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Schools battle cell phones

The digital generation gap shows up in the attempt for schools to ban cell phones outright. Teens and parents are pushing back against the attempts to take away the phones they have come to depend on so much.

When you look at technological generation gaps, the ubiquity of cell phones is one of the dividing lines between youth and "elders." Today's teens can't imagine life without cell phones, and if you walk across a college campus you'll see students glued to their phones seemingly at every waking moment.

On the adult authority figure side of this divide, some school districts, including Cleveland and New York City, are trying to ban cell phones outright. Now I can understand an "out-of-sight, out of trouble" approach, but the strictest bans prohibit the devices anywhere on campus, even in the bottom of a backpack or a locker. Kids are ingenious in their attempts to come up with creative ways around the ban, everything from hiding a phone in a sandwich roll to parking the devices for a fee at a nearby store.

There is plenty of information out there about the pros and cons of allowing cell phones in schools. Cons include the obvious disruption of phones ringing in class, along with the potential for bullying via text messaging, and high-tech cheating.

But parents and students have a legitimate point when they argue that kids need cell phones to help coordinate after-school activities, and for safety along the way. I taught high school in San Francisco, and my students were routinely harassed on the street or public transportation on the way to and from school. If someone gets mugged, a ride breaks down, or plans change in a million everyday ways, a cell phone is an essential tool. Depriving students of the right to even possess a cell phone at school seems draconian and out of touch with reality.

On The Today Show Dr. Ruth Peters shared common sense advice on this issue, arguing that cell phones should be allowed, with consequences for using the phone inappropriately. She says that if parents want the phones to be allowed, they'll have to "lobby and make a stink about it." Parents, start dialing now....