Many students do not spend a waking
moment without a cell phone in hand.
However, the classroom is one place
where students need to go beyond the
concept of “set on vibrate” and become
accustomed to a new idea: doing without
a cell phone.
Virginia’s lawmakers need to aid
young students in this endeavor by focusing
less on the proposed teen-driving
cell phone ban and instead introducing
more productive legislation restricting
the use of cell phones on high school
and college campuses.
Several states have bans on student
cell phones within classrooms, but these
bans were lifted or not regularly enforced
after incidents of school violence like the
Columbine massacre became prevalent,
and cell phones were seen as a necessary
safety, a means to communicate with the
outside world in times of danger. Parents
could rest easy and manage to send
their teens off into the darkest woods
of adolescence but still keep the child
attached to their hip via a cell phone.
This is more of a sad statement about
today’s parenting than it is about school
security. Previous generations of high
school and college students survived
without a Motorola Razr or Bluetooth
capabilities. Many school officials say
the immediacy of parent-child contact
can hamper the administration’s efforts
to maintain order. Students now alert
parents to false alarms, such as a routine
fire drill, instead of a real emergency,
and the principal’s office is flooded with
calls from panicked parents.
As cell phone technology has advanced,
so has the number of teens and
college students who own them, making
them more of a common and accepted
toy or accessory than a tool.
A 2006 survey by Simmons Research
estimated that more than 50 percent of
teenagers owned a cell phone. The enhancement
of games, texting and camera
and video capabilities have made wireless
devices all-purpose gadgets, no longer a
mere method of communication.
In a classroom, it now seems to be an
accepted fact that a cell phone will ring
or vibrate in class and serve as a rude
distraction. It is just something that we
all have to grin and bear, like the golden
days of school misconduct, of passing
notes and chewing gum in class. Kids
will be kids, after all, right?
Except, for this generation, this is what
“kids being kids” can mean when the kids
in question are equipped with cell phones
at all times. Teachers are now reporting
instances of inappropriate cell phone use,
such as sending text messages from class,
using a camera phone to take pictures of
an exam to help another student cheat
and taking photos or videos being shot
in locker rooms and bathrooms and then
distributing them on the Web.
Bullying is done in cyberspace now,
– not in the schoolyard – and Internet
harassment by teens is as prevalent
and rampant as the World Wide Web
itself. High schools in California have
reported that students use cell phones to
warn each another about random drug
searches, making detection of offenders
It is bad enough that many high
school administrators and teachers are
constantly policing blogs, MySpace.com
and Facebook.com pages, searching for
potential violations, abuse and threats to
their academic community. Administrators
who are struggling to maintain a
sense of law and order on campus are
coming up against a merry band of
students who are armed with the latest
and most advanced technology. Teachers
are having their authority usurped in
their own classrooms by a student who
defies the rules of conduct in the two
seconds it takes to send a text message.
Can there be any greater insult to an
Many will argue that cell phones are
as necessary to the modern student as
any textbook for one reason: safety.
But the safety concerns of an academic
institution should go hand in hand with
the ultimate goal of a high school or
university – that of providing a quality
educational environment. Our students
need not only physical safety, but also
freedom from distraction and the opportunity
to learn without interruption.
This is what a classroom is designed for,
to serve as an inclusive meeting place
for an educator to instruct students,
unfettered by disturbances from the
All that is required to ensure communication
in the case of dire circumstances
is to require the teacher to keep one cell
phone in his or her possession at all times.
That should more than suffice for receiving
alerts of emergency warnings.
It is time students surrender their
cell phones upon entering the hallowed
halls of education so they might actually
begin to learn.