The Sinister Screen

1973 marked the introduction of the first mobile phone to the public market. In the forty years that have passed, there is now a cry for intervention by one of the most developed institutions in our society: school.

School is a place of learning where adolescents mature into adults, gaining knowledge and skills that will prepare them for the future. At least, it’s supposed to be.

When more than half of teenagers still use their cell phones during classes in schools where they are banned, it’s clear that the dire consequences of unregulated cell phone usage must not be ignored.

Although cell phones have taken over the 21st century, firm cell phone usage policies must be implemented in schools, where adolescents spend the majority of their time, because the increasingly negative impacts that cell phones are having on learning must be addressed.

Cell phones have already begun to skew testing results. According to Common Sense Media, “35% of teens use their phones to cheat,” and “26% store info on their phone and look at it while taking a test.”

If cell phones were banned from classrooms, it would be a whole lot harder for students to cheat, and the percentages of cheaters would potentially be much lower.  

Unfortunately, cell phones have negative impacts on student understanding of the material being tested as well.

For example, a study done by linguistic researcher Joan Lee revealed that students who texted on cell phones were less able to interpret new words, a crucial aspect of learning.

Consider the fact that, according to recent Pew Research studies, 50% of teens skip over using proper grammar in school assignments in favor of informal texting language, and it’s no wonder that students feel they need to cheat and fake their understanding in order to raise their grades.

The negative impacts that cell phones have on vulnerable, developing adolescents revolve in a perpetuating cycle. Unless something changes, the potential of millions of teenagers will continue to be unfulfilled as the result of destructive, uncontrolled cell phone usage.

Proponents of cell phone usage in school might claim that cell phones can contribute supplementary learning in classrooms. However, what these studies fail to mention is a comparison of the learning between classes that allow free cell phone usage and classes that prohibit it.

It’s simply not possible to obtain a truly accurate method of comparison because that would require a perfectly equal control group, which is not possible, and would rely on the students themselves to provide honest answers, which is also not guaranteed.

The teachers who claim that technology usage has enriched the classroom are inherently biased. They can only derive their opinion based on what they observe, and of course, no sane student would openly abuse their cell phone privileges in front of their teachers.

Additionally, it is also possible that the interviewed teachers have never attempted to implement alternative forms of technology, such as whiteboards or interactive visuals that don’t rely on “trust.”

High school teacher Paul Barnwell, who did test out cell phones in the classroom, found that it resulted in “class clowns [taking] advantage of the anonymity of the polling to text inappropriate statements.” After seeing the negative impacts of cell phones in classrooms, Paul Barnwell “decided [cell phones] weren’t worth the time or the hassle.”  

Logic dictates that we ought to only evaluate and judge based on empirical data. The data simply shows that cell phones are directly linked to higher rates of cheating and limitations of student learning.

It’s only common sense that, if the source of the trouble was eliminated, then the effects would resolve themselves in response. Thus, cell phones need to be banned from classrooms to ensure complete learning and growth of adolescents in school.

Academic dishonesty and a lack of knowledge increase are both extremely dire problems, considering that school is meant to foster growth and maturity.

Who knows how many teenagers are secretly snapchatting away while their teacher’s back is turned? Who knows how many texts have already been sent that contain answers to exams?

However, there is still hope.

Banning cell phones in school will ensure that students achieve their full potential as budding academic scholars. It is a moral imperative to shape an environment in which students can be successful.

Schools ought to encourage creativity, honesty, and character by reinforcing that cell phones do not belong within classrooms.