Are Caddies Contaminating Cell Phones?


No, this wall of webcams is not a surveillance device from 1984. This is just one of dozens of phone caddies at Kennebunk High School, the implementation of which has long been a point of contention between students, staff, and administrators alike. Controversy around the caddies has been aided by their inconsistent usage, safety and communication concerns, and general student pushback. Nevertheless, the caddies’ popularity among teachers has only grown following administration’s flat ban on cell phone use in class this school year. 

As we progress into this post pandemic world, unsanitary or potentially disease spreading settings around us are becoming increasingly easy to identify. In early 2020, the National Center for Biotechnology Information published a report in which they identified cell phones as a “potential global public health risk” for their affinity at growing and spreading microbial organisms. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that these same devices are contaminating the pockets of phone caddies, and, eventually, other students’ devices. To test this theory, random samples were collected from the pockets of used and unused phone caddies at KHS. These samples were transferred to agar plates, where the used phone pockets demonstrated  significantly higher levels of bacterial growth than the unused ones. These results strongly suggest that the phone caddies are capable of sustaining, growing, and spreading the microbial organisms cell phones introduce to them. Using phone caddies could very well be amplifying sickness and absenteeism among the student body.  

So, do the merits of securing students’ devices outweigh the caddies’ drawbacks? The most strongly supported answer is no. As a society, our immune systems are much weaker than they were 3 years ago, and now there is sufficient evidence that the caddies at our school are acting as a conduit for bacteria between us and our phones. The simplest solution is to give up the caddy altogether, but for those teachers who refuse to do so, a simple alcohol wipe before and after class will have to suffice. For students frustrated by the use of caddies, a conversation about their safety with your teacher could make future caddy rollbacks an infectious possibility. 


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