Addressing the issue of smartphones in the classroom


A popular online educator news source is  There are two interesting articles this month (February 2018) on Smartphones.  The articles represent the two sides of the issue of cell/Smartphones in K-12 schools.

As Cell Phones Proliferate in K-12 Schools, Schools Search for Smart Policies, discusses how schools need to embrace and incorporate Smartphones into their instruction and student learning.  The emphasis in schools has been on banning phones, and according to the article that may put teachers in unnecessary “adversarial roles with their students.” The article's point is that given that Smartphones are now in the hands of more students, schools "Don't Make a Ban; Have a Plan."

No doubt Smartphones open up a world of information to the user.  The device is a computer in our pockets. But there is a time and a place for their use, and we need to be mindful of who the users are.  The article says many schools ban them because “we are too afraid of what children are going to see.”  For sure.  We also need to be cognizant of what children may do with phones. “Cyber-bullying” is hard enough for schools to address when it is inflicted outside of school hours, and yet parents often expect the school to deal with it.  Opening the window of opportunity for such misuse can further exacerbate this problem.  And while the article points out a growing use of Smartphones even at the elementary school age, let’s step back and consider whether 2nd graders really need them.  After all, most schools still have computers, laptops, and other internet accessing devices, don’t they? 

A companion article to this one posted earlier this month—The Teenage Smartphone Problem is Worse Than You Think--is also worth a read and some thought and discussion.  The article gives an example of a high school student—an excellent student, by the way—who had volunteered to read in class, but when it came her turn she couldn’t find her place in the paperback.  She apologized for holding up the class.  Her impulse to check her Twitter account had been too strong, and she wasn’t focused. The article discusses the over-use (American teens average of 9 hours a day of entertainment media ?), the habit-forming if not increased addiction to Smartphones by K-12 students, and unrestrained media consumption contributing to diminished attention spans and negatively impacting learning at a prime time in life.

As with many things, moderation is the key.  But the question is:  Is a K-12 student capable of the self-discipline that is required for moderation?   

I recently consulted with and developed a cell phone (Smartphone) policy for a school.  In short, the policy allows such devices on campus, but they are to be off during the school day and kept secure (e.g. locked in student locker).  They can be used in a teacher’s class if specifically authorized by that teacher, used as a subject matter resource for that teacher's class, and during that teacher’s class.  And there are some clear and escalating consequences/enforcement provisions for non-compliance choices by the student.

A specific, clear, and reasonable policy.  That's a "plan and not a ban."

About the Author: R. V. Stanke, Ed.S, J.D., a licensed attorney, teacher, and school principal, is affiliated with LEAD Legal & Educational Services, LLC.  LEAD Legal & Educational Services, LLC provides services to schools and school districts and offers continuing education programs and graduate courses in school law related areas to teachers and school administrators. For more information contact