Smartphones for All: The Pros and Cons of Furnishing Smart Devices to High School Students
The “Smartphones for all” concept is currently being debated at public school districts across the nation. How do you pull that off? What are the financial and moral implications?
In the following article, we’ll be examining these questions and then some. After all, smart devices are a part of our daily lives now. They’re not going anywhere. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone can afford access. So here are the pros and cons of providing these devices to students.
Pro: Instant Access
One of the advantages of having a smartphones for all program is that you give students instant access to all the latest information, data, news, etc. That obviously leads to a more informed group. Not a bad thing, but as we’ve seen on social media, information can be dangerous when it’s not responsibly reported or handled. Which brings us to:
Students and adults alike can be inherently lazy. They want people to lay everything out for them. But life is somewhat messier. You can be offered a job, show up for your first day expecting to be shown the ropes, only to find out all your “colleagues” wanted your job and no one is willing to tell you anything about duties, responsibilities, or company culture.
Having a smartphone near you at all times can enable that part of you that just wants everything handed to you on a platter. This can damage the cultivation of your soft skills.
Pro: Hyper Productivity
Smartphones allow us to be way more productive than we used to be. We can run into problems, take pictures, send those pics to a friend-in-the-know, and get answers to difficult questions in a matter of minutes (if not seconds). Things that used to stump a crew for a day can be handled at lightning-fast speeds by a single person with a smartphone in far less time. That’s a good thing, right? Well, it can be. But it’s not without pitfalls. We give you:
Con: Time-Sucks and Rabbitholes
How many times have you been on your smartphone with a clear purpose only to get sidetracked by Facebook or Twitter or a game or a text from a friend? All it takes is a brief detour, and you end up blowing several minutes before ever getting back to your issue.
These time-suck and rabbitholes will completely counteract any productivity gains you make. That is, they will if you don’t know how to handle technology responsibly. Since many parents have difficulty doing it, students will as well.
Pro: Better Understanding of Concepts
Information is easy to come by whether in the online or brick-and-mortar worlds. But in reality, your opportunities to understand a difficult concept are limited without technology. You have to track down a classmate who can successfully explain it to you or stalk your teacher/professor during after-class hours. Not easy.
Thanks to the smartphone, though, you can find specialty websites or YouTube videos that make it easier to grasp difficult concepts, regardless of your learning type. It’s made people terrible with tools into handymen and women. It’s helped kids who struggle with math finally be able to do their algebra.
Con: Eyesight Damage
There already is one study showing that overuse of your smartphone may damage eyesight. While more research may be necessary to make a final judgment call, it’s not far-fetched to think that using your smart device too much over time will have a detrimental effect on your vision.
Pay attention to days when you’re on your phone more than two or three hours. Do you experience any visual anomalies, or perhaps anything that you’ve been experiencing for a while “off and on” but notice frequently enough for you to be concerned?
Pay attention to screen use times if your smartphone posts it. Students are your most likely overusers, and since they’d be starting from a younger age than adults, there’s more of a potential hazard.
Smartphones can be a lot of fun. They have all kinds of apps designed to inform, entertain, and educate. You can learn more than you ever would have otherwise when using one. You can get lost in dynamic, colorful, and secret worlds. You can have conversations with friends whenever and wherever you are and even bring each other into your environment when you’re not together through video chats.
Con: Business and Pleasure
While smartphones certainly leave us entertained, this isn’t always a good thing. That’s because the line can start to blur between having fun and being obsessed. You find yourself checking Facebook every few minutes. Or your email. You play “just one more game” before doing something you’re really supposed to be doing.
Business and pleasure often gets intermingled on a smartphone, and it can seriously hamper your productivity. Worse, it can dim the quality of the work that you do get accomplished. Putting smartphones in the hands of high school students while in the classroom can make this issue even worse.
Pro: Technological Literacy
Parents often say they will shield their kids from technology overuse only to put an iPad in their hands at a very young age. It’s an easy fix to misbehavior or constant engagement. But it’s also a necessary one if the child is to make it in the world they’re going to be living in.
Smart devices are genies that are definitely not going back into the bottle. So the more comfortable students can get with them, the better.
Con: Losing Touch with the Analog World
Unfortunately, in the effort to get students acclimated to the technologies they will be using, we run the risk of making them lose touch with the tactile world. This “analog” ability is important because it can help students to slow down and really consider a problem or issue. This enhances critical thinking skills, something that no magical piece of technology can put on autopilot.
Pro: A Level Playing Field
Smartphones for all may not fix every problem or disadvantage. But it would certainly put a very powerful tool into the hands of each and every student in a way that doesn’t draw attention to a child’s poverty and levels the playing field with other more well-to-do children.
By giving students more access, you also ensure they start to see each other as equally capable. At that point, a child’s background has less hold over their reputation.
Con: Overstepping Parental Boundaries
Smartphones open up floodgates of information, knowledge, and viewpoints. But some parents don’t see that as a positive. They claim it opens doors that should be left to them to explain. And the timing of those explanations may not align with parental timing. “Too bad,” may be the response to that. But we still live in America, and there are a lot of parents ready to blow their stack whenever the government tries to step into their role.
Is Smartphones for All the Answer?
A smartphones for all program could certainly solve many educational issues, but it’s not something to be entered into lightly. Any responsible plan would weigh parental interests with the accessibility of the content on the device itself. While it may be true that most students have smartphones already, that’s usually with the blessing of the parent. Governmental bodies do not have those same rights, at least not to the full extent. Any effort should be made with these considerations in effect.
But what do you think, readers? Should all students be issued a smartphone by their school, or should that be left to parents? And if so, how would you suggest paying for them? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]