Virginia governor orders cellphones out of classrooms amid mental health concerns for youth
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Virginia governor orders cellphones out of classrooms amid mental health concerns for youth

CV NEWS FEED // Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order on July 9 directing the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to develop guidelines for public school departments to implement local policies and procedures for creating cell phone-free classrooms.

Citing growing evidence of the alarming impact of social media and cell phone use on the education and mental health of youth, Executive Order No. 33 directs VDOE to work with parents, students, teachers, and administrators to collaboratively develop policies regarding age-appropriate limits on cell phone use during classroom hours, as well as protocols to enable parents to contact their children in emergency situations.

The executive order directs VDOE to publish draft guidelines by August 15. After receiving stakeholder feedback, VDOE will publish final guidelines in September, allowing local school departments to implement cellphone-free education policies and procedures by January 1, 2025.

Additionally, Governor Youngkin announced that VDOE and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) will allocate a combined $500,000 of existing funds to support the implementation of this initiative.

In a press release on the official website of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Youngkin explained that the executive order has a two-fold purpose: to protect the health and safety of students by reducing their exposure to addictive cell phones and social media and to eliminate distractions in the classroom.

According to Governor Youngkin, this order “also begins the intensive conversations among parents, students, teachers, and school and community leaders necessary to design and implement these policies and procedures at the local level.”

The press release emphasizes the importance of implementing cellphone-free education in Virginia’s K-12 public schools, noting research that suggests using social media more than three hours a day doubles a teen’s risk of developing chronic adolescent health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. There have also been significant increases in depression and suicide rates since 2010.

CatholicVote highlighted two studies that support emerging data on the dangers of addictive apps and youth cell phone use, including a psychologist’s warning that smartphones have “rebuilt” an entire generation’s childhoods, and a recent study revealing that 75% of teens feel calmer and happier when they don’t have access to their phones.

“The data is clear,” said Education Secretary Aimee Guidera. “It’s time for Virginians to come together to address the harm social media and screens are doing to healthy childhoods.”

Health and Human Resources Secretary Janet Kelly said that as knowledge grows, it is becoming clear that excessive screen time, especially on addictive apps, is having a negative impact on children’s physical and mental health. She pointed to a recent recommendation from the Surgeon General urging technology companies to introduce warning labels on social media platforms.

“Too many childhoods have ended because of the Wild West of addictive apps,” Kelly said. “It’s time for us to work together to bring back childhood.”