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The Mentor

The Mentor

The student news site of Manhattan High School

The Mentor

The Paradoxical question of Smartphones in School


With the rise of the digital age, communication has become hyper-efficient. Through text messages, WhatsApp, Messenger or any of the thousands of messaging platforms, the world is connected in a way we have never seen before in human history. However, the impacts of this convenience has brought about questions and concerns regarding technology, specifically cellphones.

Lawmakers and administrators nationwide have observed the negative impact of smartphones in school. As a result, many school districts have implemented policies that restrict or all-out ban the use of cellphones on school property. The MHS Mentor Editorial Board believes that banning phones won’t address the core issue. The upsides of digital communication, if utilized effectively, can be a true positive for students in school. Moreover, discussions of these cell-phone restrictions overshadow more important curricular changes that need to be made to keep students engaged.

At the root, this issue of smartphones doesn’t revolve around technology, but rather student engagement. According to the Gallup Student Poll, students who feel engaged in class are “2.5 times more likely to say that they get excellent grades and do well in school, and they are 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about the future than their actively disengaged peers.” The value of engagement in the classroom is clear. Undoubtedly, phones drain this engagement. If you walk into a classroom at Manhattan High, more than likely at least 25% of the class will be on their devices, not engaged in class. However, the solution to this problem is not black and white. While banning phones may work, this will also deprive students of vital communication with their parents, friends and loved ones. Drop-off and pick-up for students who didn’t drive becomes exponentially more difficult without the ability to communicate with their guardians. Many clubs and sports communicate using mobile apps like GroupMe and having hassle-free access to your device is essential to keep up with that information.

Instead of banning cellphones, we must creatively approach a solution. It starts with a modified curriculum. Prioritizing project-based learning, engaging classroom activities and group work will provide students with reasons to focus and “lock-in” in the classroom. Phones will become a secondary option when the class content is truly captivating.

If we want to dive even deeper into the root cause, these skills of focus and engagement must be nurtured from the late elementary into middle school ages. Adequate note taking, finding curiosity in the topic of study and developing a love for learning are all pieces to the puzzle.

We suppose there are also plausible temporary solutions to the issue. For example, when we write essays in Spanish class, our teacher asks us to place our phones in the back of the room. Small measures like that can decrease the general distraction phones provide while keeping their usefulness intact.

Ultimately, banning smartphones is far too extreme. Instead, school districts should focus on implementing more strategic solutions and curricular changes, allowing students to better their engagement, focus and learning mindset in the classroom.

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About the Contributor
Advith Natarajan
Advith Natarajan, Managing Editor
Advith Natarajan is a junior at Manhattan High and the managing editor for The Mentor student newspaper.  He has been a contributing writer for The Mentor for two years and is excited to step into a leadership role this year.  Outside of MHS Natarajan has a passion for sports such as soccer, basketball and tennis, all of which he enjoys playing. He also plays guitar and piano.

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