Response Essay to Naomi Riley’s Article “It’s a terrible idea to allow cellphones in schools”

Cell phones have become a central facet of life to such a high degree that it is difficult and even unnerving to think about their total deletion from our existence. The reality of this seemingly far-fetched notion rings true when one considers the controversial nature of the ‘smartphone’ in the hands of an adolescent. On the one hand, a cell phone functions as a channel of connection with friends and family. Since we live in a world where virtually everyone utilizes a phone, it is tough and outwardly impossible to maintain connection with loved ones without a mobile phone. Moreover, cell phones act as facilitators of autonomy development among adolescents in the contemporary setting. It is through cellular phones that most teenagers manage their interests and social contacts. On the other hand, cell phones are many-sided in that they offer a multi-layered set of services to the user, such as internet-surfing, gaming, and media recording. This makes it hard for parents and educators to regulate them through policing. In her article “It’s a terrible idea to allow cellphones in schools,” Riley submits her stance on regulation of cell phones in schools. She presents a strong claim against their use in educational settings by citing concerns of time wastage, distraction, and obstruction from critical academic tasks. This essay is a direct response to her claims. Although most adolescents share intimate connections with their parents through cellphones, Riley’s concerns are compelling and strikingly insightful especially when one considers the degree of complexity that defines modern-day cell phones.

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            One logical claim brought forth by Riley to protest the approval of smartphones in schools is their deleterious effects on education. Riley asserts that the authorization of cell phones will only heighten the incapacity of kids to attain good grades. Her assertion is consistent with a larger part of studies documenting the influence of smartphone use on academic performance. Excessive cellphone use has been cited as a negative predictor of academic performance in a variety of educational environments spanning from middle school to college (Mendoza 52). The underlying notion is that students who engage in ‘electronic’ activities spend less time attending to academic activities. Some adolescents may even forego academic duties at the expense of their school obligations, whether in or out of school. Moreover, cell phones tend to inhibit the ability of students to comprehend and synthesize new information presented in class. Phone use in class impairs students’ comprehension and performance in a number of ways. Riley mentions diversion of attention and distraction as key means by which students’ level of awareness is inhibited. In essence, adolescents have a tendency to use cell phones for communicating with friends, playing games, and sharing media, all of which are now part of social media sites. Today, social media use is so pervasive among teenagers that students often check their phones multiple times per day. They are likely to not only check notifications but also engage in habitual smartphone use in a bid to retain social ties with their friends. The immediate consequences of checking notifications and texting in school are the time lost when using the device as well as the extra time needed to regain focus on educational duties. Phone-induced distractions can escalate to stress and frustration.

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            The capacity of modern cell phones in multi-tasking further adds to the problem of regulation. Riley notes that even if schools introduce policies to regulate phones within the school premises, as well as in class, students can still sidestep the rules, thanks to the multiple features of a phone. This claim is particularly genuine considering the computing capabilities of prevailing smartphone technologies, which allow the user to multi-task and even conceal activity. Multi-tasking cancels out the choice of involving the teacher in supervision, meaning instructors cannot fully monitor what is happening the students’ devices. What is more, the tremendous computing capacity of smartphones could get exploited to cheat in quizzes and exams through the utilization of the internet and applications. That the smartphone helps the student to enter a virtual world exposes them to cyber vices such as cybercrime and cyber bullying which Riley quotes in her article.

            Beyond the multiple features of a smartphone that keep adolescents distracted, the level of development emerges as a problematic issue. Adolescents are generally at a critical stage of the development of their lives. At their teenage years, they are typically engrossed in social development wherein they refine their sense of self and relationships with others. Indeed, it is at the adolescent stage that kids start to form romantic relationships, social behaviors, and identities (Blair, Bethany, and Anne Fletcher 156). The danger with cell phone use in this stage is that students strive to meet online strangers, especially from the opposite sex, at the cost of real relationships in the real-world, and especially in school. While it is easier for students to feel connected to the world through smartphone-induced relationships, smartphones can act negatively on important relationships such as those related to family, since connections through the phone are only virtual.

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            Although cell phones are distracting and damaging in academic contexts, it is irrational to ignore how deeply embedded technology has become in human life. Mobile phones offer adolescents with a new way of activating social interaction and maintaining ties with peers (Blair, Bethany, and Anne Fletcher 156). The many modes of communication, including texts, video calls, voice calls, and instant messaging, make it easier for youngsters to communicate across time and space. Communication and social connectedness among adolescents is an essential part of development. Teenagers who fail to form social bonds with peers can suffer mental issues and experience unhealthy social relations in adult life. Therefore, smartphones facilitate social attachment, which is an imperative part of social development. Be that as it may, social connections induced through cell phones still lack many aspects of relationships in the real-world. For instance, texting and instant messaging do not portray real emotional responses.  

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In conclusion, Riley’s article presents a strong claim against the authorization of cell phones in educational settings. She mentions concerns of time wastage, distraction, and obstruction from critical academic tasks. This essay agrees with her claims by noting that although most adolescents share intimate connections with their parents through cellphones, these devices can distract them from academic activities and contribute to low grades, above and beyond, create a challenging task of monitoring and controlling their use. Riley’s concerns are compelling and strikingly insightful, especially when one considers the degree of complexity that defines modern-day cell phones.

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