Should students have phones in school?

The pros and cons of cell phone use at school, and how to implement helpful practices for your teenager. Click here for more!   Marni Pasch - Academic Coach Team - Pasch Academic Coach  Podcast School Counselor Gone Rogue

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The Pros and Cons of Cellphones in Middle and High School - Episode 057

Cellphone use in schools has always been a hot topic. Parents want to stay in touch with their children, but teachers see the phone as a source of distraction. When I did my internship at a middle school, it took all my strength to not knock the phones from every child’s hand. Kids used phones to spread rumors. They filmed fights. They sent texts to notify students when the next fight would occur. On occasion, they would email their parents to pick them up after school. 

When I was in school, nobody had phones. Towards the end of my high school journey, I had a pager and a huge phone with an even larger antenna. I looked like I was a broker on Wall Street in the 80s. Today, phones are slicker and do far more than calling home. However, just because we CAN change the temperature of our grandmother’s house in California by clicking a button doesn’t mean we SHOULD give this power to our children..especially during school hours.

However, we can’t only look at the negative impacts of phones. Many of my academic coaching students use them to record their assignments. A quick photo or reminder allows them to rock their study schedule, even when they struggle with executive functions. Some students have it included in their 504 plans to allow cell phone use for photos, which protects them when a cell phone ban is in place.

In this episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue, we will dig into the pros and cons of cell phone policies at school.


Cellphones can enhance the academic setting. Schools are increasing their usage of technology and phone often serve as a partner to increased computer use.

Teachers can take advantage of the cellphones in class by having polls and quizzes to assess student knowledge. If there are not enough computers in the classroom, then phone screens can easily be shared. 

However, the counter-argument to this is that students may use their phones for topics that go beyond academics. I caught many students shopping for sneakers an it wasn’t during fashion design class. 

A  teacher can benefit from cellphones in class only if they have a great rapport with their students. If a teacher has earned the respect and loyalty from their students, then the students will not misuse their cellphones in class. But only a handful of teachers may succeed in this method as outlined in this article from the National Educational Association

Another positive of having your kid have a cellphone is school is your own peace of mind. As a parent, I know h the need to know where our kids are.

Sometimes students are too embarrassed to ask a question publicly in front of the entire class so having a phone helps them look up the answers. But another way to deal with this is to tackle the embarrassment. Perhaps academic counseling can help deal with this problem. 

Personally, I'm a stickler for organization and cell phones really help. If a student needs a phone to set reminders and alarms or  record lectures and notes then they should be allowed access in school. 

If a student has a need for using the phone for organizing, it should be considered. Reminders, recording notes. They should have access. And as aforementioned, schools are introducing all kinds of apps and technological advancements. The problem with this is that with these advancements they shouldn't deny phones in school! While some teachers use these apps, others use their own methods and this gets confusing. As a parent, I will be forced to support my kids to have a cellphone in school!


When I interned at a middle school, I wanted to take every phone and dump it into the toilet! Phones were a hot mess in middle school and they were used for all the wrong reasons. They have helped start fights, record those same fights,  and spread fights on social media. All of these are truly despicable behaviors, but kids get swept up in the emotions of it! Even if you think you are safe because your angel doesn’t have a phone, think again. I saw many angelic children watching these fights on their friends phones...they might have even purchased a burner phone from a friend!

Another major con is that while rumors are something that has existed since forever, phones have really helped magnify them in the worst way possible. While rumors and gossip would take at least a couple of days to spread, today, through phones, they take less than an hour! And even the good kids get easily influenced and want to be involved or discuss the rumors. 

It is these very rumors and easy spread of gossip that has resulted in cyberbullying as well. Cyberbullying is so widespread and toxic that it can really ruin the mental balance of kids. And since it's all virtual, it is hard for teachers to take control of it. It comes down to good classroom management.

It baffles me that schools push technology, including online grade portals - but don’t require teachers to use them in a consistent manner. If all assignments were uploaded to the same place, on a consistent basis, there would be no need for students to bring phones to text reminders, take photos of the board etc.  Instead, schools issue a no phone policy and students are left to piece together assignments from a hodgepodge of places resulting in a chaotic mess.   Marni Pasch - Academic Coach Team - Pasch Academic Coach  Podcast School Counselor Gone Rogue

The Confusion

This is something that I need to address. A school should not confuse parents and students by pushing for technology and then saying, “Eh, but not on phones.”

I think that schools might have opened the technological Pandora’s box without thinking of the ramifications. Phones and computers can hardly be separated any more.

Parents need to know that substituting a phone with a laptop isn't a solution because a laptop can do everything that a phone can and more. Other things parents can try is to restrict their kid's phone from 8 AM to 3 PM. This will help your kids in the long run!

The Contract

Do you need a cellphone contract for your child? At the bare minimum parents and their children should discuss the expectations surrounding phone use before it becomes a problem. It’s easy to make rules in the heat of an argument, but will your child abide by them if they are seen as a punishment?

Use these topics to launch a discussion around phone expectations and rules:

Time of use: At what hour are phones put away and when can they come out in the morning? We try to abide by phones away by 8 pm and they can be turned on in the morning once EVERYTHING is done (teeth brushed, bag ready, dressed etc).

Where they can be used: Do you want your child to use their phone at school? Who can they contact? Does the phone need to have a control on it during school hours?

Social Media: What apps can they use and who can have access to it? What are the consequences if they make secret accounts or use it to bully or spread gossip?

Texting: Will you (the parent) have access to their text messages and under what circumstances?

Consequences: When will you take the phone away? Under what conditions will you remove or restrict phone privileges?


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In Closing

Phones in school are a hot topic. Parents want their children to have them for safety reasons and teachers want them banned because they are a distraction. What is the answer?

To start, my belief is that if a school enacts a cell phone policy, parents should abide by it and not argue. It cuts down on distractions, gossip and bullying. Schools should not be intimidated by parents wanting to keep watch on their children at all times.

HOWEVER, that does not mean a student should not have access to a simpler method for recording assignments if they have a need for assistance. However, if ALL teachers used the same methods and time frames for posting homework assignments online, there would be no need for students to use phones to record assignments.

Schools need to have a consistent technology policy that ALL of their teachers abide by. That includes where homework is posted, how often homework assignments are shared, a turnaround for grades, and one location that all teachers use.

Students, especially those who struggle with executive functions, processing disorders or other learning needs, should not be expected to simply “write stuff down” if the school is not providing a consistent method for assigning work.

Cell Phone use in schools is another issue that requires both parents and educators to create a system that allow an even educational playing field and reduce the distractions at school.

Listen to the full episode for more tips and front line stories of the transition to middle school. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Googleplay, or Iheartradio or visit each week for the full episode (though let’s be honest, subscribing is so much easier!)

You can also sign up for the waitlist for The Organized School Year at It’s an intensive workshop to help your child create and implement an organization system that meets their needs.

Sign up for the waitlist here!

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Marni Pasch| Host of School Counselor Gone Rogue| Academic Coach | Team Pasch Academic Coaching

I work with students in grades 6th and higher, who struggle with academic confidence and motivation. I help them survive school with less stress by helping them create concrete goals, tackle procrastination and learn creative study techniques. I empower students to take charge of their education and reach their goals. I do this through individual or group coaching so students achieve success in life, school, career readiness and their social endeavors. I provided in person academic coaching in Orlando, FL, but work with students across the country through Zoom!