In the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting, concerned parents are weighing whether phones are a distraction or a potential lifeline for their children, the Washington Post reports. Many kids in elementary school have their own devices, and phone ownership is widespread, with 43 percent of 8-to-12 year olds owning their own smartphone. Often, the push to make sure children are allowed to bring their devices into schools doesn't come from the students, but from their families. A phone is a way for guardians to coordinate pickups, to see a child's location throughout the day and to communicate with them in an emergency.
The devices have become part of many students' daily lives, despite various attempts over the years by state legislatures and cities to keep them out of classrooms. The enforcement often falls to individual schools and teachers who use techniques to store phones during class. Some schools have gone the opposite direction and have integrated smartphones into their lessons. Experts don't recommend taking smartphones to class, at least not without ground rules and guidance on how to use them in a worst-case scenario. If a lockdown were to occur, attention should be on the educators in charge, not on cell phones, says Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services. The most important advice Trump gives is to be quiet. A phone can make unwanted noises, and in a silent lockdown, even a vibration could be too loud. Depending on their age, kids might also be tempted to post about an ongoing incident, which could both inspire potential gunmen seeking fame or reveal details about their location. If parents must give phones, they should come with talks about media literacy, bullying and instructions to turn their devices fully off during shootings. Even the ability to call 911 isn’t a good reason, because an entire school full of people calling at once could overload a switchboard.