Critical Essay: Having Cell Phones in Elementary School

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Critical Essay: Having Cell Phones in Elementary School
Today’s new generation is referred to as the iGeneration because of such
technologies as the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and so forth (Rosen 8). As recently as the past
decade, schools have had to determine their stance on students with personal electronics
in the school, from the use of storage devices such as the flash drive, to the use of iPods
for listening to music and podcasts, to the use of cell phones. Many schools quickly
developed policies against the use of any personal electronic devices. The policies were
aimed mostly at the high school level but trickled down to the lower grades. Very
recently, though, educators have come to realize that student use of personal electronics
may alleviate the stress of not having available enough computers, tablets, and other
electrons in a timely, readily accessible manner for individual student use. They also have
come to realize that banning cell phones in school may be too difficult to enforce. Parents
want immediate access to their children, for example. However, addressing cell phones in
high school, or even junior high school, is somewhat different than addressing it for
elementary-aged students.
A major concern for children’s use of cell phones centers on the issue of
electronic bullying. Students on all grade levels encounter bullying, whether they are
witnesses to it, are victims of it, or are perpetuators of it. What makes electronic bullying
even more of a concern is that children do not always know the identity of the
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perpetrator, whether it is a single person or a group of people, and if the child knows the
person (Kowalski & Limber 22). Because electronic bullying can be easily transmitted to
others, the potential audience for electronic bullying is limitless. Schools are left to
develop policies and procedures for dealing with electronic bullying, which includes
educating their students, teachers, and parents regarding electronic bullying. Part of the
debate on whether to allow student-owned cell phones into the elementary school, then, is
the issue of student protection against electronic bullying and also issues of whether
students will abuse the access to their cell phones with inappropriate text-messaging and
gaming, for example.
On the other side of the coin, however, is looking at how often children use cell
phones and for what purpose. Rosen found in his study that parents report that their
elementary school-aged children are utilizing technology at a much younger age than
their older brothers and sisters did (10). They are growing up in an environment where
technology is ubiquitous in all areas of their lives. They have information and the means
to learn at their fingertips. Five to eight year olds communicate electronically half an
hour daily. Nine to twelve year olds communicate electronically 2.5 hours a day. Half of
pre-teens have personal cell phones and iPads (Rosen 10). Rosen argues that educators
might consider using various electronic devices for a means of delivering virtual content,
having online class discussions, and having students to complete and submit assignments
Rosen’s idea that educators utilize students’ personally owned technology in the
classroom brings one to the consideration of what today’s students should be learning in
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preparation for their future. Too often, our students are leaving school unprepared for the
existing job market. They lack skills in critical thinking, communication, and
collaboration. Skills needed for 21st century living are different than what was needed for
20th century living. Our schools must shift from the mind-set of preparing students for the
Industrial Age to preparing them for the 21st century. Heavy emphasis is on collaboration
and communication skills. Among tools needed to support students in developing skills
for 21st century learning and living include access to the Internet, educational games, and
cell phones (Trilling 8).
Trilling argues that since technology has become an important part of children’s
lives, they should bring their technology from home rather than compete for limited
technology at school (8). Indeed, that is exactly what is happening in many schools. They
are slowly beginning to realize that students have the availability to direct their own
learning through the use of electronic devices. Students use electronic devices for
accessing factual information, delving deeper into areas of interest, playing games to
develop skills and concepts, for communication, and for collaborative learning. Cell
phones, especially smart phones, provide students with immediate access to tools and
information that help them in their academic endeavors. Concerns like electronic bullying
are valid, as are concerns for any kind of bullying. Students must be taught ethical

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