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Are Cell Phones in Classrooms a Learning Tool or a Distraction?

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With more and more kids bringing cell phones to the classroom, there are concerns if they distract or improve their learning. There is a thin line between focus and distraction when it comes to Smartphones in the classroom. With one child, a cell phone can be an effective learning tool, while to the next kid; it can divide their attention, causing them to perform poorly.  So many kids watch their grades drop as they enjoy video games, laugh at new memes, watch a video on YouTube or chat endlessly with their friends on social media networks. Others successfully use Google and phone apps to research, study, and manage their time, hence improving their grades.

What does Research Say about Cell Phones in Class Room?

A study published in the Journal of Media Education states that students check their phones and other digital devices about 11 times during classroom hours. The study further noted that students use 20% of the overall class time using phones on activities unrelated to learning. According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, students with cell phones during learning hours scored 5% lower on exams than those who did not have phones.

Further, a report by Pew Research Center state that 90% of teens own Smartphone or have access to one.  The study further stated that 50% of teenagers between the age of 13 years and 17 years use Facebook, a lower rate than those who use Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.  The research also indicates that 45% of teens are online regularly. In this research, 31% of the teen said that smartphones have positive effects on their lives, while 24% said that the phones negatively affected them. Nevertheless, 45% reported that smartphones neither had negative nor positive effects on their lives.

Most of the studies highlight the adverse effects of cell phones in class: How about exploring their pros and cons before concluding?

Pros of Cell Phones in Classrooms

  • Access to Educational Apps

One of the benefits of cell phones is that they offer to learn apps and tools that can help students excel in their studies. Some of the apps teach students time management, organization skills, and better study skills, among others. Dictionary apps and thesaurus are also crucial since they help children to improve their writing and reading.

  • Access to Digital Learning Groups

Social media networks, which can be accessed through smartphones, provide students with many learning platforms. For example, students can participate in group discussions where they share ideas and thoughts on different subjects. Such platforms are most beneficial to students that are shy in class or are in homeschooling programs.

  • Digital Materials can Improve Learning.

Students can take advantage of their smartphones to explore more resources on topics they learn in class. This may include accessing online discussion groups, videos, news stories, research journals, among others. If properly utilized, they can improve their understanding of topics that challenged them, close some learning gaps and boost their confidence in class.

  • Easy Access to Information

Accessing a topic on a smartphone is easy than it is to access the same content on textbooks. Cell phones also provide students with more information about a topic, and also in a simplified manner.

Cons of Cell Phones in Classrooms


Cell phones are distracting when students use them to chat with friends or access sites unrelated to learning during class hours. The distraction affects not just the user but also other students and eventually the teachers as they try to control the use of the devices in the classroom.


Students with smartphones can access answers to questions during the exam, leading to cheating. While they may not be caught, constant cheating can affect their learning and understanding abilities in the future.  Cheating is also unfair to students who seriously revised and worked hard in class.


Cell phones contribute significantly to bullying among students. Cyberbullying is dangerous since it is not as apparent as other forms of bullying. As such, it can be ongoing without the notice of parents and teachers.


A closer look at the pros and cons shows that smartphones can be effective learning tools if well utilized. Schools and parents should set policies and clear guidelines for their proper use. Importantly, schools and parents should educate students on how they can positively use their phones.

What’s more? Self-discipline is critical in the effective use of smartphones in the classroom.

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