Student Cellphone Restrictions During School

Introduction | Summary | Research | News | Support

Introduction

There has been a steep decline in mental health in children since the early 2010s. Kids are more depressed, anxious, and lonely than ever before. Their academic performance is suffering. There are more instances of cyberbullying and other behavioral issues during school hours. Teachers, parents, and students are exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally.

This decline in our children’s mental health, social skills, and academic performance directly correlates to the rise of smartphones and social media apps. Many parents and teachers alike see the devastating impact these devices are having on our children and are asking for help. Our students deserve the opportunity to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets, and my legislation will give them that opportunity.

Summary

To address a root cause of the mental health and academic decline experienced by Pennsylvania students, I intend to introduce legislation that would incorporate the use of secure, lockable phone bags in which students would deposit their mobile device.  At the end of the day, students would have their bag unlocked and be able to utilize their phone upon leaving the school. 

I’ve introduced two proposals to restrict student cellphone use during school hours:

  1. The first proposal would require the use of secure, lockable phone bags in all public schools across the Commonwealth.
  2. The second proposal would establish a pilot program for a number of schools to utilize secure, lockable phone bags purchased through funding provided by the state. Reporting data will track changes related to mental health surveys, incidents of bullying, incidents of self-harm, academic performance, and other valuable data to determine the impact of a phone-free school setting.

You can read more about both of these proposals here.

Research

Smartphone and social media use among teens is near universal and frequent:

Data shows teens receive an average of 237 notifications on their phone a day.

Between 2010-2015, the percent of U.S. teens with smart phones rose from 23% to 73%, with a quarter admitting to being online “almost constantly”. Now, teens spend an average of nearly 8 hours on screens per day (not only using social media, but ), the equivalent of a full-time job.

Smartphone and social media use contributes to poor mental health, physical health, and academic outcomes in teens:

Sleep patterns also changed during that time, with more and more teens reporting less sleep and studies showing that access to and use of mobile devices before bed were significantly associated with inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

International Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2022

In 2012, math and reading scores dropped for the first time in 25 years, beginning a downward trend that continues today

The rise in smartphone and social media use coincides with an increase in behavioral issues among youth:

In addition to the mental and emotional toll that excessive smartphone and social media use has on our children, behavioral issues have also increased in the form of cyberbullying and costly pranks. In fact, a majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying, with 59% of U.S. teens saying they’ve been bullied or even harassed online.

In 2021, the TikTok challenge “devious licks” spread across the country with kids filming themselves damaging school property and sharing videos on social media.  Schools across Pennsylvania reported vandalism due to this one challenge, from Boyertown School District, to Shippensburg Area School District, to schools in Washington, Green and Fayette County.  These harmful ideas all gained traction and fanfare on social media, but have real costs to our local schools and taxpayers.

Parents and teachers are worried:

Cellphone restrictions have proved successful in restoring kids’ attention in school, improving their mental health, decreasing instances of cyberbullying and other behavioral issues, and boosting academic performance:

Studies show cell phone restrictions in school have a positive impact on academic performance, and many students say restrictions have improved their mental health.

A study of Norwegian schools that banned cellphone use showed that the policy resulted in a significant decrease in doctor visits among girls, reduced bullying, and improved grades, with the largest impact felt among the poorest students.

News

05.20.24 “Derry Township School Board to debate banning smartphones in schools” (CBS21)

05.20.24 “Beth Ann Rosica: Hold the phone” (Broad+Liberty)

05.08.24 “Pennsylvania lawmakers push bill to restrict cell phone use in schools” (CBS Pittsburgh / KDKA)

05.07.24 “Pa. lawmakers pushing bills to have students’ cellphones locked away during school hours” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

05.03.24 “Pa. lawmaker wants to ban student access to cellphones during school day” (PennLive)

05.03.24 “State Senator Proposes Cell Phone Ban in Schools” (WKOK)

05.02.24 “Legislation would limit Pennsylvania students’ access to cellphones in classrooms” (WGAL)

05.02.24 “Introducing legislation that would restrict cell phone use in Pennsylvania schools” (Fox43)

05.02.24 “Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Limit Student Cellphone Use in Schools” (PoliticsPA)

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

04.26.24 “Senator Aument proposes ban on cell phones in classrooms” (Times Observer)

04.16.24 “Maybe a cell phone locker program would work for schools” (Tri-State Alert)

04.15.24 “Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes students have cell phones locked away in school” (ABC27)

Support

Sign the Petition!

If you support my effort to limit student cellphone use during school hours in Pennsylvania, please consider signing your name to my petition. Together, we can get our kids back on track!

Lancaster Residents SUPPORT Limiting Student Cellphone Use

In December 2023, I polled constituents in the 36th Senatorial District in northern Lancaster County asking if they would be supportive of legislation to ban students from using their cell phones during classroom instruction in Pennsylvania K-12 schools. Here are the results:

Join the Discussion

To effectively help our kids unplug from the distractions and other negative effects of smartphones during school hours, I will need the continued engagement of my constituents and local leaders. An ongoing dialogue between lawmakers and those they represent is absolutely critical to succeed.

As such, please fill out my Voice Your Concerns Form with any further questions, thoughts, or concerns you may have. I firmly believe that an open and productive conversation is necessary as we seek to build a stronger Pennsylvania, together.

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