From Distractions to Necessities: The Importance of Smartphones in Schools

It seems like it’s only been five minutes since that last school bell rang, ushering in a summer filled with grandiose plans of having no responsibility, sleeping in and doing lots of hanging out. Alas, somehow, the new school year is already nearly upon us. For most parents, this is a time of shuffling kids to pre-school practices and taking on that ever-evolving back-to-school shopping list.

Sound familiar?

If this is something you can relate to, let’s step back for a minute and think about something you may not have considered as your seasonal preparations get underway: technology—specifically, smartphones.

Technology has revolutionized our schools. With the advent of the personalized computer, technology opened up a whole new way of educating our youth. However, when smartphones became widely available to nearly everyone, technology began to serve as more of a distraction as students started caring more about texting, gaming and of course, social media, than learning in the classroom.

Naturally, many parents aren’t interested in providing their kids with a device that mostly serves as a distraction to their studies, leading to that all-important question: at what age is it okay to give your kid a smartphone?

School Kid with Palm Phone

There are two sides of the coin. On one hand, more and more teachers are using technology for schoolwork, homework and collaborative projects with their students. Additionally, parents and kids increasingly rely on smartphones for day-to-day communication. On the other hand, smartphones have also been blamed for bullying and failing grades.

So, how do you navigate the “Does my child need a smartphone” conundrum? Let’s take a look!

1. Safety

The hard truth is school shootings are a fact of life in this day and age. According to EdWeek.org, there were 24 school shootings that resulted in death or injury in 2018. Among those, 114 people were killed or injured, including 28 deaths of students. We’re not saying this to scare you, however, this new reality makes it even more important to be able to communicate with your kid. Should your child be involved in an unforeseen traumatic event, you’ll want to be able to access them as quickly as possible, and that means arming them with a cell phone so they can call you as soon as they’re safe.

2. Illness & Injury

If your child is sick, they’ll want to get ahold of you as soon as possible, particularly if they're not old enough to drive. A mobile phone puts the power of communication into the palm of your child’s hand, enabling them to reach out to you, should sick bellies, allergic reactions, dizzy heads, or accidental broken bones arise.

3. Schoolwork

Around 58 percent of students aged 13 to 17 have smartphones. At the dawn of this technology, many school administrators adamantly rejected the idea of allowing phones into the classroom. However, innovative teachers have begun to embrace the power of at-your-fingertips knowledge by integrating smartphones into regular schoolwork activities.

Pam Harper, former Computer and Technology Specialist at Windemere Ranch Middle School in San Ramon, CA says, “One reason [cell phone use in classrooms is] becoming more acceptable for schoolwork is because it provides students with additional access to resources and information. For example, when there are only a few books in the library on Egypt and 30 students need information for a project, smartphones can help with research. They can help students connect through Google Docs and enable them to work in concert so they can easily share notes and thoughts about the project.”

This is a new era, indeed. In fact, 50 percent of parents believe schools should make more use of mobile devices for education, according to GrowingWireless.com, and 71 percent of parents believe mobile devices open up learning opportunities for students. In other words, it’s not just kids who are on board with having phones in classrooms; parents and educators give the thumbs up, too, as long as the curriculum facilitates learning and focuses on enhancing students’ learning processes. After all, this is a technological world we live in. It’s time to embrace the tools we have before us!

4. Access to Resources

Whether it’s for schoolwork, life lessons, or general inquiries, technology gives us tons of access to information right at our fingertips. However, many families can’t afford to purchase a home computer, so smartphones can serve as a great alternative, as it serves not only as a means of communication, but also can give access to the tools and resources they need for school. Kids can easily pull up Google Documents, search the web and connect with their classmates using smartphones (like Palm).

“Phones have become a powerful resource to help level the playing field for equal access. They provide one way for kids who can’t afford computers at home to still be able to access the same level of information, and many smartphones can still be significantly cheaper than laptops or tablets,” said Harper.

5. Healthy Technology Habits

Sure, technology is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean it has to be part of your child’s every waking moment. Companies like Palm are popping up to help promote healthy digital habits, which is an important feature for parents and teachers alike. There’s a time to use technology, and there’s a time to put it away.

“Kids are going to constantly push boundaries - that’s one way they learn. By providing safe, functional and appropriate boundaries with technology in both school and home settings, we can continue to provide equal education and opportunities for kids, while still protecting them,” said Harper

With Palm, parents have control over the apps that are downloaded onto their kids’ phones. This enables parents to have greater oversight of the things their children are doing online. Plus, with limited access, it’s much easier to tell them to take a break from the screen and go enjoy the sunshine outside!

Here are a few apps that can help you monitor your children’s activity on their Palm (or other smartphone devices):

  • Bark. Bark touts itself as an app that’s in partnership with schools and parents everywhere. It proactively monitors social media sites, text messages and other data that might come through your child’s phone, enabling you to have your finger on the pulse of necessary safety measures, should something be amiss.
  • Remind. Remind activates engagement across students’ entire communities, bringing parents, teachers and learners together in a single app. It’s built specifically for education, empowering the simple use of communications that could otherwise fall by the wayside.
  • Google Family. Google Family Link was designed to help you set digital ground rules so your family can enjoy healthy technology habits without isolating themselves from the outside world. Your children can learn, play and explore online spaces within the constraints you set forth.

As the new school year approaches, make your list and check it twice because you don’t want to leave out one of the most important security mechanisms that can keep your kids safe when they’re out of your sight. Order a Palm phone for your family online right now!