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Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Limit Student Cellphone Use in Schools

Cellphone use in schools

Cellphones and K-12 students.

If you have a child in that age range that has a phone, you probably think it is welded to them.

The hold that these devices have on students today is well-documented, but teachers say that parents often do not realize the extent that their children use them inside the classroom.

More than three-quarters of U.S. K-12 public schools prohibit non-academic cellphone use, according to a report from the 2021-22 school year. And two Pennsylvania legislators want to take charge and put laws in place to ban phones during classes.

In January, Rep. Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) introduced House Bill 2043, implementing a policy that prohibits students from possessing or using personal mobile devices during the school day. Her bill also requires public school entities to have a written policy that includes a process for students and parents to contact each other during the school day, if necessary.

“They’re playing solitaire on it, they’re playing games on it, and they’re using social media,” she said. “But they’re not actually using it for school. We got to get back to the basics where kids are coming in and getting down to business learning math, science, and reading without being distracted by a cell phone.”

Three months later, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) wants to introduce legislation to limit students’ use of cellphones in schools through secure, lockable phone bags in which students would deposit their mobile devices until the end of the school day.

“While it’s great that the Commonwealth dedicated an additional $100 million last year to schools to care for students’ mental health, that money won’t go very far unless we get at the root cause of the problem,” he said. “Because we know widespread access to smartphones and social media apps increases depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and even suicidal thoughts in teens and children, my bill is a commonsense approach to improve student mental health and academic performance alike.”

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in school. A law that took effect in July requires all Florida public schools to ban student cellphone use during class time and block access to social media on district Wi-Fi. Some districts, including Orange County Public Schools, went further and banned phones the entire school day.

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb just signed into law a bill that requires school districts to prohibit cellphone use during instructional time, with some exceptions. A similar bill is advancing in Oklahoma, and legislation has been introduced in Kansas and Vermont.

In response to Gleim’s bill, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association issued a statement that read, “Student access to electronic devices is, and continues to be, an issue discussed by school leaders across the state. Our members strive to provide an educational environment that is orderly, safe and effective for learning … Our position is that locally elected school leaders are in the best position to make decisions related to student use of electronic devices during the school day.”

“We are expecting children to have the discipline to disconnect from social media and their phones, but most adults can’t even do that,” said Aument. “Instead of putting an adult responsibility on their shoulders, my bill would give them a break during school hours and the opportunity they deserve to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets.

“The data is clear – there is a direct causation, not just a correlation, between the rise of smartphones and the decline in mental health, social skills, and academic success of our kids, and they need us to be the adults and break the cycle for the sake of their future.”


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