The Cell Phone Debate Continues

This is actually an old story. The New York City Public schools have been fighting with parents over banning the ‘desperately needed’ devices for a few years. However, recently the Board of Education has suggested a compromise. . .allowing the students to store their phones in a locker outside of the school. The locker would be designed specifically for cell phone storage.

They’re so Convenient

I actually see both sides of this issue pretty clearly. We are contemplating getting our own child some type of cell phone for her birthday. We would likely go with something specifically designed for a child to use as she is only going to be eight years old.

Giving kids cell phones helps make getting them to and from school easier. Remember, that in this city, there is no parking. You can’t just go to school and park right there and pick junior up. If you’re going to your child’s school, you’d likely have to park several blocks away, pay a meter, and then get your child. With a cell phone, I could call my daughter after school is over and tell her where to walk. Or I would feel more confident in letting her walk home on her own. Generally, the school bus that stops at your door is not an option, and many kids just take public transportation to and from school. I certainly would want my daughter to have a cell phone if she were taking public transportation.

What’s the Issue

The problem with having phones in school is not really that kids might make a phone call in class. Yes, that’s a discipline problem but I am willing to bet that every teacher across America has a drawer full of things that were confiscated during class. The issue is what cell phones can now do and their ties to a post 9/11 world.

One issue is phones that can take pictures. In theory, every child would be watched so carefully such that this couldn’t happen. Despite what is thought though. . .teachers do not have eyes in the back of their heads. (Did you ever pass a note undetected in history class?) And yes, some teachers aren’t that diligent anyways. Furthermore, I don’t ever remember their being a teacher “watching carefully” while we were changing for gym. In fact, that could open up another whole can of worms could it not? Having a cell phone with a camera in the locker room (which has been done) can be embarrassing, at best.

Another thing to keep in mind while looking at this issue is the use of cell phones in terror plots. I know, I know. . .someone is thinking, “Oh please–my child in a terror plot?” However, the fear is real even if a little far fetched. Cell phones have been banned (and unbanned) in numerous places in New York City since 9/11 and from the city’s view–it simply makes sense to be vigilant and take extra precautions given everywhere else phones are frowned upon now.

A No Tolerance Policy

I think using my taxes to build lockers for kids’ cell phones is a little ridiculous, to be honest. It is entirely possible that things would be stolen–thus making the school liable. From a teacher’s point of view I see it as a logistical nightmare.

I think the Board of Education can ban cell phones at the elementary level except for phones like Firefly or Disney Mobile. They cannot take pictures and their phone numbers are programmable. Disney Mobile even has tracking so you can watch your little darling from your computer at work or at home.

In middle school and high school, it is reasonable to ban camera phones. Eliminating cell phones that can take pictures or short videos eliminates part of the problem with having them on campus. Other cell phones could be kept in lockers. If the phone is not kept in the locker, is used improperly or frankly breaches any other rule the school sets up in advance. . .it can be confiscated and/or the student can be suspended. There will be parents who will complain about this as well. However, a guideline that deals with those who break the rules is much better, in my opinion, than one that punishes everybody for the potential breaking of a rule.

A Parting Thought

One final thought on cell phones: I know that we live in different times, which is scary because I’m not that old. However, I made it to and from school without a cell phone for thirteen years. I even made it through college without a cell phone–all four years–several thousand miles away from home. I had a job, did extra curricular activities and everything. . .all without a cell phone. I even was married for about 5 years. . .without a cell phone. . .and experienced no breakdown of communication as a result.

If the Board of Education should decide that there is a city wide ban on cell phones in schools, even if I disagree with the rule, I would follow it and I hope other parents would as well. The reality is, that while cell phones are convenient, useful, etc.–we would all survive without them! However, I do hope the city adopts a more productive and balanced approach to cell phone use for students.

Related Articles:

Should You Buy Your Child a Cell Phone?

Be Sure to I.C.E. Your Cell Phone

Do You Support a School Wide Cell Phone Ban?