Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Empowering and Educating Students About Cell Phones: Ending the Bans

School’s continuing to ban cell phones and smartphones are fighting a losing battle. In spite of administrative efforts to keep cell phones out of our schools, our students are becoming “cell-only” internet users according to a recent report, entitled “Teens and Technology 2013,” released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. The report continues:
“One in four teens are “cell-mostly” internet users, who say they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer,”
Smartphone adoption among American teens has increased substantially and our students have “pervasive mobile access to the Internet.” Because our students now have this “pervasive mobile access” the time has come to pull the plug on cell phone bans entirely. Instead of keeping cell phones out, we need to get our students engaged in using them constructively. Where else are they going to learn about the potential for good or ill of mobile technologies?

Other interesting points from the report include:
  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone. Almost half of those are smartphones (47%).
  • 37% of all teens have smartphones, up from 23% in 2011.
  • 1 in 4 teens have tablet computers.
  • 3 in 4 teens (74%) say they can access the Internet on cell phones, tablets or other mobile devices at least occasionally.
In addition to getting rid of cell phone bans, we also need to reconsider our efforts to filter access as well. If our students are going to have unfiltered Internet access anyway through their mobile devices, would our energies not be better directed toward teaching them responsible access?

Cell phones, smartphones, and tablets are becoming the Internet access devices of choice among our students, yet we still engage in policies that try to limit or filter that access. Instead of ban and filter, let’s empower and educate students to use that access for good.


  1. I love technology and what it has brought to my classroom. Cellphones are a staple item that are in use on a regular basis in my room. It opens a dialogue not only with students but with parents and administrators as well. I use it for Socratic seminars, discussion groups, tweeting etc. I think that many educators are scared of technology and fear "loss of control in the classroom"

  2. We really need to observe responsible technology use.