Cell Membrane Lesson for Kids: Definition & Function

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  • 0:03 What Is a Cell Membrane?
  • 0:54 Function of the Cell Membrane
  • 2:02 Structure of the Cell Membrane
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Cell membranes are an important part of the cells in your body. Learn how this living wall helps keep your cells protected and patrols what comes in and what goes out.

What Is a Cell Membrane?

Cell membranes are like bags for your cells. They surround every cell in your body and keep the contents inside. They also control what passes in and out of the cell. Learn how the structure of a cell membrane helps it do its job.

Your bedroom is a great place to keep all of your stuff, but what if your bedroom didn't have walls? There would be no way to keep unwanted visitors, like brothers and sisters, out. And if a storm came through, there'd be nothing to keep your stuff from being blown away.

A bedroom without walls would be like a cell without a cell membrane. A cell membrane is a border that covers every cell in a living organism. So the cells inside your dog, cat, and hamster have cell membranes just like the cells in your body.

Function of the Cell Membrane

Cell membranes, which are also called plasma membranes, wrap around each of the trillions of cells in your body. Their main job is to control the movement of things into and out of the cell, and they can do this because they are selectively permeable. Being selectively permeable means that they control what can cross over them, so you could say that a cell membrane is like a border patrol officer.

At any given time, there are many substances waiting outside of your cells to get inside. If everything were free to pass, your cells would get overwhelmed. So, the cell membrane only allows what it needs to come inside. Likewise, the selectively permeable membrane lets out things it no longer needs, like waste products.

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