(LibertySociety.com) – Cell phone use in schools has skyrocketed over the last several years, with students as young as eight years old toting a smart device in their backpacks. Schools have imposed policies restricting the use of cell phones during instructional periods, but it is nearly impossible for teachers to catch every student who breaks the rules. At many schools, phones are allowed during lunch, recess, and between classes. Teachers have reported that students often ask to go to the bathroom to use their phones during instructional periods.
A November 25 editorial in the Washington Post called for an outright ban on cell phone use in schools. The editorial cited an advisory from the United States Surgeon General regarding how teenagers are mentally affected by the use of social media. The Post also argued that cell phone use in schools negatively affects students and contributes to cyberbullying. The editorial also argued that parents and students should support a ban, but most parents are in favor of their children having a way to contact them while at school.
Lawmakers in Congress have drawn attention to excessive phone use in schools over the last several weeks. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine introduced the Focus on Learning Act, which would task the United States Department of Education (DOE) with studying how students are mentally and academically affected by using cell phones in K-12 classrooms. Senator Cotton spoke about the new legislation and believes that cell phones are a distraction to students. He said that “they expose children to content that is harmful and addictive,” and touted the legislation as the way to keep schools focused on student learning.
Senator Kaine also commented, noting that the cancellation of classes during the pandemic caused a learning loss for millions of students. He went further, stating that more work needs to be done to regain what was lost, including “looking into how cellphone use in schools is impacting students’ mental health” and their learning capabilities. He said that the DOE data that is collected during its research would be provided to schools to develop and shape policies regarding cell phone use.
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