Two students endlessly scroll on their phones during class. Foothill Tech’s long-standing policy dictates that teachers are allowed to confiscate phones if deemed an interruption to class time. (Olivia Mowad)
Two students endlessly scroll on their phones during class. Foothill Tech’s long-standing policy dictates that teachers are allowed to confiscate phones if deemed an interruption to class time.

Olivia Mowad

The varying effects of Foothill Tech’s cell phone policy

April 17, 2023

Disclaimer: This article was updated on April 17, 2023 and amended on April 26, 2023 to correct incomplete and inaccurate information. All information contained below is current and accurate as of April 26, 2023. 

Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) has a long-standing board policy that addresses the use of mobile communication devices and how schools may regulate this issue. California Education Code 48901.5 and 48901.7 give schools the right to regulate and prohibit student use of smartphones. Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) has an electronic device policy that regulates the use of cell phones within classroom environments and potential consequences for breaking such rules. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this cell phone policy that affect the digital environment of students at Foothill Tech. 

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The pros of the Electronic Device Policy

The goal of school is to provide an education, along with a safe and supportive environment for students to grow as individuals. Therefore, it is every student’s responsibility to value and maintain this goal, especially since it is their time and knowledge that is at stake. Yet, with the rise of technology over the decades, there has been a significant increase in digital use, especially among teenagers. In fact, the average amount of screentime that teenagers spend on their phone each day is about 7.5 hours. This screen time can cut into the students valuable time given for classroom learning. The interference of electronic devices while in an educational environment can hinder students’ learning, while also sometimes disrupting the school’s safe and appropriate atmosphere. Foothill Tech’s Electronic Device Policy helps students be more attentive when in an informational classroom setting, while also maintaining a modest and righteous learning environment. 

Ninety-five percent of teenagers in the United States have access to a cell phone, which can be used for communicative, educational and entertainment purposes. Foothill Tech’s cell phone policy allows for students to bring their phone with them to school, however, it also states that the phone must be turned off when in an instructional setting, unless the teacher gives permission otherwise. This helps to minimize the likelihood of students being distracted when learning and also helps guarantee for the teacher that students aren’t cheating.

When one’s phone is turned on, it has a higher salience as a student is more likely to check it when a notification dings or when the screen lights up. This can obstruct the students’ cognitive abilities since it is straying their brain’s attention from one task to another. This task switching makes the brain have a harder time focusing and tires it out. Even if one doesn’t pick up one’s phone and check it after a notification, the lit up screen or ding alone has users wondering the origins and reason behind it, therefore still distracting the mind from the task at hand. 

If a student does not follow the instructors’ set rules for the use of electronic devices, the device may be confiscated from the student and given to the office, where a parent or guardian will have to come pick it up. 

Students’ electronic devices must also be turned off during testing, as well as placed at the front of the classroom with the instructor from the beginning of class until the end. This helps the instructor have more control over what resources the students have to possibly cheat with during exams. One-third of high school students confess to using cell phones to cheat on school tests and exams, which is an act of dishonesty that is unacceptable in the educational system. Foothill Tech values itself as an academically rigorous magnet school and does not tolerate any sort of dishonesty. Therefore, the policy also states that violating these rules “may risk invalidating […] individual or school test scores” and “will result in disciplinary consequences possibly including suspension.” 

When outside of an instructional setting, the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) Board Policy allows for the use of electronic devices as long as it “is utilized in accordance with law and any rules that individual school sites may impose.” In order to maintain a safe and supportive environment at Foothill Tech, students may not use electronic devices to participate in cyber bullying, illegal affairs or anything inappropriate for an educational setting. 

Although there is an increase in the use of electronic devices, it is important that Foothill Tech doesn’t let them get in the way. Foothill Tech’s Electronic Device Policy does just the thing, as it helps students be more attentive, while also maintaining a safe and supportive environment. 

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The cons of the Electronic Device Policy

Since cell phones have become ubiquitous in today’s society, school environments have experienced many changes as administrators grapple with the issue of phone usage in classrooms. Whether it’s an interesting outlet that distracts students from getting work done, or the cause of more serious conflicts like cyberbullying, phones are a major concern for educators and parents alike. However, Foothill Tech’s cell phone policy has many drawbacks that need to be considered. 

This long-standing policy states that if a student is using their cell phone during a time when it is not prohibited, their teacher can confiscate it. In some cases, a parent may even be required to come to the school to retrieve the phone. This can be seen as unfair and a violation of the ownership of the device, considering that cell phones are the property of the students, oftentimes paid for by their parents or the students themselves. Confiscating phones when they are misused will only cause students to feel more inclined to rebel and use them secretly.

Additionally, there are benefits to using cell phones in school that administrators may not take into account. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, schools that originally had an “old-school” style of teaching with books and papers have now adjusted to being more technology oriented. Research done by the Institution of Educational Sciences (IES) from 2019-2020 shows that a little over 70 percent of schools said that their teachers regularly used technology for class activities. This vast increase caused large populations of students to learn to rely on technology for their education, as well as social interactions. This includes cell phones, laptops and more. If the policy is enforced verbatim, it is unfair for administrators to expect students to return back to normal so quickly after these drastic changes.

Allowing the usage of cellphones in school can also provide a more interactive, entertaining education. Although there is often a negative stigma pertaining to the usage of cell phones when it comes to school, there are many features that can be utilized for the benefit of education. One feature that comes with the use of devices is educational games, a popular example being Kahoot. Research done by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (IJCS) discovered that the gamification of education can actually improve outcomes by 45.45 percent. Teachers can take advantage of this by promoting the use of cellphones in class for good, rather than prohibiting it.

There are also more benefits to utilizing technology for educational purposes, such as increased communication. According to research done by Statista, 81 percent of college students believe that digital learning technology, including but not limited to virtual classroom chats, has helped them increase their grades. When made proper use of, such as reaching out for help and finding additional resources for learning, phones can actually have a large benefit.

Online learning is one of the fastest growing aspects of the educational system. As technology expands, schools should adapt to keep up with these advancements rather than enforcing outdated ideals of what a proper education should look like. Additional research by IES demonstrates that 33 percent of schools agree that the use of educational technology has helped students be more independent and self directed. Many schools also agree that technology helps students learn at their own pace (35 percent), learn collaboratively with peers (30 percent) and learn more actively (41 percent).

Cell phones can easily be used at Foothill Tech for educational benefits. If teachers and administrators work to treat cell phones as a tool rather than a distraction, there is much more room for educational development due to increased engagement and positivity. Instead of prohibiting cell phones during class and confiscating them when used, it would be a much better idea for Foothill Tech to encourage students to use them responsibly.

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