Tool or Toy: Educating Middle Level Learners on the Power of Cell Phones

Ask the Experts by Rodger W. Hunwick

Q: My child is entering middle school next year. My spouse and I are reluctant about providing a cell phone as an incoming sixth grader. Other parents tell us their older child(ren) have a cell phone and we’ve received mixed reviews about whether or not it’s necessary. Please tell us the truth about Tweenagers and cell phones at middle school; are these devices used more as a tool or a toy at school?

A: The truth of the matter is tweenagers use their cell phones as both. However, they unquestionably use this device properly far more than not.

For example, at recess when students are given the opportunity to participate in an activity of their choice such as basketball, football, running, interacting in face-to-face conversation with friends or playing with their personal device, the vast majority choose anything but the latter. Tweenagers want to have face-to-face social interactions with friends and participate in physical activities.

A central part of the middle school learning experience is developing student awareness of the benefits of properly using a cell phone or smart device. It is imperative to instruct tweens about the safety parameters surrounding the internet connectivity of smart devices.

As parents and educators we must all face the reality that the world in which we live is one that is connected 24/7 through mobile means and it’s not going away. As such, it’s our duty to be proactive and arm students with the reality that a cell or smartphone is a powerful tool for learning as well as for misuse.

The majority of sixth graders do, in fact, have a cell or smartphone. This becomes even more prevalent in seventh and eighth grades. Educators utilize mobile internet-based tools such as iPads, chromebooks, laptops and personal mobile devices as learning tools to supplement instruction.

Providing your child(ren) a phone in middle school is unquestionably a personal family choice. There is potential for misuse, yet the overwhelming reality is when tweenagers are properly instructed on how to use such a device they rise to the occasion.

Rodger W. Hunwick is the Principal at Brownell Middle School. He has been a middle school teacher and administrator in the Grosse Pointe Public School System for over 20 years. Mr. Hunwick can be reached by email at Learn more with Mr. Hunwick on how to instruct middle level learners on the power of cell phones:

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