Phone call: Policy over mobile devices should involve more voices

6/18/2014

Cell phone use continues to grow, especially with the younger set.

Cell phone use continues to grow, especially with the younger set.

With that trend in mind, it was no surprise to hear the Garden City USD 457 Board of Education take up possible new guidelines for cell phones — and not at the high school, but in middle schools at a time more of those students have the devices.

During its Monday meeting, the school board tabled a decision on a proposed pilot policy that would give middle school students access to their cell phones before and after school, during lunch, and occasionally in the classroom under a teacher's direction.

Proponents of the plan said students should at least have limited access to their phones. Teachers cited the benefit of educating youngsters on social media etiquette, and such practical uses of the mobile devices as calculators.

The points were valid, as were concerns raised, such as the potential to detract from one-on-one communication.

Parents who see their youngsters glued to a variety of digital devices at home may not want the same thing happening at school. Some understandably worry about cell phones curbing face-to-face social interaction.

Knowing some middle school students don't have their own cell phones, or aren't allowed to take them to school, related classroom instruction could be another issue. There's also concern over spotlighting inequities among students, since not all have their own cell phones.

Still, we know the number who do will continue to grow. All need to learn to use mobile devices responsibly.

School boards should outline guidelines for use of such technology for students and staff. At the same time, parents have a responsibility to teach their children ground rules regarding mobile devices.

Considering cell phone use is a topic that extends from the home to the classroom, parents also should offer input on the issue (and others.)

With the local BOE tabling the matter, there's more opportunity for parents to weigh in and help guide their school board on a new policy for middle schools — one that should acknowledge the continued and unavoidable proliferation of cell phone use among younger students at home and in school.

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