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Should Cell Phones Be Allowed in Schools?

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Boy writing text message on mobile phone
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New York City, along with other school districts, does not allow students to bring their cell phones to school. Since 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned the use of cell phones in New York City public schools. As a result, according to reports by public radio station WNYC, The New York Post, and other organizations, some New York City public school students are paying $1 a day to store their cell phones at local stores or trucks. While that fee may sounds like pocket change, it amounts to over $4 million a year, and the students who have to use these services to check their phones during the school day are those who attend the 88 (out of 1,200) public schools with metal detectors. Therefore, students with few resources wind up paying, sometimes out of their lunch money, a total of about $150 a year to have their cell phones with them. These news reports have re-opened the debate over cell phone use in school.

The Debate Over Cell Phone Use

In the ongoing debate over whether cell phones should be allowed in school, parents and schools are often at odds. While schools claim that students spend too much of the school day texting instead of concentrating in class, parents want a reliable way to connect with their children during the school day. Parents' need to connect has become even more critical in the aftermath of horrible events such as September 11, 2001, and the tragic shootings at schools at colleges. Parents need to know that they can reliably connect with their kids, particularly in the case of a family, local, or larger emergency.

Schools, on the other hand, claim not only that cell phone use interferes with students' concentration, but also that cell phones can contribute to cheating, which, according to studies, is on the rise in schools nationwide. In fact, one of the easiest ways teachers, including at private schools, can prevent cheating is to confiscate cell phones, scientific calculators (as students can use the memory functions to store information), and other similar devices during tests. Students can use these devices to store information, surf the Web, or text each other for answers. It is clearly the responsibility of the teacher to monitor students during tests to ensure that they aren't cheating, but taking away students' cell phones during tests can also help curb cheating. Despite schools' concerns, is there a responsible way in which schools can balance students' need to communicate with their parents with schools' concerns about cheating and texting?

What Is Responsible Cell Phone Use in School?

Many private schools have a balanced approach to cell phone use. While schools' policies differ, many schools permit older students to use cell phones in designated places and at designated times, such as lunch. Students learn responsibility by abiding by these rules and having their cell phones taken away if they do not follow the rules. In addition, some teachers argue that students, particularly in high school, should be involved in formulating their school's cell phone policy so they can be part of an intelligent debate on the subject that improves their ability to think about the issues at hand. Read more about schools' approaches to cell phone use.

Boarding schools also have rules about cell phones. For example, such schools try to curb students' homesickness and encourage their independence by restricting the time and length of students' calls to their parents. While students in years past had to wait their turn to speak on dorm phones, they now may feel tempted to call their parents often from cell phones, and boarding schools restrict their calls home to make sure they are adapting well to their new environment and relying on teachers and advisors rather than only on calls home.

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