Town Square

Smart phones in high school

Original post made by Annie on Dec 16, 2012

I would like to open the topic of smart phones in high schools. DISCUSS

I believe they are a bad idea because:

1. We cannot expect the kids to have them in class but keep them turned off. This level of self control is one that adults, looking at their phones every few minutes, do not possess. Why should we expect it from minors. In fact kids who have them in the pockets in classes where they are meant to have them off, are in turning them on.

2. We cannot regulate their access to the internet over smart phones. Parents who limit screen time,do not give their minors smart phones, discourage websites showing violence, or pornography or mindless addictive shoot-em hit-em video games, etc at home, are wasting there time when school policy allows over unfettered access through smart phones to minors as young as 13. during the break or during class. If school policy lets their friends carry them the kids get to use them.

3. Our children when adults, will be carrying around "phones" with way greater capacity then they have now. There will be a whole new way of thinking - with constant reference to the super-computer in your pocket. Who knows how we will think then, Who knows what type of education will be required or if it is required when the machine does all the thinking and they have been reared in schools which no longer train the brain, but just train us as reference operators. So I believe that we should default now to our children learning the old way, using the brain in their heads, because one thing only is certain - they will still be able to learn the technology if they have first learned to use their brains free of technology. Learning to use their brains if they have been brought up only to use the technology will be impossible.

4. Cyber bullying is an epidemic. If the schools allow this to occur on school campuses they will have to accept responsibility for the consequences of the cyber-bulllying. And apart from the nasty damage from cyber-bullying, there could be some nasty "damages" awarded to a parent against the schcool distruct.

5. Cheating is epidemic. Kids are photographing test and emailing them to each other in class. Copying, texting the whole gamit. This is happening in our schools. Stuyvesant, the elite NYC high school school chancellor had to resign because of cheating there. Kids lives have been ruined by being caught cheating. Some people will never cheat, some people will always cheat and the ones in between have the bar set way lower with access to smart phones.

6. There is no escape from the advertisers. Every communication over facebook or twitter is accompanied by a sales pitch. Every time the phone is used the child is in the world of commerce, not a place of learning away from marketing 24/7

8. There are issues of photographing people who do not want to be photographed and posting them on the web. It is illegal for someone to photograph kids on public school campuses, yet the smart phone policy allows them to do this to each other.

9. The kids sit around looking at smartphone screens during the break. This mean there is less eye contact, less face reading, less empathetic communication, less communication.

10. Communication via smart phones is reductive. A society that only communicates simplistically raises a generation incapable of complex thougts.

11. We are all raised in a bath of advertising, and locally many peoples livelihoods depend upon smart phone sales, so extra hard to push back and say why cant we extend the middle school policy, or the current policy NYC has, of no cell phones during middle school.

I am interested in the pros and cons, with a weighting to the cons due to local community businesses.


Posted by Annie, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 16, 2012 at 9:18 am

There was a typo in my last comment 11.
I meant no cell phoned during high school.

Posted by Paolo, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

Smart phones do not belong in the classroom. If the high school students are using them to cheat then when the teachers don't want them to then the students should be disciplined. There is zero tolerance for cheating in college so the students need to learn this now.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Sounds like you shouldn't get smart phones for your kids. My kids have them and do fine with them; the school regulates access as appropriate. Seems like a family decision, on an individual kid basis, not one for the "community."

Posted by geraldine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

#8 is a problem everywhere, including Europe, where it is illegal to photograph anyone without their knowledge or permission. This got a lot of Japanese tourists in big trouble in the nineties.

Actually, a lot of your numerical qualifications are good reasons for kids not to have smart phones at all.

However, it is important that parents can easily reach their offspring, so why not prohibit smartphone sales to minors, and only allow them to possess cheapie, basic cell phones that only make phone calls and texts.

In South Korea smartphone and tablet and laptop use is such a problem among kids and teens, that they are having a child obesity problem worse than ours. Many kids there spend 12-15 hrs per day in front of a screen, never making any real face time with another human being. The South Korean govt is in the process there of legislating smart phones and tablets out of the hands of minors, period.

Posted by Onion, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Is this an Onion spoof, or is the last post a joke?

S Korea legislating phones away from minors? LOTS of Japanese tourists in trouble? S Korea obesity due to phone and tablets?

Good stuff. You may proceed to advanced satire, now.

Posted by not a law, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Really? It is illegal to photograph anyone without their permission? Please provide a link to state, federal and international laws that forbid photography.

Posted by Onion, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

G is trying to supplant ducky as the most random inventor of memes for this forum.


Posted by parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm


"I am interested in the pros and cons, with a weighting to the cons due to local community businesses."

I could add more cons, and list the very few (if any) pros, but what is the purpose of the discussion, as it related to "local community businesses" ?

Posted by j-c, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I cant speak for high school but cheating is a big problem now at colleges. The more pressure on the students to perform, the more they cheat. Its out of control completely with smart phones. Internet addiction is also a big issue. The students dont look at each other any more. They just photograph each other and send pictures to their friends or post them on Facebook. No one seems interested in other peoples pictures. Its a narcissistic exercise.

I believe it is illegal to photograph children at school without specific parental permission. Its why you have to sign a permission slip for the school to use your childs photograph. I know this is for younger children. I dont know if its the same for minors or teens.

Our kids are still in Elementary but I hope that the schools are up to speed with this issue before we get there. I am very suprised to here that in Palo Alto they have not thought of this. Is this true?

I do know that some parents are even giving smart phones to Elementary children! They come over for play dates and just sit their comatosed looking at their video games. They seem to have lost the abiilty to play. I feel like sending them home as its no longer a play date. Just a video game which I dont want my kids to do.

I am really suprised to hear that they are allowed them in Palo Alto High Schools!

So yes I agree. I do not want my children to grow up using smart phones instead of learning to use their memories.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm

We would never give our teen a smart phone. Although he has free internet access at home we are always nearby. I am sure he goes to undesirable websites but on the home computer its only for an hour or two, its not at school interfering with his studies, its not all day, its not while he plays soccer, and its not while he is with his friends - yet because their parents haven given it to their kids either. I also dont know if this is a "con" or a "pro" but just that we would never give our son an Iphone. Its like driving a car. You need to be old enough to deal with it responsibly.

Posted by s, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

This is from the ACLU

"When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.

When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner's rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).

Posted by Annie, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Dec 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I mean that any discussion on this topic will be a bit skewed because it is in Silicon Valley. So I would expect more people do come out pro teens having smart phones at school because they may work for Apple, or Facebook or a company that directly profits from teens having 24/7 internet access which smart phones provide. So I was thinking that anyone who says that it is bad is saying so because they believe it.

As far as
" Posted by Parent, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, 5 hours ago
Sounds like you shouldn't get smart phones for your kids. My kids have them and do fine with them; the school regulates access as appropriate. Seems like a family decision, on an individual kid basis, not one for the "community."

My kid will not get a smart phone, but the fact that he may be friends with your kids who do have smart phones means that all those things will apply. They may cheat, his grades will suffer, They may cyberbully and post pictures of him, they may do mindless games during lunch and recess with him looking on as your kids do this, they (your kids) all those problems he will get indirectly because you have given your kids smart phones. That is why I am trying to get the district to simply extend the middle school policy of 'put them in your locker" until after school. Simple. Clean. Safe. Easy. No problem. Err on the side of what we know to be true - education which involves the human brain works. Whether education which involves constant reference to the super computer in your pocket works - we dont yet know.

Anyway I hope to keep the discussion open. Thanks to whoever found that out about the taking of pictures.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

I think the question should be asked as to what are the rules at school? Many teachers expect the students to have smart phones and know one teacher tells his students to take photos of the homework assignments rather than writing them in binder reminders.

Our kids are going to grow up into a different world. They will not be able to tell time on analog clocks, they won't be able to write above a 3rd grade level, they won't know about magazines or newspapers other than online versions, and computer skills will be as important as knowing ABCs.

Does this mean that we should condone improper phone use? I don't think that will work. As soon as new rules are brought in, new ways of getting around them and new technologies will make the rules obsolete.

The schools should in fact be monitoring the use and guiding the students in proper behavior, as should parents. Putting phones in a basket in the classrooms would be a better solution than expecting them to be put in lockers - particularly as most students do not have lockers in high school.

Yes, I agree this discussion is worthwhile, but the schools are probably ahead of us in this. If they are not, then we should be concerned about that fact.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Annie - if you think you have to control all the influences around your kids to have them grow up the way you want, you might want to consider private schools or even home schooling. It's a valid way to feel, but imposing restrictions on other kids to "protect" yours only goes so far.

I would think smartphones would be the least of your worries. You might feel more concerned about my or other people's kids clothes, language, work habits, integrity, treatment of others, etc. It seems like a real stretch to pitch that smart phones in schools are a menace to good education and public health that should be banned.

I've graduated one already, and he and his friends seemed to mostly have smartphones - so I don't need to "err on the side of what we know to be true" - I already know first-hand that it works out ok.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm

This is Silicon Valley, home of technology. Living in rural Minnesota or North Dakota is my suggestion for a simpler, technology-free life. But there are different issues there such as lack of mental stimulation. I'd rather my children socialize with the intelligent, curious Silicon Valley children than the simpler minds of elsewhere.

My child doesn't see this as a problem at Paly. Students are still doing plenty of socializing and eye-to-eye contact.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 10:44 am

As a parent of kids who survived and thrived in the PAUSD --- as far as smart phones go, an old saying comes to mind:

"The horse has left the barn."

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I want my children to be able to call 911 if they need to while they are at school.

Posted by Annie, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

I agree about 911. But the simple cell phone will do this without the 24/7 uncensored access to the internet, without the cyberbullying, without the temptation to cheat, and without the temptation to game rather than relate to friends during the break.

And sure PAUSD technology policy was fine during the cell phone era, but now things have moved onto smart-phones things are different enough to I believe need someone to revisit this policy and our assumptions.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Cheating, bullying and excessive gaming are moral issues for parents to manage. The issue is not the phone, but the failure of parents to teach their children better values.

Posted by s, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I dont see how we can expect teens to control themselves when most adults I see are addicted to their smart phones checking them every two minutes. It is completely naive to take the PAUSD line that giving the kids a phone and telling them not to use it is somehow an education.

Its like giving the kids a box of chocolates in their lunch and telling them to only have one a day. Its just naive. They will use it if its there, particularly if their parents are the average iphone addict already.

Posted by jc, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm

There is no reason for smart phones in high school.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Annie - You can't expect the District to tell high school kids to put anything "in their locker" since they don't all have lockers...

Posted by Annie, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 31, 2012 at 10:58 am

A Israeli study has just revealed that high school students spend 60% of their time in the classrooms exchanging social media trivia with each other. Using internet-able smartphones, around 94% of the students in a high school in Israel surfed the internet, accessed social media sites, listened to music, took photos, played games or sent text messages--all during the class hours.

Researchers from Haifa University said this disruptive behavior would certainly affect the child's learning experience as well as hasten any teacher's burnout rate.

Posted by SAHM, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm

"1. We cannot expect the kids to have them in class but keep them turned off."

Are you serious, Annie? Don't children follow rules anymore? My children always have their phones turned off during class. If children can't do that, parenting skills need help; the rest of the students shouldn't be dragged down because some have no self-control.

This is a ridiculous thread for PAUSD schools. My son is a junior at
Paly and he says the only ones who use their phones during class are the "slackers" and they are sneaking it in, not in plain view. So they know they are not supposed to be using their phones. The serious students should not be punished from using their phones on campus simply because the slackers don't care about their grades. During non-class periods, the students should be allowed to take a break and do whatever they want to recharge, whether it's texting or Facebooking. Parents move to Palo Alto for the superior education. If their children don't care about their grades, it's a parental issue, not the school's problem.

Posted by Annie, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 1, 2013 at 8:41 am


I am glad your son tells you that he does not use his smartphone in class. That shows that someone is letting him know that he shouldnt. Good job.

However there is now substantial and growing rigorous research that shows that if he has a smartphone in his pocket in class he is using it. Or even if he isnt others are. I mean think about it a bit.
You are expecting kids to do something that most adults cant do. I am sure you check your phone every few minutes all day long. How can you expect a kid not to do the same? What an extra stresser that is to give this child a supercomputer all day and tell them not to use it!

Look at the statistics. The fact is that if kids have smart phones they will check them. Your son may not. But many do. You can say that this is a ridiculous thread, but unfortunately its the real situation. Its only in the last 2 years that every silly American has decided to give their teen a phone. The consequences of this are huge. Most people lack the imagination to think this through.
This is one of the biggest issues of our time. Cheating, distraction, socially reductive communication, and 24/7 attached to a screen is now the way of life for all of us. How can you expect it not to be so for a high school kid?

I just cant see any good reason not to protect children for 4 more years from this. No smart phones in school will NOT I assure you, impede their ability to use them when older. Any fool can and does use a smartphone.

I am not against smartphones. I was working with technology 20 years ago. Its just that those of us who can see ahead of the curve then can see ahead of the curve now! This is just too powerful a tool for for kids who are supposed to be learning to use their brains when young, so that they can use their brains AND smartphones when older.

Posted by SAHM, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm

@Annie: I know for sure my children have their phones off during class and if you don't trust your children or anyone else, that's your issue. In fact, this whole thread is your issue. Just make sure your own children are "protected from the evils of smartphone use" because any campaign to defeat smartphone use in Palo Alto has no chance of success because there is no problem.

Are your stats relevant to PAUSD? I see only stats from other countries, not Palo Alto stats. Have you sat in PAUSD classes and witnessed all students using their phones? It seems you are just assuming that if adults are addicted, students are likewise addicted. Sure, I admit, as soon as class ends, students do pull out their smartphones (but not everyone), but during class, most everyone stays away from their smartphones. I just asked my child who is at Jordan and she almost never sees anyone using their smartphones during class. She could only name one boy (who misbehaves and could be labeled a slacker) use his phone in class. She texts and knows others who text often and they keep their phones off in class.

The other issue being missed here is that academics in middle school and high school are not easy in Palo Alto. They teach from college texts even in regular lane classes in high school. Therefore, my son's statement of "only slackers use their phones in class and there are only a few" is accurate. Students who are not paying attention in class will be easily left behind. Do you have a child at Gunn who claims "everyone" is using their cell phones in class?

You have a misassumption of smartphone use in Palo Alto schools and until you have accurate data, this entire thread is moot.

Posted by Annie, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

A few parents have said the same thing. That the weak students use them in class. Isnt that enough? Are we not to care that these weak students will fall further behind?
I also have it that the strong students use them too. But I dont expect them to own up to it. Cheating is a huge issue across all the schools where there is parental expectation of success. These kids will do what is necessary to get good grades, including photographing the work or tests and sending it to friends when the teacher is not looking. Or playing games if they are bored while the teacher has to spend time on the weaker students who are even weaker etc etc. Why cant they just leave them in their lockers? That is the rule in NYC, which was where they had that huge cheating scandal using smart phones at Stuyvesant public school - which is even better than Gunn academically.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 4, 2013 at 9:31 am

Annie - Paly students do not have lockers. They are optional, have to be paid for and are probably the last place you should leave anything valuable anyway.

Posted by jz, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm

What father would give their teen a smart phone anyway? What for? We supervise our daughters internet use at home on the PC in the family room.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

jz - most of the kids I know (high school and college age) have smart phones. The ones that don't are the ones who can't afford them.

Posted by jz, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I work for a company that makes smart phones so its not a status symbol for us. In fact a lot of the people I work with are the last to rush to upgrade and I dont give one to my teen.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

jz - to be honest, I don't think of a phone as a status symbol, I was just pointing out that the choice to own a smart phones is often financial and seldom philosophical. Even "basic" phones have cameras, allow texting and provide access to Facebook and Twitter.