Students and teachers weigh in on cell phone use in class


Alex Kane

Cell phone use is a contentious use at Southern Lehigh

With every new school year, Southern Lehigh Students come into the building with cell phones. But cell phones have never been as much of a problem as they are now, so say a handful of staff members.

“I think they are addictive devices,” English teacher Mrs. Kelly Howsare said. “I’m actually not sure if many people could deny this statement if they just look around.” 

An email was sent out by administration to parents about the use of cell phones, reminding them that, “the use of cell phones could result in a detention.” Students are upset about this as they feel they don’t use their cell phones a lot. 

“Taking them away just puts everyone in a bad mood,” said freshman Marsia LaPadula.

Many teachers, however, have different feelings on the matter, and believe cell phones do more harm than good in the classroom. 

“I believe that phones are distracting and actually hinder students’ learning,” Mrs. Howsare said. “Although students can use their phones to find academic information, I believe that that is extremely rare.”

Some teachers collect students’ cell phones right when they walk into class, because they feel phones are a distraction to their lesson. 

“It removes distractions and temptation,” biology teacher Mrs. Jesse Winslow said. “[There’s] a lot to cover for the Keystones [in May], and I do this to keep you focused better.”  

Students, however, say this makes them feel that the punishment is coming before the crime.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” freshman Marisa LaPadula said. “They’re taking away the privilege when we didn’t even do anything.” 

Although cell phones can be distracting during class, they can also be an asset by teaching students responsibility and preparing them for their future jobs, while also giving them the assurance that they are safe.

“Adults and students alike need to learn the proper etiquette when using phones,” physics teacher Mr. David Doughtery said. “I have no problem with giving them guidance on when and how long to use them.”

Some teachers believe that cell phones are a “crutch” and students use their phones instead of using their minds to find answers. 

According to a 2012 study by Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander, “95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day, 92 percent use their phones to text message during class time, and 10 percent admit that they have texted during an exam on at least one occasion.”

“I often have students use the calculators on their phones in my class. I believe that to be an appropriate usage of this technology tool,” Mr.Dougherty said. ”Unfortunately, I cannot let them use their phones on assessments due to the temptation of academic dishonesty.”

The 2021-22 Southern Lehigh High School Handbook states that academic dishonesty “occurs when students obtain or assist others in obtaining credit for work which is not their own.” This includes when a student plagiarizes or collaborates without permission amongst other offenses.

Both academic dishonesty and classroom distraction due to cell phone use are concerns for Southern Lehigh administrators.  

“Ninety percent of the discipline issues come from cell phone use,” high school principal Mrs. Beth Guarriello said.

Many students say that they use their cell phones during class, but it’s sparingly, and not for prolonged periods of time.

“Personally I will admit I will sometimes look at my phone briefly if I am listening to a long lecture,” freshman Ella Kimmel said. “If a teacher asks me to put away my phone, I will, and so will a lot of other students. They don’t need to take it away in the first place.”

Some students also stated that they would pay attention less worrying about whether or not they will still have their phone by the time class is over. Some teachers agree that students should be allowed to have their cellphones in class, as long as they are being used appropriately.

“I think phones are wonderful instruments of technology that are still new to us,” Mr. Doughtery said. “We also need to be aware that the appropriate usage of a phone changes from situation to situation.”