Should students be allowed to use smartphones at school?
Thursday, October 05, 2017
Smartphones, Internet and social media are an intrinsic part of our lives today. More than adults, teenagers and young adults find it impossible to survive without technology.
But what happens when the same tech is used to harm, belittle and abuse others? From the early days of promoting BYOT (bring your own technology) to banning cellphone use, schools have gone through a gamut of changes for technology usage on campus.
Smartphones and tablets are meant to aid in knowledge and education, and they have. Some educators consider smartphones powerful learning tools with the immense potential for internet-enabled collaboration and research.
However, smartphones are also abused by students in sexting, cyberbullying and other troublesome activities. In many cases, they are the main causes of classroom distraction. The issue of restricting phone usage, therefore, been a contentious one.
Some school districts have gone ahead and completely banned cellphones from the premises. Some try to keep tabs on students' online posts and their digitally delivered messages, but this hardly a feasible idea given the increasing number of students that are using smart devices 24/7.
Some of these messages signal dangerous behavior in real life. Districts and school leaders are desperate to curb these malicious activities and prevent student deaths, which have risen in recent years.
Fellow students posting mean comments and false information online is not always limited to after-school hours. Some have been traced and timestamped during the school day. Cyberbullying affects the physical and emotional well-being of a student, and teachers feel as responsible for them as parents do.
Those who oppose outright bans point to the obvious fact that even if schools prohibit them, students can always send and post inappropriate content off the campus. Instead, these officials say reasonable standards should be set for responsible use, and students should be made aware of the rights and wrongs of digital usage.
The inappropriate and troubling posts may occur outside of school or at night, but the fallout often happens inside the schools. The victimized students are scared to report these incidents, and they suffer quietly. Soon their academic performance begins to suffer, and they withdraw emotionally into a shell.
A UK-based survey shows that 50 percent of young adults are bullied, and mostly online. Social media is the pervasive tool for this with Instagram leading the way. With these horrifying numbers in mind, curbing cellphone usage, at least for a short time and on campus, could be a good start.
As early as 2015, an LSE study revealed the direct correlation between cellphone usage in class and below average academic performance. When their use was prohibited, researchers found that middle school test scores rose is schools.
Improving the school climate and setting up dedicated programs to engage in safe and ethical online practices are needed to root out cyberbullying. These programs focus on accepting difference, stress empathy and most importantly drill in the significance of posting publicly online.
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