Kids, cellphones, schools and safety
Teachers complain that cellphones distract kids in class, make it too easy for kids to sext during school hours, and serve as a convenient tool for committing other kinds of mayhem.
Kids and some parents argue that cellphones serve as their time keepers, a connection to their parents and even as an occasional educational device, allowing them to take pictures of notes or classroom materials, doing research on the Internet, and more.
Both sides have merit, actually. But the merit isn’t really equal.
Call me a Luddite (and many of you will), but I’m not convinced that kids really need their cellphones during school hours. If parents need to get in touch with their kids, they can call the school office. I have seen firsthand how distracting they can be in class -- even when teachers don’t actually see the kids texting each other under the desk. In fact, kids can text each other with a ring tone that most adults can’t here but kids can.
If you don’t believe me, read this about the Mosquito ringtone.
In the absence of a consensus about the right approach, school districts around the country are constantly reviewing their cellphone policies. Montgomery County this year relaxed its policy, while Prince George’s County is poised to adopt a strict policy that requires kids to leave their phones turned off and in their lockers all day.
One issue that I hear a lot is about safety: Kids need to have phones, especially in the nation’s capital, in case there is a security emergency. I had some sympathy for that position until I read the recommendations of National School Safety and Security Services, a private Cleveland-based, national school safety consulting firm. These pretty much shatter the kids-need-a-cellphone-for-an-emergency argument.
1. Cellphones have been used for calling in bomb threats to schools and, in many communities, cell calls cannot be traced by public safety officials.
2. Student use of cellphones could potentially detonate a real bomb if one is actually on campus.
3. Cellphone use by students can hamper rumor control and, in doing so, disrupt and delay effective public safety personnel response.
4. Cellphone use by students can impede public safety response by accelerating parental response to the scene of an emergency during times when officials may be attempting to evacuate students to another site.
5. Cellphone systems typically overload during a real major crisis (as they did during the Columbine tragedy and World Trade Center attacks) and usage by a large number of students at once could add to the overload and knock out cellphone systems quicker than may normally occur. Since cellphones may be a backup communications tool for school administrators and crisis teams, widespread student use in a crisis could thus eliminate crisis team emergency communications tools in a very short period of critical time.
Does this make me a Luddite, as my children think?
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| May 14, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Tags: ban on cellphones, cellphones and schools, cellphones in school, do kids need cellphones in school
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