With children as young as grade-school age using mobile phones, teachers and parents have questioned whether the devices belong in the classroom. When used appropriately, mobile phones provide ways to offer creative learning experiences, allow for emergency communications and improve students' social experiences. However, the devices can also hinder learning, lead to inappropriate behaviors and affect students' health. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the disadvantages of using mobile devices in the classroom and reap the benefits.
Impacts on Learning
While teachers can use activities on mobile phones to entice students to be more engaged and appeal to more learning styles, the devices can also create distractions that cause problems in the classroom. Rather than watching a teacher's lecture, students may feel tempted to use their phones to text their friends, use social media apps, watch videos or browse the web. This splitting of attention can cause students to miss out on important information taught in lessons as well as frustrate teachers who can't get students to pay attention in class.
Another one of the disadvantages of using smart phones in classrooms is that the cost of these devices can lead to an unequal learning experience for students. Students from low-income families may not have access to mobile phones and miss out on the interactive activities that teachers incorporate into lessons. They either need to share another student's phone or get access to a phone through the school to reap the benefits.
Risks of Inappropriate Use
Mobile devices can make it easier for students to collaborate, but they can also be used for bullying, which can cause physical and emotional harm. Students might use their phones in class to text rumors and lies about each other or make threats against classmates. Bullying can happen across social media platforms, text messages or the school's own messaging platform. This behavior creates additional disciplinary issues the school needs to handle to keep students safe.
The potential for students to send inappropriate or illegal messages is another one of the disadvantages of allowing a phone to be used in class. Students might send suggestive photos and texts or organize illegal activities such as drug sales, gang activity and threats. Students could interact with strangers outside school and become victims of kidnapping, solicitation and other crimes.
Effects on Academic Integrity
The potential for cheating showcases one of the most notable disadvantages of allowing mobile devices in the classroom. While teachers can take steps to confiscate phones during exams or frequently check students as they take tests, there's still the chance students can use the devices to take pictures of exam questions beforehand or share answers during tests. They may also use their phones to cheat by searching Google for answers or looking at notes they made.
Potential Impacts on Health
Mobile phone usage at school can potentially affect students' mental health due to the impacts on social interaction and the effects of misuse. Cyberbullying can lead to issues such as depression, low self-esteem and physical ailments such as headaches that affect students' quality of life. Even students who don't face cyberbullying can experience adverse effects when electronic communication takes away from face-to-face relationships with their peers.
Overcoming Disadvantages of Smart Phones in Classrooms
Teachers and parents can take steps to prevent some of the problems that stem from using phones in classrooms. Teachers can establish clear policies that allow mobile phones only for specific learning purposes. They can also help engage students through a mix of traditional and online activities to try to boost learning and attention levels. Along with making rules regarding when students can use their phones, parents can install parental control apps that restrict access to social media and other nonessential apps during school hours.
- Western Governors University: How to Deal With Cell Phones in School
- National Education Association: Using Smartphones in the Classroom
- Oxford Learning: Cell Phones in the Classroom: Learning Tool or Distraction
- National School Safety and Security Services: Cell Phones and Text Messaging in Schools
- The Atlantic: Do Smartphones Have a Place in the Classroom?
- Touro University: Digital Threats: The Impact of Cyberbullying
- Education Week: As Cell Phones Proliferate in K-12, Schools Search for Smart Policies