Along with their books and school supplies, most high school and college students -- and many younger students -- make their daily trip to school with their trusty smartphone. Mobile phones connect students to one another, to educational resources, and to a potential host of distractions. The presence of cell phones presents both opportunities and challenges for today's students. Mobile phones can be a helpful academic tool, or a hurtful academic disruption depending upon the attitude and use pattern of the students and the policies of the schools they attend.
Mobile phones are undeniably convenient. Because of mobile phones, students never have to look for a pay phone or wonder about the location of a friend. These ubiquitous communication tools allow students to reach their peers and their parents instantly. Everything from ordering a pizza to calling to check movie times is easier with a cell phone, as the communication device you need is right at your finger tips.
Greater Technology Availability
Picture-taking and Internet surfing are readily available on most cell phones. This aids students in gathering the information that they need for school or accessing their email or school website. Students benefit from this technology availability as it allows them to create more polished academic products with less effort than before the ready availability of cell phones.
Improved Personal Security
Many parents argue that cell phones keep students safe. A parent is never more than a phone call away when a students is carrying their cell phone. The presence of a cell phone also ensures that students can call parents or emergency personnel in the case of an unforeseen emergency. While most students will never have to use their cellphone as a safety device, the knowledge that it could be used as such puts parents at ease and keeps them paying the monthly cell phone bill.
The biggest lament of teachers in regards to cell phones is that they lead to student distraction and off task behavior. Texting a friend is a tempting diversion that many students select over listening to a lecture or completing a class assignment. If not silenced, cell phones can ring during class, drawing everyone's attention away from the lesson and disrupting the flow of learning. Many teachers worry that this added distraction negatively impacts students' school performance as it stops them from dedicating their full attention to their studies.
Ability to Engage in Inappropriate Behaviors
While useful, many of the features of cell phones can also be used to engage in inappropriate behaviors. Taking inappropriate pictures and then “sexting” them to a boyfriend or girlfriend is a growing problem. These pictures often end up in the wrong hands, which leads to others gaining access to the private photos. Teens often fail to recognize the long-term implications of inappropriate behavior and engage in the behavior without considering the consequences. The consequences for inappropriate behavior are real and long-lasting. Once distributed, sexted photos are almost impossible to contain. The presence of these racy photos can limit the teens options in the future and severely mar their reputations.