How Do Parents and Teachers Really Feel About Cell Phones at School?

How Do Parents and Teachers Really Feel About Cell Phones at School?

Students in a classroom

Recent survey results show 76.19% of teachers surveyed say they find cell phones at school to be a distraction. Additionally, a majority of parents surveyed — 46.4% — say they wish educational apps or smartphones were incorporated into more lesson plans.

When teachers do allow cellphones in the classroom, it’s most likely to be for using the calculator which 52.95% of teachers surveyed say they have allowed in the past. While some teachers indicated they have leveraged the ubiquity of cell phones to direct their students to a class website, email assignments, or scan a QR code, 49.48% of teachers say they need support accessing apps or resources that would make smartphone use educational. 

At the same time, teachers acknowledge the biggest challenge with cellphone usage in the classroom is students using smartphones inappropriately, which they ranked number one, ahead of students spending time on social media apps during class.

With a minority of parents, 45.1%, admitting they’ve caught their child doing something they consider to be inappropriate on their smartphone, this indicates either conflict between what parents and teachers find inappropriate, or a lower level of activity monitoring at home. Rising average screen times might exasperate this issue. 

Here are some of our key findings on cell phone use at school.

Key survey findings on cell phones at school:

  • 76.19% of teachers find cell phones in the classroom distracting while 46.4% of parents want teachers to find ways to incorporate smartphones more often.
  • Teachers are largely limiting smartphone use in class to primitive functions such as the calculator, Google, or taking pictures and videos. This suggests they are unsure of how to use smartphones in an educationally meaningful way, backed by the results that show 49.48% of teachers wish they could get support to access smartphone educational resources.
  • Parents and teachers have different feelings about whether students are using cell phones inappropriately. Only 45.1% of parents say they have caught their child doing something inappropriate on a cellphone such as watching porn, violent videos, or sexting. Teachers ranked inappropriate cellphone use as the number one challenge with phones at school.
  • Child cellphone use isn’t going away. A majority of parents surveyed said they gave their child a cellphone between the ages of 11 to 13. Their primary reason for doing so was safety.

Cell phones at school: Distraction or asset?

Teenage texting and driving statistics show that many teens can’t properly discipline themselves when it comes to using a cell phone. While teachers find cell phones a distraction in the classroom, parents definitely aren’t opposed to finding ways to incorporate smartphones into the lesson. 

Teachers: How do you view cell phone usage in the classroom?

cell phones at school usage statistics

Parents: Are you satisfied with the way your child’s school approaches smartphones?

Chart how parents feel about child cell phones at school


Parents: How could schools improve their approach to smartphone usage? 

cell phones at school usage statistics

Parents were given a chance to specify other strategies that weren’t listed. Here are their most popular answers, summarized:

  • Keep phones with them for safety reasons or to contact parents, but only allow them to use them during breaks.
  • Allow kids the freedom to use their own judgment.
  • Allow students to use phones as a reward, for projects, or after class work is done.

Making smartphone use educational with cell phones at school

Smartphones bring the world to your fingertips, but survey results show that teachers are not taking advantage of this marvel of modern technology. If they allow smartphone use in the class at all, it’s most likely to be for the calculator function.

Are there better ways to maximize the potential of smartphones and cell phones at school? Probably. That might be why 49.48% of teachers say they need access to apps or resources that could help make smartphone use educational in order to effectively incorporate phones into the classroom. 

Teachers: How have you allowed cell phones to be used in class in the past?

smartphone use allowed in classrooms

Teachers: What additional support would you need to effectively incorporate smartphones into the classroom? (Select all that apply)

Statistics teachers incorporating smartphones into classroom

What’s inappropriate when it comes to cell phone use at school?

Do parents and teachers have a different definitions of inappropriate cellphone use or are teachers just more likely to catch students doing something suspicious than parents? Data from two separate surveys — one of parents, and one of teachers — shows a majority of parents have never caught their children doing something inappropriate while a majority of teachers think inappropriate cellphone use is the most difficult element of bringing phones into the classroom.

Teachers: What’s the number one challenge when it comes to smartphones in the classroom?

biggest challenge with smartphones in the classroom

Parents: Have you ever caught your child doing something on a smartphone that you felt was not appropriate?

child smartphone behavior

Cell phones are here to stay

Parents want their children to stay safe and survey results show that parents who responded list this as a primary motivating factor for giving their children cell phones. Is it time to start thinking about better ways to engage children through smartphones rather than about how to stop smartphone usage at school?

3 Steps to Creating Text Message Practice Tests

For teachers who want to experiment with different ways to engage students over text message, creating text practice tests to help students study for exams is a simple and creative idea. Here’s how you can get started using SlickText to do so:

1. Set up a “survey”

Even though you’re going to be creating practice tests and not a true survey, the feature that will help you create these texts within SlickText is the text survey feature. Navigate here through the SlickText dashboard and enter some basic information such as the keyword you want students to enter to kick things off, how often students can take the test, and if you want responses to be anonymous. 

2. Create your questions

You can add numerical responses, multiple choice, and open-ended questions. You can add as few or as many questions as you’d like and edit them at any time. 

Example: What’s the capital of California?

A: Sacramento

B: Los Angeles

C: San Francisco

D: San Diego 

You’ll be given the option to create an auto-response to whatever students text you as a reply. So, for example, if a student selects B: Los Angeles, your auto-response can simply say “The correct answer is A: Sacramento.” 

3. Wrap up message

Lastly, you’ll craft a completion message that will be automatically sent to students when they get through all of the study questions you’ve created. This message can say something like, “Good job! You’re done with the study test. Keep preparing and don’t forget the quiz will be tomorrow at 9:30 AM in Room 11. Bring a pencil and eraser. You’ll get 45 min to finish the test.” 

Survey Methodology: Data on parental outlook on cellphone usage was compiled from an August 2019 survey of 1000 parents across the United States. Data on classroom cellphone usage was compiled from an August 2019 survey of 865 teachers currently employed for wages in the United States. Both surveys were conducted using Pollfish.