Phones, tablets, and other electronic devices have become ubiquitous in high school and higher education. Now, they’re turning up in the hands of elementary school students as well, with one recent study finding that children in the U.S. get their first cellphones at about age 10. That has districts scrambling to devise rules to govern their use.
At some schools, phones can only be used for emergencies. Other districts still ban cellphones in primary schools, with an option for families to seek a waiver if their child needs to have a phone with them at school.
Some educators and parents are concerned about the impact phones could have on the culture of elementary school, including the fact that they might exacerbate divisions between haves and have-nots. There are also issues about access, such as using a district’s network vs. a private provider that might not be set up to filter inappropriate content. The presence of phones in the classroom also adds to teachers’ responsibilities.
“I don’t want to spend my time monitoring inappropriate cellphone usage when I could be using that time for instruction,” an elementary school teacher in Silver Spring, MD, told The Washington Post.