Large school districts are removing bans on student phones despite strong evidence the devices impede student learning, according to a recent Bloomberg editorial advising against the trend.
From the Bloomberg View op-ed “Kick Mobile Phones Out of Class”:
Research shows that mere proximity to smartphones contributes to sloppy work, reduced concentration and lower problem-solving capacity. (Phones also facilitate cheating.) College students who don’t bring their mobile phones to class score a full grade higher than those who do. A study of 91 high schools in the U.K. found that students in schools that imposed strict limits on mobile phones saw test scores improve by 6.4 percent of a standard deviation—and improvement was highest among low-achievers.
Despite the evidence smartphones are bad for learning, “many school districts in the U.S.” have lifted bans on the devices. Bloomberg editors argue the pervasiveness of smartphones in society is likely a main driver, as “at least three-quarters of American teens own a smart phone.”
Teachers who use the devices for “learning tools” and parents who want to maintain constant contact with their children are also pushing administrators to allow teens to carry their smartphones in school, according to Bloomberg View.
The Culture of American Families report, published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture in 2012, seems to support the notion that society’s increasing reliance on smartphones is an issue.
Researchers found that American parents believe mobile phones and social networking technology are pervasive, unavoidable, and a good thing. Only 34 percent believed they are a bad influence.
Roughly half off all of the survey’s respondents said they spend “at least an hour or more a day . . . browsing the web, reading email, etc.”
More recent data from the Pew Research Center shows the percentage of smartphone users has increased significantly since the 2012 Culture of American Families report, from fewer than half of adults owning a smartphone to more than three-quarters now. The Pew data show that 92 percent of people ages 18–29 own a smartphone.
The Bloomberg editorial contends the pervasive use of smartphones has led many parents and educators to conclude “it’s futile to try to police” students’ use in schools, but argued nonetheless that it’s an important endeavor.
“Schools that decide not to prohibit students from bringing their phones to school can still find ways to limit their use. They can require students to deposit their phones in lockers for the duration of the school day, for example—and enforce penalties for unauthorized use,” according to the Bloomberg View.
“They can also provide incentives to encourage students to stay off their phones, similar to a gaming app that rewards teens for not looking at their phones while driving. To allay parents’ anxieties about being unable to reach their kids, school districts should develop communications plans to provide reliable information to parents in a crisis.”
Parents and educators can also talk to students about how they use technology to help them understand how it can impact learning, both in positive and negative ways.
A lesson on “Using Technology More Wisely” from the Jubilee Centre encourages students to think about their relationship with technology, and the benefits and drawbacks it has on their lives and society in general.