Newsom seeks to limit cell phone use in schools  

Photo: LBeddoe/Shutterstock via Epoch Times
Photo: LBeddoe/Shutterstock via Epoch Times

By Aldgra Fredly 
Contributing Writer 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that he intends to restrict the use of phones in schools following Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s warning about the mental health risks associated with social media. 

“As the surgeon general affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth,” the governor said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Newsom said that he will work with the California Legislature to restrict smartphone use during the school day, citing a bill he signed in 2019 that allows school districts to limit students’ smartphone use. 

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens,” Newsom stated. 

The bill, Assembly Bill 272, grants school districts the authority to limit or ban the use of smartphones in schools, with exceptions for emergencies or in response to “a perceived threat of danger.” 

His announcement comes just a day after Murthy, in an opinion piece published by The New York Times, urged Congress to require social media platforms to carry warning labels about their effects on adolescents, similar to those on tobacco products. 

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” the health official wrote. “A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe.”  

His appeal cited statistics reporting that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. 

Murthy said that a warning label alone may not be sufficient to protect young people from the harmful effects of social media, but it could help increase awareness about those risks. 

“Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior,” the surgeon general said. 

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the United States, approved a ban on the use of cellphones in its schools in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday. The ban takes effect in January 2025. 

Last month, the Roseville City School Board, located in Central California, adopted a policy that turns the district’s middle schools into “phone-free zones” starting next school year. 

School board members voted unanimously on May 9 to approve the policy — introduced by trustee Jonathan Zachreson — which requires middle school students to turn off and put away their phones from the moment they arrive at school until the school day ends. 

More than 76% of public schools in the United States prohibited “non-academic use” of cellphones as of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in schools, passing a law that bans cellphone use during class time and blocks access to Wi-Fi and social media. 

Earlier this year, Indiana approved a bill restricting cellphone use in schools. 

Micaela Ricaforte and Savannah Hulsey Pointer contributed to this report. 

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