Virginia imposes restrictions on student cellphone use in K-12 public schools
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Virginia imposes restrictions on student cellphone use in K-12 public schools

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed the executive order on Tuesday.

Virginia is moving to restrict cellphone use in schools, joining a growing list of states that are banning or restricting the use of mobile devices in schools, citing concerns about students spending too much time in front of screens.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order Tuesday to create “cell phone-free” classrooms in all K-12 public schools in Virginia.

Executive Order 33 requires the state Department of Education to work with partners to develop guidelines to limit phone use in elementary and secondary classrooms by the fall, to be implemented by January 1, 2025.

The executive order highlighted mental health concerns among teens, including anxiety and depression, as a major factor behind the decision, stemming in part from teens’ heavy use of popular social media platforms, which averages 4.8 hours per day, according to an April report by the American Psychological Association. The order also said students who use their phones on school days tend to learn less and get lower grades.

The ordinance suggests the use of cellphone pouches or special “lockers” as potential ways for students to store their phones during the school day. It also does not ban cellphones entirely and says the education department must address processes for communicating with parents about emergencies and everyday issues, such as forgotten items and pick-up times.

In a June column, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for warning labels on social media sites, similar to the warning labels on tobacco products, to address the “defining public health challenge of our time.”

Virginia’s executive order comes a month after the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school district, passed a cellphone ban on June 18. The ban will go into effect for the spring semester of the 2024-2025 school year.

States like Florida, Indiana and Ohio have also passed similar laws, and several other states are considering following suit and are preparing legislative proposals.