December 19, 2007
Cell phones continue to change the world’s social landscape in ways that we never anticipated. Many of the changes are welcome – quicker access to help in emergencies, knowing that friends and families can touch base despite hectic schedules, and myriad other benefits. Others are not so welcome – intrusive conversations in public settings, new levels of telephone harassment and, frankly, the loss of that delightful sense of being out of touch from time to time.
Those, of course are the obvious up- and downsides of living in a completely connected-mobile-PDA-Onstar world. But, as parents, school administrators and law enforcement personnel are just beginning to realize, cell phones may be exerting some less apparent effects on our youth.
As in many school districts around the country, the Park City, North and South Summit administrators are struggling to craft sensible policies for cell phone use in the classroom and on school grounds. This month the issue went from background noise to maximum volume at Park City High School where some students are challenging the new, tougher cell-phone restrictions.
Due to concerns about alleged incidents ranging from cell-phone harassment to cyber cheating on tests, and suspicions about cell phones’ role in illegal drug exchanges, on Dec. 5 the school adopted a tougher stance on when they can be used and increased the penalties for breaking the rules.
Recognizing, though, that an outright ban is neither enforceable nor desirable the high school is trying to set some reasonable limits. Many of the students who have had phones confiscated already claim they were using them in legitimate emergencies.
Until the next generation of communications technology is invented, it is likely that students will be carrying cell phones and the sooner they learn how and when to filter their phone calls, text messages and emails, the better. What better place to learn than at school?
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Definitely, cell phones need to be turned off during class. But like their over-committed parents, many students have extra-curricular activities, family obligations and unexpected schedule changes that these days can be handled quickly and painlessly with a quick call or text message.
The world is changing and school campuses need to reflect that. Rather than outlawing cell phones and giving up their benefits, we advocate teaching students how to use them responsibly.