The Problem with Smartphones in Schools: A Growing Concern

The Problem with Smartphones in Schools: A Growing Concern

July 9, 2024 Off By Sharp Media

Smartphones have become a ubiquitous presence in modern life, but their role in the classroom is increasingly seen as problematic. A Pew Research poll conducted last November reveals that nearly three-quarters of US high school teachers consider smartphones a major distraction. This concern is particularly pronounced among high school educators, with 72% identifying student distraction by phones as a significant issue, compared to 33% of middle school teachers and just 6% of elementary school teachers.

Oklahoma State Representative Chad Caldwell, who sponsored a bill banning smartphones in schools, supports these concerns. “If you talk to safety experts, they will tell you that it’s actually better for the kid if they are not all on their cellphones,” Caldwell said. “They are quieter, and they can pay attention to the teacher or adult in the room to help give them directions.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has also weighed in on the issue. In a recent interview with The Guardian, she expressed her concerns about the addictive nature of smartphones, particularly their algorithms designed to capture and hold the attention of young people. “I have seen these addictive algorithms pull in young people, literally capture them and make them prisoners in a space where they are cut off from human connection, social interaction, and normal classroom activity,” Hochul stated.

Experts have noted that the surge in smartphone popularity in the early 2010s marked a turning point in adolescent mental health. Zach Rausch, associate research scientist at the NYU-Stern School of Business, told Al Jazeera, “We’re trying to explain why in many countries between the years of 2010 and 2015, there was a sudden and sharp drop in a bunch of different measures of wellbeing and mental health among adolescents, particularly adolescent girls.” He believes this shift is closely tied to the rapid integration of smartphones and social media into teenagers’ lives.

Despite these concerns, the impact of smartphone bans in schools remains a contentious topic. Marilyn Campbell, professor of early childhood and inclusive education at Queensland University of Technology, and Elizabeth Edwards, associate professor in education at the University of Queensland, conducted a “scoping review” of global evidence on the subject. Their findings, published in March, indicate that the research is still inconclusive.

While the debate over smartphones in schools continues, the existing evidence highlights the potential drawbacks of their presence in the classroom. Distraction, reduced attention spans, and negative impacts on mental health are significant concerns. As educators and policymakers deal with these issues, the challenge remains to find a balance that harnesses the benefits of technology while minimizing its adverse effects on students’ learning and wellbeing.