Ages & Stages: 11-18: Class Ring: Should Students Have Electronic Devices at School?

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Gone are the days of crib sheets and test answers written on your palm. Today’s students have a much more savvy way to cheat their way through an assignment — modern technology! And this technology brings with it a variety of new problems that schools must contend with.

Cheating and Beyond
The number of small electrical devices that can easily be carried around can cause a major inconvenience for schools. Students have been reported for using cell phones with cameras to photograph tests and to instant message answers to other students; others have stored cheat sheets on personal digital assistants (PDAs).

Cheating isn’t the only problem that schools across the country are facing because of these high-tech gadgets. Privacy issues are also becoming an increasing concern. According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the latest threat to student privacy is the camera cell phone. Students can easily take photographs of students in a variety of compromising positions, such as in the restroom or locker room. This invasion of privacy has raised concerns at schools across the nation and could eventually wind up the subject of a lawsuit.

Yet another problem that arises with the use of these gadgets on school grounds are the classroom disruptions it causes. Alishia Lynd, whose teen routinely takes his cell phone to school, says that her son uses it at school all the time for text messaging. “They are supposed to have it turned off in class,” says Lynd, “but they don’t and he is always chatting back and forth with people.” She is not alone, as many parents aren’t sure whether or not their child is using their cell phone to cheat or to innocently talk to someone in another room. “Either way, cheating or not, it has to be very distracting to what they are doing in class,” explains Lynd.

Relaxing the Rules
According to the NSBA, most school districts across the country had prohibited bringing cell phones on campus during the 1990s. However, after the 1999 Columbine High School attack there was an ease on restrictions nationwide. Many parents were unable to contact their children during and right after the attack;
now, a student’s right to carry cell phones on school property started being seen as a safety issue.

Today most schools allow students to carry cell phones and other electronic devices like PDAs on campus. The majority of school policies allow students to bring them to school but request that they use them outside of the school buildings and they limit use to before and after school and during lunch break.

Many policies also state that students are not allowed to take them into classrooms during assessments, semester exams or other testing situations. During the school day the students should have their devices turned off at all times and preferably have them stored in the student’s locker. The consequences for violating this policy depends upon if it’s a first, second or third offense, but schools will usually notify the parent and then confiscate the device.

Tackling the Issue
Technology is not going away. Therefore, schools are learning new ways to deal with problems that arise from electronic devices. Banning these items from school grounds is not the solution — it does nothing to make parents feel more secure about being able to reach their child, nor does it teach teens the proper way these devices should be used. Through parents and schools, students should learn what behavior is acceptable in different settings when it comes to cell phones and other devices. Ultimately the responsibility comes down to each student to follow the rules and make wise choices when using their equipment on school property.

Jacqueline Bodnar is a freelance writer living in Las Vegas with her husband and daughter.