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Governor Youngkin Signs Executive Order Limiting Cell Phone Use in Public Schools

Policy shift comes amid ongoing concern over America's youth mental health crisis

Governor Youngkin Signs Executive Order Limiting Cell Phone Use in Public Schools

Virginia will soon become the latest state to restrict cell phones in schools, amid widespread concern over the devices’ impact to childrens’ mental health.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed an executive order to establish guidelines and polices regarding cell phone use by student in K-12 public schools.

As of July 2024, three other states — Florida, Indiana, and Ohio — had already passed laws or enacted policies banning or restricting students’ use of cell phones in schools, according to Education Week.

Youngkin’s executive order requires the state Department of Education to collaborate with the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and the State Health Commissioner to solicit public input on age-appropriate cell phone-free education policies.

The partnership must also consider feedback from parents, students, and teachers in crafting rules around “the elimination or severe restriction of the use of cell phones” during class time.

America’s “alarming mental health crisis” which is “driven in part by extensive social media usage and widespread cell phone possession” is the impetus for the policy change, Youngkin said.

“Children spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on social media, and recent studies indicate that spending more than three hours a day on social media doubles the risk of poor mental health for adolescents,” he explained.

The governor added that many school districts within the state and across the U.S. have already restricted cell phone use and social media access during the school day.

He further stated that studies show that students who use phones during class achieve lower grades, while excessive social media use can have a lasting effect on their ability to focus and engage in their studies.

“Therefore, creating a cell phone-free education environment in public schools is not only a prudent measure but an essential one to promote a healthier and more focused educational environment where every child is free to learn,” he said.

Youngkin’s directive has been well-received among education officials.

“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,” said Richmond public schools superintendent Jason Kamras. “On top of that, students reported spending more time talking with their peers.”

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