Students & Mobile Technology

by Jean Tower

Pile of smart phones

Pew Research published a brief overview of their report, Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. As expected, teens spend lots of time online and using social media, with 92% reporting that they go online daily. Most teens use more than one social media site (72%).

As an educator, I read these stats and think about educating students to help them become good digital citizens, to make good choices, to build a positive digital footprint, and to be more aware and informed users of social media and technology.

Additionally, though, I think about the opportunities we have to help students use technology deliberately and thoughtfully to further their own education and be positive forces in the online world. From the report, we learn that an enabling factor for teens using social media is that they have mobile devices.

Nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type. African-American teens are the most likely of any group of teens to have a smartphone, with 85% having access to one, compared with 71% of both white and Hispanic teens. These phones and other mobile devices have become a primary driver of teen internet use: Fully 91% of teens go online from mobile devices at least occasionally.


Most school districts have still not embraced the use of students’ personally owned mobile devices in ways that support teaching and learning. I think one of the obstacles is equity – nobody wants to make any student feel “less than” or different because they don’t have a device, and teachers I speak to are careful about avoiding a “have” and “have not” situation in the classroom.

I think, though, there are many things we can do to set the stage to leverage these devices in a sensitive and fair way.

Some suggestions:

Find out at the beginning of the year which students have access to a device.

Set up assignments in class so that students work in groups and one person in the group has the device component and uses it on behalf of the group.

Set up groups conscious of how the students are equipped.

Have some devices in the classroom that can be borrowed.

Invite use of the school devices for those who don’t have a device with them today, or whose device is not charged, not pointing out that someone has or does not have a device.


Students are not going to have fewer devices or suddenly stop going online, so schools should consider helping teachers to create positive situations of use for student mobile technology.


Overview of Report

Full Report


Related post:

Being Googleable


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: