Smartphone use is not only an important topic in the family. The question of whether or not cell phones belong in school is also hotly debated. On the one hand, the issue is whether students bring their smartphones with them and at what times they are allowed to use them privately. On the other hand, the question arises whether the devices can and should be used meaningfully in the classroom. The legal situation must also be considered.
Every student over the age of 12 now has their own smartphone. Among the younger ones, it is at least every second schoolchild. The cell phone is an important communication and entertainment medium for children and young people, with which they can also be reached by their parents at any time. Smartwatches, which in many respects perform the same functions as smartphones, are also becoming increasingly popular. But there are also risks associated with mobile devices.
There are legitimate concerns, especially from those parents and teachers who favor a ban on cell phones in schools: If cell phones can be used, people will be daddling during recess instead of exercising and chatting with each other, they fear. In addition, cyberbullying could be promoted because, for example, photos and videos can be taken of classmates and sent directly to each other. And in class, students can get distracted when the cell phone is within reach.
The ability to always be able to reach your children may be more of an argument for you as a parent to allow cell phones at school. From a teacher’s perspective, however, it can be difficult when parents call their children in the middle of class, for example.
At the same time, the cell phone can also be used positively by teachers in the classroom. Many schools do not have enough money for modern technical equipment. So it’s actually practical that each child has his or her own “pocket computer”, which he or she also knows how to operate. In addition to quick Internet research, smartphones can be used creatively to present a topic and for other useful purposes. The media use of children and young people and the associated opportunities and risks can be made a topic of discussion. Smartphones thus offer many creative, didactic and pedagogical possibilities that should be promoted in schools.
Regardless of the opportunities and risks that smartphones bring to the classroom and school, there is a legal framework that governs the use of smartphones in the school context. Since school policy is a state matter, each state determines individually how cell phones should be handled in its own schools. In addition, the schools themselves or individual school boards make their own rules, which must be compatible with the school law of the respective federal state. Find out what specific rules apply in your state and at your child’s school. Talk to your child’s classroom teacher about this. The Handysektor site provides an overview of the regulations in the individual German states (as of September 2016).
If smartphones are also allowed at your child’s school during the school day, it is important for you as a parent to question how personal data is handled. Indeed, this presents schools with a major challenge. If your child creates a video project with the smartphone as part of the lesson, various questions arise: Who is in the pictures? Is it just your child, or are there other children? Do the children consent to these files being on your child’s device? Do you have the consent forms from the other parents? What happens to the video? and so on. You can find more information about this, for example, in our article on smartphone safety and on klicksafe.de.
Another problem closely related to the use of smartphones in schools is the constant comparison of students with each other. Not all smartphones are the same. Some kids may have a more expensive model or get a new one regularly, while others use mom’s old device. This holds a lot of potential for disputes among themselves, for example, the misuse of the smartphone as a status symbol. You should talk about this with your child and also with other parents.
So there can be no simple answer to the question of whether smartphones are useful in schools or not. Schools, teachers, you as parents, and your children face challenges here that you can only solve together. If you would like to read more about this, we recommend the fact check on the “Hart aber fair” program from September 2018.