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Should Cameras Be Mandatory on Zoom?

Sophia Wang, Grade 12, Journalism Student


The pandemic caused most school buildings to shut down, and subsequently many schools switched to fully remote learning. This sudden shift prompted the creation of mandatory “cameras on” rules in many schools, or requirements that students turn their video on during Zoom meetings.

This rule also applies to the High School of American Studies. “It is our expectation that all cameras will be on throughout the duration of a live class, including if you are assigned to a break-out room,” stated Mr. Weiss in a school-wide email at the beginning of the spring semester, making expectations clear. Opinions on this mandatory rule differ, especially between teachers and students.

“[Having cameras on in class] is a common courtesy. It helps teachers feel that they are not just talking in front of a screen but rather actual people,” shared Mr. Xia. Many of his colleagues shared similar sentiments.

Cameras being on has practical purposes as well. Teachers ask for cameras to be on to check if their students are present and attentive.

While some students agree with teachers, others have reservations about it being mandatory. Cesar Hernandez, a sophomore, understands the reasoning behind the rule but disagrees with the mandatory approach. “Cameras are great for enticing students to play an active role in classes,” said Hernandez. “[But] the mandatory approach isn't the way to go about it.”

Isaiah Rosenn, a freshman, shares Hernandez’s sentiment. He said, “It’s important to engage students and fuel class participation. [However], it can be an issue when it comes to family issues or difficult home circumstances.” Unlike in-person school, during remote schooling, unexpected situations may arise.

Students may also have “issues with attention span and sitting in one place for a long time,” and sometimes get “really antsy and need to walk away,” said Danielle Johnson, a senior. However, due to cameras being mandatory, walking away for a brief moment is not an option, so Johnson ends up “staring at my computer screen to look like I’m paying attention even though I’m really not grasping any of the content.”

While some breaks have been added to the second-semester bell schedule, it does not help students who still have many live classes in a row. This poses an issue because it is harder to concentrate on classes with so many occurring back-to-back.

Even if students need a quick water break, stepping away from the computer is not an option because it gives the impression to teachers that the student is not paying attention.

Another issue created by requiring cameras to be on is that students can become more self-conscious of how they look during class. Having cameras on enables students to see themselves on Zoom, distracting them as they start to worry about their appearance. Marisa Tirado, a junior, agrees with this statement, sharing, “[I kind of get] self-conscious about people seeing me or seeing what’s going on in my background, and I know it can be uncomfortable for a lot of other people too.”

The mandatory camera rule is seen as “a real problem. Teachers are trying to hold onto an old system that is no longer possible due to the new environment caused by the pandemic. It’s like trying to fit a circle into a square hole, it’s never gonna happen,” explained Johnson. Still, “people will abuse the privilege if students are allowed to keep their camera off,” said Rosenn.

Overall, teachers are adamant about students keeping their cameras on. Although students understand the reasoning behind this, many still harbor reservations about cameras.

Photo taken by Sophia Wang, Grade 12

Although students at the High School of American Studies view the mandatory “cameras on” rule as reasonable, many still have concerns.

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