Cell Phones in School

Using Cell Phones in School

The use of cell phones in schools has influenced the way some children behave. While it has caused outrage in some quarters. Some children have found a new sense of confidence. 

Many children find talking face to face tricky but they can text; non stop. They tend to use technology in a highly focused way, aimed towards the social side of the web, and to gather information.

  • Early Adopters
  • First Cell Phone, Ownership by Age
  • Concerned Parents

If you are under 40, you have grown up during this technological revolution. It has also changed the way some adults interact. 

Many adults have poor real world social or written skills. Some find talking face to face awkward, but can interact seamlessly online.

Early Adopters

The main driver behind these changes in human behavior, is the use of cell phones at school and in the home, especially in the UK where children were early adopters, or more accurately, their parents were. 
Today three quarters of UK children have cell phones, this is twice as many as any other country.  

Some schools report, that when children have cell phones in school, bullying and theft rates soar. The evidence is patchy at best. and may in fact be related to other behavioral issues in the school. 

The problem isn't the phone. It is related to the user's expectations; of what they should be allowed to do with their phone. It is a useful tool, so why not use it? There are many horrific web sites out there, and few people to police them. 

Considering we have been using cell phones for such a long time. You would assume that Britain would have a national policy. We do have guidelines, but there is no overall school policy in the UK. Individual schools decide how cell phones should be used on a school by school basis. 

Each school has a different policy. Some schools encourage full use of the cell phone capabilities, while other schools have an 100% ban. Sometimes these opposite approaches exist in the same education authority, region or town. 

First Cell Phone, ownership by Age

The average age for first cell phone ownership in the UK is 8 - 10 years old. This age range is declining fast. 3% of 5 - 7 year old UK children have a smart phone.

Controlling what children see online, has been an issue from the moment children were given access to the web.

Like any child that is told 'not' to do something. They will often do the exact opposite.

What was the first thing you looked up, when you first got your hands on a dictionary? Probably the swear words. You looked; because you wanted to know what all the fuss was about. 

There is nothing more tempting to children than to be told. 'You must not do x, y or z' 
It is human nature to inquire about our surroundings and our world.

Telling children not to look at things that adults think are inappropriate, is like showing a red rag to a bull. It just encourages them to be curious.

Demands for search engines to clean up the web, are pointless. They have no control over websites, except in the sense that they can add them to their index or not.
Websites flourish or perish by visitors numbers. 

When children know where to find websites, it renders the search engines powerless, apart from dropping these web sites in their rankings, or consigning them to the sandbox (the digital abyss). They can still be found if the web site address is known.

Internet Service Providers (ISP's) do have the ability to block web pages, and filter content. 
School network administrators can block websites. Front line Teachers cannot control cell phones in the same way.

Concerned Parents

Recent research shows that between 40% and 80% of parents, are concerned about the content their children are accessing on their phones, and yet less than 45% put restrictions or controls on their child’s phone. 

The usual advice is, that parents could do more to protect their children, or alternatively, do not buy their child a cell phone. Especially if you are too lazy to monitor what they are viewing.

In reality whatever restrictions parents put in place, children will find a way around them, or just use their friends phones. 
There will always be parents that will cave in to their children’s demands. At least you can say that you tried.

The use of phones in school is fine, as long as it is being used for specific tasks. It should be encouraged, guided and focused. 
Trying to control what children do with this technology is a fools errand and almost impossible. The emphasis should be on educating them to use the web constructively.  

If children visit what you consider to be age inappropriate web sites. They must be encouraged to discuss why they viewed that material. It should be discussed in an open and honest way.  The reasons why there are age restrictions on certain material should be explained.

Children learn what they live. The safe use of cell phones in schools, begins at home. Schools can then build on this foundation.