Debating what—if anything—to do about cellphones


Science teacher Marty Stranathan talks with students about the cellphone policy Nov. 11. Students were encouraged to give their own opinions on the policy and try to come up with possible alternatives to the current mandate.

Tirzah Khan, Managing editor

Science teacher Marty Stranathan isn’t the biggest fan of cellphones being used in school.

“Six hours a day without an electronic device is not that big a deal,” he said. “I don’t think students are showing enough self-restraint to give them the freedom to walk around the halls with their phones.”

The current cellphone policy allows students to use their phones in the hallways and at lunch, but students are pulling them out in class anyways.

Stranathan and economics teacher Phil Bressler cite a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information comparing the symptoms of cellphone addiction to those of gambling and substance abuse: loss of interest in other activities, a progressive increase in use and a compulsive need to satiate the addiction when feeling sad or upset.

“The reaction in your brain for that is what you get when you’re checking your messages or playing Candy Crush,” Bressler said.

Senior Leah Schwartz doesn’t see what the fuss is all about.

“I just think it’s something to do. It kills time,” she said.

Junior Kelsey Miller is researching the psychological effects of cellphone use, and her findings indicate that students’ attention spans are “lower than a goldfish by a second.”

A 2013 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reported that 89 percent of teens have at least one device close to them when sleeping. Statistics here mirror the national average: a Griffin survey found that 87 percent of students have their phone next to them while sleeping (see: Sleep survey results, page 1).

Sophomore Jack Reilly has seen firsthand the effect of putting away his phone during class.

“Now that I’ve stopped my grades have been improving,” he said.

Senior Nate Hyunh acknowledges that he’s addicted, but cutting the habit isn’t quite so easy for him.

“One time my parents took away my phone for a few days and I felt almost physically pained,” he said. “That was the moment I knew I was addicted.”

For others, it’s not so much an issue.

“I walk down the hall without using it all the time,” senior Lucy Du said. “Who wants to bump into people when you could get to your classroom and just look on it then?”

Bressler doesn’t tolerate any use of phones in his classroom.

“It’s like saying, ‘What you’re saying is not important and I’m not going to deal with it,’” he said.

But banning cellphones in the classroom would be an ineffective strategy, Hyunh and other students agree.

“Teachers suggesting we ban phones during the school day would be the equivalent of teachers forcing us to remove our vocal chords just because they can’t discipline students into being quiet,” Hyunh said. “Although it may be tough, phones are a powerful tool which can be used for good. Banning them would be the lazy route.”

When asked to offer a solution, student responses ranged from only allowing Wi-Fi on school computers to giving short cellphone breaks halfway through class.

“Too many people use phones for bad purposes which means students can’t even use them for the powerful learning tools they’re capable of being,” Hyunh said. “This is why we can’t have nice things.”