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Cell Phones: An Epidemic of Distraction or Connection?

posted Oct 2, 2018, 10:00 AM by Andrew Tichy
By: Grace Halvorson

Walk down the hallways at Moorhead High school today and you’ll see one small object in the hands of every single student: a cell phone. Highly controversial, the topic of phones is debated frequently in schools around the world, with some schools calling for a complete ban. Some students and teachers find them crucial to connection and engagement in class, and others are firm in their beliefs that phones are ruining our relationships and distracting us from things that really matter. When talking to multiple teachers around MHS, many opinions were shared. Among teachers that have been teaching for many years, one crucial theme stands out. They really don’t like phones. Kathy Brekke, the Moorhead High choir director, says that having cell phones has changed the personality of her classroom. “People are afraid to take risks,” she says. “It might end up on someone’s Snapchat story.” Brekke has noticed an increase in anxiety, and a decrease in connection. “Whenever we take a break, the phones are taken out of pockets immediately, rather than having a conversation with the people sitting next to you.” Because of this, Brekke has implemented a “phones off of your bodies and in your backpacks” rule. The clarity and simplicity of this rule makes it easy to follow, and it creates a pathway for students to build real relationships with their peers. However, Brekke is unsure that banning phones entirely from schools is even possible. “Using them between classes is completely reasonable,” she says, “but in class they are very unnecessary.”

However, English teacher Denetre Stetz has a very different opinion. “Phones should be used as tools,” she says. In her classroom, phones don’t work because of bad wifi and reception, which she says is unfortunate. “I use phones all the time for research” she says, so not having access to Internet is a problem. In a past school that Stetz has taught at, phones were completely banned from classrooms. According to Stetz, this was not a good solution. “Kids snuck their phones out all the time because they were banned,” she says. “Here, because they aren’t banned, I don’t have those same behavior problems. I don’t see kids abusing it.” She also comments on how we need to teach students how to responsibly use their phones.  “I think we need to teach kids how to use their phones productively in an environment where they have phones. You’re not going go to your job and lock your phone in a cubby. You’re going to have to figure out how to work through your day and get your stuff done while you have your phone.” Whether our school follows the path of France, who just passed a complete ban on phones in schools, or continues using the list of rules in the handbook that many students aren’t even aware of, it’s clear that phones will continue to be a highly debated issue. As the year continues, students will need to find strategies to use their phone in a positive learning environment, and ensure that their phones aren’t a distraction to their education and relationships. But clearly, teachers of all ages and tenures will be there to help guide, educate on, and model healthy and productive phone use.