Should you let your kids have a cellphone in school?

Edward C. Baig | USA TODAY

Do you let your kids take their cellphones to class? Does your school district even allow them?

Digital device policies are all over the map in U.S. schools, with parents and teachers divided on whether to curb or outright ban such phone use on school grounds.

Some schools make the kids place phones in a locker. Others require them to be checked in at the front office. But some are OK having students keep them in a backpack or pocket, so long as they’re turned off.

At some schools, the decision about whether to let a kid have a phone in class is up to individual teachers, who may be reluctant to assume the role of enforcer.

In fact, some teachers see the phones as an asset and actually incorporate phone use as part of their lessons.

Yet another question surrounds what kids are allowed to do with phones during lunch or between classes. Can they text, call, play games or use other apps then?

Recently, California passed a law that gives public and charter schools the authority to prohibit cellphone use in the classroom, except during emergencies or other special circumstances, such as when a doctor determines that a student needs a phone for health reasons.

The Forest Hills Public Schools, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, revised its policy recently so that students will not be allowed to carry or use cellphones during the school day.

A similar edict is in place at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio.

A principal expressed his happiness on Twitter about his school's policy: “Looking forward to seeing faces, not cell phones/headphones this school year!” tweeted David Lautenschleger.

What doesn't seem to be in dispute is that screen-time addiction is a problem for young and old. Kids fixated on smartphone screens may merely be modeling the behavior of mom and dad.

The case for allowing phones in class

Those who say cellphones should be permitted in schools often cite educational benefits. For example, kids might be making movies or studying photography through various apps, for instance.

“Have a plan, not a ban," Liz Kline, vice president for education at Common Sense Education in the San Francisco Bay Area, told USA TODAY in 2018.

Even those who favor cellphone use in the classroom acknowledge those times, however, when phones ought to be put away or even collected by teachers, no questions asked, namely during test time. The sad truth: Some students use phones to cheat.

Safety concerns are also often given as a reason to let kids have devices at school. When there’s an accident or tragic incident, the presence of phones lets parents get in touch with teachers and/or students.

For sure, there are times when parents may also try to text the youngsters under more routine circumstances if only to remind the kids to remind their teachers about something.

The case to kick phones out of class

The rationale against cellphones in schools is that excessive exposure to the devices will have a negative effect on school-aged kids – lowering grades, promoting cyberbullying and even increasing the likelihood of teenage anxiety, depression and suicide.

Kids can be sneaky, too. “When we’re asking these 12- to 13-year-olds to carry the phone and not be on them, we 100% know that’s not happening,” Delaney Ruston, a physician and director of the documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” told USA TODAY in 2018.