. In the Caribbean, those devices tend to range from around USD 50 for a basic handset, to well over USD 500 for a high-end smartphone. In addition to creating a chasm between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’ is the school setting – where very frequently, the intention is to create a uniform and even playing field – increased instances of theft of premium devices is likely.

In summary, there are compelling reasons on both sides of this divide. The existence of mobile/cellular phones is still relatively new, and essentially society is still adjusting to its influence and impact. Hence the position on mobile/cellular phones in schools may continue to evolve into the future.


Have your say:  Should mobile/cellular phones be banned from schools?


Image credit:  Gabriel Pollard (flickr)


1 Comment

  • This is an interesting topic from the viewpoint of the use if consumer electronics in schools.

    The points above are all valid and while the debate rages on, new issues surrounding privacy, priviledges and so on will continue tko surface as we saunter into the unknown technological future.

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