The Westbrook School Committee last week voted to ban middle school students from having their cellphones on them at all. They’d be foolish to think that the phones are going away.

Even if teachers and administrators succeed at keeping kids from accessing their phones during the school day — and that’s a big “if” — students will have them out as soon as the final bell rings, and for the rest of their waking hours.

And if their parents are any indication, the phones will be a part of their everyday lives until some new technology replaces them.

So while schools should take every step necessary to help students succeed, including make sure they are paying closer attention to teachers than social media, they also must teach students how to use the now-ubiquitous phones properly.

As advanced as they are, smartphones are still just tools, able to be used for all sorts of purposes, good and bad.

It’s alarming when phones are used to invade someone’s privacy or to bully them, as apparently was the case in Westbrook, where a fight between students built steam online before getting physical, at which point it was filmed and also distributed among students.

It’s cases like that that have schools across the country pivoting away from less restrictive policies toward student cellphones.

But phones can also be used for educational purposes. There are a variety of apps that enable students to get lessons and follow activities in ways that were not available before. They use the phones for more pedestrian tasks as well, such as research and the calculator function.

For some students, a smartphone may be the only way they can access the internet.

Smartphones are just part of life now. Today’s students have to know how to use them — and how to use them correctly.

Part of that is knowing when to use them, and how to recognize when they are hurting rather than helping.

Schools should set clear rules and expectations for cellphone use so that students know that when in class they are expected to concentrate on the lesson, not their social media mentions. They should help students understand the risks and rewards that come from technology, and help them appreciate the value of face-to-face communication, rather than remaining glued to your phone.

Parents have to help, too, by reinforcing these lessons with their kids. Students are not the only ones who instinctively reach for their phones rather than have a moment of silence, or who stare at their screen when they should be engaged with the people around them. Parents need to model good phone behavior themselves if they are going to get their kids to do the same.

But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss phones completely. Not only is that unrealistic; it also risks throwing out the good with the bad.

Smartphones may pose a challenge to attention, and may make bullying a lot easier. But they also can connect kids to support networks, activities, ideas and information unavailable to them before.

It’s a new, difficult field to navigate, and students need help getting it right.

Reprinted from The Portland Press Herald.