Glenn Youngkin Calls for Cell Phone Ban in Public Schools in EO
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Glenn Youngkin Calls for Cell Phone Ban in Public Schools in EO

Spending more than 3 hours a day on social media ‘doubles the risk of poor mental health’

Getty photos
Getty photos

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order calling for legislation that would ban cellphones in public schools, citing mental health concerns.

Executive Order 33, issued Tuesday, requires the Virginia Department of Education to issue guidelines aimed at creating a “cell phone-free” public school environment.

“The need for cell phone-free education in Virginia’s K-12 public schools is increasingly clear,” the executive order reads. “Cell phone-free education will significantly reduce the amount of time students can use their phones without parental supervision.”

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“Children spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on social media, and recent research suggests that spending more than three hours a day on social media doubles the risk of poor mental health among teens.”

The implementing regulation noted that until now, the ban on smartphone use in public school classrooms was at the discretion of individual teachers, “resulting in varying expectations and methods of enforcement.”

“The problem goes beyond simple distraction,” the order continues, “heavy phone and social media use can have a cumulative, long-term, and detrimental impact on teens’ ability to focus and engage in schoolwork.”

Youngkin said in a statement Tuesday that he believes the order “will promote a healthier and more purposeful educational environment where every child has the freedom to learn.”

“Today’s executive order clearly states the goal of protecting the health and safety of our students by limiting the time they are exposed to addictive cell phones and social media, as well as eliminating obvious distractions in the classroom,” Youngkin added.

“It is also the beginning of the vibrant conversations among parents, students, teachers, and school and community leaders necessary to design and implement these policies and procedures at the local level.”

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the potential dangers that minors may face due to excessive use of smartphones and the use of various social media platforms.

Professor Devi Sridhar, head of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, recently wrote in a column for The Guardian that “there is growing scientific evidence that prolonged screen time, and some social media use, has negative consequences, especially for younger users.”

“Experts have debated the role of smartphones in the rise in depression and anxiety among teens since 2010,” Sridhar added. “While the pandemic has accelerated the pace of mental health issues, these trends were evident almost a decade earlier.”

Last month, the Los Angeles Unified School District in California voted to pass a resolution banning students from using smartphones during school hours. The resolution is set to go into effect next year.

LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, who sponsored the resolution, was quoted in a press release in June as saying the cellphone ban was for the good of students.

“Kids no longer have the opportunity to just be kids,” Melvoin said. “I hope this resolution will help students not only focus in class, but also give them a chance to interact and engage more with each other — and just be kids.”

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