Virginia Gov. Youngkin restricts cell phone use in public schools

Jul 10, 2024 | Latest News | 0 comments

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed an executive order calling for the establishment of “cellphone-free education” in public schools in an effort to fight back against what he describes as an “alarming mental health crisis and chronic health conditions affecting adolescents.” 

The measure, which was signed by the Republican on Tuesday, orders state agencies and its Department of Education to come up with new guidelines that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. 

“The necessity of implementing cell-phone free education in Virginia’s K-12 public schools is increasingly evident,” Youngkin wrote in the order. “Parents, public health professionals, educators, and other stakeholders across the Commonwealth are expressing concern over the alarming mental health crisis and chronic health conditions affecting adolescents, such as depression and anxiety, driven in part by extensive social media usage and widespread cell phone possession among children. 

“Cellphone-free education will significantly reduce the amount of time students can be on phones without parental supervision,” he added. 

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Youngkin wrote in the order that children spend an average of nearly 5 hours a day browsing social media and that recent studies suggest adolescents who spend more than three hours per day double their risk of poor mental health. 

“Most alarming is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2019-2021, reporting that the rate of suicide has increased 167% since 2010 for girls and 91% since 2010 for boys,” as well as a “spike in depression of 161% and 145%, respectively,” he added. 

Youngkin also said “up to now, public schools have often left these decisions and consequences” surrounding cellphone use “to individual teachers, resulting in a variety of expectations and enforcement, all too often leading to students frequently checking their devices, scrolling through social media, and sending direct messages.” 

He argued, citing studies, that students who use their cellphones during class “learn less and achieve lower grades.” 

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The executive order suggests that usage of cellphone “lockers” or pouches could be one way to restrict them in schools. 

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in schools with a new law. Indiana and Ohio passed their own laws this year, while several other states have recently introduced what is becoming known as “phone-free schools” legislation. 

In Virginia’s state capital of Richmond, Youngkin’s order has the full support of the superintendent of public schools. 

“We piloted a cellphone ban last year in some of our high schools and middle schools, and we saw more student engagement in class and fewer distractions throughout the day,” Jason Kamras told The Associated Press. “On top of that, students reported spending more time talking with their peers.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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