Bay Area schools remain split on Newsom’s call for smartphone ban in schools

Teenagers look at their phones at Santana Row in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

While cellphones are already restricted in many California classrooms, Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for stricter policies through a statewide limitation or ban on the popular devices. But many Bay Area schools remain split on the proposal.

Newsom previously approved legislation in 2019 authorizing school districts to limit or prohibit students’ use of cellphones at school. Recently, he said he plans to build on that law – AB 272 – to further restrict students’ cellphone use at school, but did not offer specific plans. His office declined to elaborate.

“I look forward to working with the legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” Newsom said in a statement. “When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies – not their screens.”

The announcement came after the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms to advise that social media use can harm teenagers’ mental health.

Teenagers look at their phones at Santana Row in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Researchers remain divided on whether digital media can be blamed for worsening mental health among children and teens. Some have argued there is little evidence to support the link between digital technology use and adolescent mental health. But others have said smartphones are causing an “epidemic of mental illness.”

Many Bay Area districts already restrict or prohibit student cellphone use in schools, often allowing students to use their phones between classes or during non-instructional time.

“Cellphones are part of our culture and for many students and families, a necessary vessel of communication around transportation, extracurricular activities, childcare and the monitoring of students’ medical conditions,” said a spokesperson for Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, Michelle Dawson. “Our focus is on educating students on how to use their cellphones respectfully, responsibly and within the boundaries of our established policy.”

Fremont Unified School District’s former superintendent, CJ Cammack, said while the district allows “appropriate” use of cell phones, elementary students are required to keep their devices off during school hours. Cammack added that middle and high school teachers are allowed to limit or ban use of cell phones in their individual classrooms.

As executive director of the consumer advocacy group California for Safe Technology, Cheryl Matthews advocates for restrictions and bans on students’ cellphone and social media use. She said while there are some positives to social media, it’s too much of a distraction for students and has gotten “out of control.”

“Banning phones…improves academic performance, encourages more face-to-face interaction (and) decreases cyberbullying,” Matthews said. “It promotes healthier habits and ensures academic integrity because kids can’t cheat on assignments.”

Some districts have already outright banned phones during the school day. Just last month, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the largest in the state — made headlines when its school board voted to ban students’ use of phones beginning in 2025.

San Mateo Union High School District banned school cellphone use in 2019 after teachers expressed concern …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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