Aument Set to Introduce Bill Limiting Access to Phones and Social Media in Schools

Bill would improve student mental health, academic performance.

HARRISBURG – In response to the declining mental health and academic performance of Pennsylvania youth, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) will soon 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.

There has been a steep decline in mental health in children since the early 2010s, with the suicide rate for girls age 10-14 rising 131% from 2010 to 2019. Not coincidentally, the percent of United States teens with smartphones rose from 23% to 73% from 2010 to 2015, with a quarter admitting to being online “almost constantly.” Now, teens spend an average of nearly eight hours on screens per 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,” Aument 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.”

In addition to the mental toll excessive smartphone and social media use has on children, behavioral issues have also increased. This often translates into bullying, fighting, and costly pranks where students film themselves damaging school property and share the videos on social media as part of viral trends. This comes with real costs to schools and ultimately the taxpayers.

“We are expecting children to have the discipline to disconnect from social media and their phones, but most adults can’t even do that. 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,” Aument said. “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.”

Aument continues to work with community stakeholders and leaders to develop the language of the legislation and hopes to have it completed in the near future.

Additionally, in an effort to gather support for this initiative, Sen. Aument is circulating a petition to the public. If you support his effort to limit student cellphone use during school hours in Pennsylvania, please consider signing your name to his petition here. Together, we can get our kids back on track!

Learn more about the legislation, the intent behind it, and the research supporting it on Sen. Aument’s website here. Read the full cosponsor memo for the bill here.



CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

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