Phone usage in school: The debate between students and teachers


Typical phone of a student

Picture this: Two students are using their phones in class. One is checking the time, and the other is playing games or scrolling through social media. Neither of these students is going to go unpunished. The teacher walks over to them and holds out a bucket.

The students know what to do. They drop their phones in and silently complain about the teacher and how boring the class is before they resume their work. This was a common interaction amongst students and teachers at the beginning of quarter 3.

Students have become increasingly frustrated due to checking the time and prolonged phone usage meriting the same punishment.

Teachers have noticed an increase in phone usage during classes, and as a result, they began to crack down on any phone usage whether it’s prolonged or just to check the time. Phone charging which wasn’t previously enforced by teachers became enforced.

Although this was an old policy, it wasn’t being enforced by all teachers. This led students new to the building (freshman and sophomores) to believe that they could charge their phones in class.

Students come from all over the city, from every borough except for Staten Island. People have commutes that take hours. They rely on their phones during their trip. 

Phones today have many uses. They can have games, take pictures, and be tracked in addition to the traditional phone calls. Tracking a phone and being able to communicate via phone calls is what assures parents that their children are safe during their commutes.

iPhone batteries typically last about 8 hours, according to OXS Daily. People use their phones at school to look at their schedules, reducing battery life. The school day at the iSchool is around 6 hours 20 minutes. There’s a good chance that by the end of the day, students’ phones will have less than 20% battery and will not last until they arrive at home.

Since the return to in-person school, phone usage has been up, and schools across the country have noticed. The Windsor Locks High School in particular has been cracking down on phone usage “which the principal says [is] disrupting learning in an already difficult transition to a new school year.” 

While students think that the recent enforcement of the phone policy is bad, teachers have a different opinion.

“There’s no bigger classroom distraction than a student using a phone. Teachers struggle with cell phones in school on a daily basis,” says Nancy Barbile, an award-winning National Board Certified teacher. 

“We’re not taking phones of kids” as part of the phone policy, “we’re asking kids to be responsible so they’re not on their phone all the time,” said iSchool principal Ms. Bailey.

Ms. Asher, an iSchool history teacher, corroborates what Ms. Bailey was saying: “I think students got really used to being on zoom class with their camera off on their phones on the time.”  Students had no one to make them pay attention when they were learning virtually. This led to“Phone addiction [becoming] a real problem.”  

These policies aren’t without results. iNews teacher Ms. Mangano has reported an increase in productivity since she’s been stricter with phone usage in her class. Several students, including Clarissa Morris, have also noticed more work getting done.

However, the intention of these policies aren’t getting through to some students, according to some teachers. 

The ‘repeated offenders’ who are constantly on their phones in class don’t care about the punishment and use their phones anyway because they know they will get it back at the end of the period.

It’s not just Ms. Bailey who has noticed the increase in disruptive behavior amongst high school students since the return to in-person learning. 

According to a Chalkbeat article, social worker “Alyssa Rodriguez expected a rocky readjustment this school year.” 

She was surprised with what the start of the year actually looked like. “‘It’s definitely a lot more than I think any of us were mentally prepared for, even though we tried to prepare for it,” Rodriguez said.

Kids tend not to be very self-aware of their behaviors, and it’s been so bad that many have also noticed the increase in unruly behavior. 

Yeah, lots more [bad behavior]. We didn’t have social interaction for a year,” said Malachi Peters, an iSchool freshman. Worse behavior is inevitable.

He said it’s reasonable for students to be less well-behaved, but he was somewhat surprised when he realized how much regression of maturity he’s noticed in the classroom since he started at the iSchool.

It’s not so much a big event taking places like fights, but an overall disregard for the rules and not taking work seriously. Teachers have been lenient with students, but feel it’s time for them to put their foot down.

School computers are used almost every period and quickly run out of power. This is accelerated by students using the computers to charge their phones.

Ms. Bailey believes that there should be no charging of any kind in the open, especially on school computers, which students understand.

Ms. Asher, however, has a slightly different opinion on using computers to charge phones: “Personally if someone has a USB charger and they plug it into the computer and they’re not using their phone then it’s fine but we have to be consistent so there has to be no phone usage across the board.” 

The argument of phone usage in class has been fraught since the beginning, with no end in sight. However, a recent upcoming technology could end this debate.

The charging station. Primarily used on college campuses, they can charge phones and make phone calls. A much simpler version of this could be quite useful in classrooms.

Imagine a rectangular box from the floor to chest height mounted against the wall. It contains an opening with chargers for Android phones, Apple phones, etc. It’s far enough away that neither the student nor the teacher could access it without being seen.

This, according to freshman Stella Kear, could solve the problem teachers and students alike have been struggling to solve: “I do see the problem with lots of students  charging on computers because it drains the battery and teachers don’t really like it.”

“It can be good for them [charging stations] to be in the room in case students need to contact parents or in emergency situations,” Stella pointed out. 

With charging stations, students will regain battery power without the distraction of their phones.

Unfortunately, implementing charging stations into classrooms isn’t a foolproof plan. 

According to, which is a vendor of charging stations, each charging kiosk/station costs around  250-2000 dollars per unit. This doesn’t include the costly (around) 100 dollar per hour charge technicians charge for the repair. Things in schools are constantly broken and take a long time to be fixed.

If charging stations are anything like water fountains, which are more durable than charging stations, half of them will be out of order and take months to fix as well as being extremely expensive. 

It’s just another thing teachers need to manage and it’s not their job – Ms. Bailey agrees with this statement. 

Samuel Espinobarros, a junior, believes that charging stations could create more problems than they solve. “It would be a problem for the next period class because students would have fully charged phones” which the students would be able to use without the worry of their phone dying.

Ms. Bailey believes that “If the goal is to teach students responsible use of phones, charging stations are just a go-between.” 

Batteries die because the phone is being used. If phones aren’t used, students should have no problem with their phones dying.

Ms. Bailey and other teachers believe that school isn’t just a place to teach about science facts. It’s about teaching students critical thinking and time management, and phone usage is a part of that.

The main argument students seem to have is that they and their parents rely on their phones during their commute to ensure their safety when traveling. 

Samuel Espinobarros stated that his parents “call [him]” to make sure that he’s safe when he’s on his train.” 

Students have admitted to using their phones “whenever I’m above ground on the train” to “kill time.”

This is a frustration for teachers. 

 “Kids could just put their phones away and charging it wouldn’t be an issue,” said Ms. Bailey. “There has to be a balance. If charging is a big issue, then turning off your phone is the solution.”

Ms. Asher and Ms. Bailey agree on this subject. “If a student needs to charge their phone then they’re using it too much.”

Kids could just put their phones away and charging it wouldn’t be an issue,” said Ms. Bailey. 

At the end of the day, students are on their phones way more than they like to admit. 

Whether it’s during independent work, in between classes, or on the trains, the hours add up fast. If students didn’t use their phones on the train, turned them off, and kept them off all day at school, their phones would be at full battery power when they turned it back on at the end of the day.

Ms. Bailey stated that “We’re not taking phones of kids, we’re asking kids to be responsible so they’re not on their phone all the time.”