Should students be allowed to use phones in schools?

The usage of phones in school is now prevalent, and this has created a challenge for educators in managing discipline in their class. Some educators believe that smartphones can be useful in the classroom, while others think they can be distracting and contribute to more harm than good.

However, when schools transitioned to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these rules became irrelevant because many students relied on their phones for both education and entertainment.

Why do students carry cellphones?

Nowadays, students consider cell phones as an essential need. They find comfort in having their phones with them during school hours, as it helps them feel safer throughout the day.

However, school officials believe that cell phones can lead to disruptions in discipline within the school environment. Nevertheless, there are a few school administrators who permit cell phone usage only after classes are over.

Studies suggest that as many as 95% of teenagers in the United States have smartphones, and almost half of them admit to being online almost all the time. These numbers explain why educators, parents, and even young people themselves are concerned about the impact of bringing cell phones to school.

In an educational setting that should primarily focus on learning, there is a heated discussion surrounding the advantages and disadvantages of allowing cell phones in schools.

Should cell phones be banned in schools?

Cell phones can be a real distraction for some students when it comes to focusing on their studies, and using them inappropriately or excessively can be harmful. It’s important for kids to have clear guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable.

However, just because this generation communicates differently than what was considered normal in the past, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily wrong—as long as it’s done safely.

According to a study conducted in 2017, it was found that more than 90% of students use technology in class for purposes unrelated to their work. This means that educators often find themselves competing for their students’ attention.

Without a strict policy on mobile phone use during the day, students are tempted to use social media during lessons.

The use of mobile phones can decrease students’ performance.

Research conducted by the London School of Economics demonstrated that when mobile phones were banned in schools, students’ test scores improved.

The study surveyed schools in four cities in England and found a significant increase in student performance in important exams.

Allowing phones in school also contributes to bullying.

When mobile phones are banned, there is a decrease in online bullying and peer-to-peer abuse. Before mobile phones and the internet, bullying was limited to physical and verbal abuse that happened face-to-face.

Now, students can anonymously take photos and videos, targeting their peers and educators and increasing online bullying and peer-to-peer abuse.

Mobile phones also bring up issues of privacy, safety, and online etiquette.

Problems like theft, sharing inappropriate content, and the potential for blackmail can arise.

The excessive use of mobile phones, also known as ‘mobile phone addiction,’ can contribute to mental health issues such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, and depression.

Banning mobile phones in schools can help reduce these risks.

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It’s important to remember that smartphones are widely used by many high schools as a helpful tool. They can be used for things like school notices, timetables, and contacting sports teams.

Some schools even have their own apps that students and parents can use to access academic results, activity calendars, and report absences, among other things.

Listed below are a few pros and cons for children having their cellphones in school:


  • Increased parental involvement

Cell phones foster parental engagement, leading to improved grades, school involvement, and support for students.

  • Cell phones for safety

Having a cell phone in school allows for quick access to help in emergencies. It can help younger children who may need assistance when parents are unavailable due to work schedules.

  • Support for educators

Cell phones facilitate virtual teaching during times like the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling educators to engage with students and manage lessons remotely.

  • Learning opportunities

Cell phones expand learning beyond the classroom, offering access to current events, online research, and educational tools for tasks like homework and problem-solving.


  • Cheating temptation

Cell phones may tempt students to cheat during exams, undermining the learning process and ethical standards

  • Classroom disruptions

Cell phones can cause distractions and disrupt the learning environment, requiring regulation to maintain control. Responsible use is essential for learning and personal well-being.

  • Health considerations

Excessive cell phone use, particularly from a young age, may have adverse health effects that should be moderated.

  • Online safety concerns

Cell phones expose students to risks such as cyberbullying and interactions with strangers on social media.

Can and should schools take your phone?

Educators have the power to take away your phone or any electronic device if it is causing problems during class. If your phone is being disruptive, the educator can temporarily keep it.

However, they should return it to you within a reasonable time.

Nowadays, cell phones are important in schools, but some schools have rules that limit or ban their use on campus.

If students break these rules, their phones may be taken away. The school’s policies differ, as some may keep the phone for the rest of the day, while others might hold it for a week or two.

Remember, if a school takes your phone, it doesn’t mean they are stealing it. They have to plan on keeping it permanently to be considered theft.

Recent Developments

A special report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) suggests a solution to make classrooms better and safer for young students.

They recommend that smartphones should not be allowed in schools. The report explains that this step will help with two important factors.

1. Prevent Distractions 

They believe that it will stop distractions in classrooms and help students focus on their studies.

2. No Cyber-Bullying 

It may also protect kids from cyberbullying, which is a harmful behavior that can happen online. The report also tells us that while technology can be helpful for learning, it is important not to rely on it too much.

UNESCO believes that face-to-face teaching is crucial and should not be replaced completely by digital technology. Too much technology can be distracting and may make it difficult for students to learn.

In some places, like the UK, there have been discussions about using smartphones in schools. Some schools allow limited use with teacher permission.

Greater initiatives

An example of a good approach comes from the “It Takes A Village” initiative in County Wicklow, Ireland.

They noticed that young kids were feeling anxious because of smartphones and online content. So, they encouraged parents not to give smartphones to their children until they are a bit older.

This way, they aim to protect the kids’ emotions and innocence. They are not against technology but want kids to be ready for it.

The United Nations supports the idea of banning smartphones in schools to make learning better and protect kids from cyberbullying.

The “It Takes A Village” initiative wants everyone to work together and support each other to deal with the challenges of technology. The goal is to help parents, teachers, and children understand how to use technology wisely.

Wrapping up

There is a general agreement that using cellphones in schools can be beneficial for learning. It helps students engage and learn both in and outside the classroom. By establishing rules for cell phone use and providing educational content, we can take advantage of technological advancements to enhance education.

However, we must address the issue of excluding students who don’t have access to cellphones. It is important to consider this when creating educational materials and policies. In developing countries, there are challenges in terms of infrastructure and access to telecommunications.

Nevertheless, if cellphones are used for interactive learning experiences, they can be a valuable tool in the classroom. Smartphones have become an essential part of students’ lives, and recognizing this need is important for parents and educators. 

Head over to our EDU Blog to learn how leveraging technology can engage students, foster learning, and create enriching educational experiences!

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