Senator Aument proposes ban on cell phones in classrooms

State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lititz, is pictured speaking during on the Senate floor.

Smart phones may not be helping make students smarter in the classroom.

State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lititz, is circulating a co-sponsorship memorandum for two pieces of legislation that will help remove cell phones from classrooms around the commonwealth. The first will require the use of secure, lockable phone bags in all public schools while the second will create a pilot program for a number of schools to use secure, lockable phone bags purchased through funding provided by the state. Reporting data will track changes related to mental health surveys, incidents of bullying, incidents of self-harm, academic performance, and other valuable data to determine the impact of a phone-free school setting.

A similar bill was introduced recently in the New York Assembly by Assemblyman Keith Brown, R-Commack, who would prohibit students from having their cell phones in the classroom during teaching time.

Both bills come at a time when several states are debating similar bills banning cell phones in and suggesting new ways to curb access to the devices. The latest state intervention came in Utah, where Gov.

Spencer Cox, a Republican, in January urged all school districts and the state Board of Education to remove cellphones from classrooms. He cited studies that show learning improves, distractions are decreased and students are more likely to talk to each other if phones are taken away.

AP file photo A ninth grader places her cellphone into a phone holder as she enters class at Delta High School, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Delta, Utah. A bill introduced recently in the New York legislature would prohibit students from having their cell phones during classroom instruction time.

“We just need a space for six or seven hours a day where kids are not tethered to these devices,” Cox told reporters this month. He said his initiative, which is not binding, is part of a legislative push to protect kids in Utah from the harms of social media.

Aument’s co-sponsorship memorandum notes $100 million in additional state spending on mental health for school children, and statistics showing increasing mental health problems in students, including higher rates of depression and suicide rates.

“While we continue to provide resources to help students in need of mental health services, I strongly believe we must also target one of the root causes of our children’s mental distress: widespread access to smartphones and social media apps,” Aument wrote. “Children are more depressed, anxious, and lonely than ever before. This time frame directly correlates to the explosion in the use of smartphones and social media apps, and the alarming trends began prior to the pandemic. This mental health crisis coinciding with smartphone and social media use is seen not only in America but in countries around the world, meaning these distressing trends are unrelated to the shutdowns, economics, or other world events often attributed to the mental health decline.”

Aument said studies have shown the number of teenagers with smart phones increased by 50% from 2010 to 2015, with teens spending almost 8 hours a day on phones or other screens each day. In addition to increased use, Aument noted the 2021 TikTok challenge “devious licks” that had children filming themselves damaging school property and sharing videos on social media. Schools across Pennsylvania reported vandalism due to this one challenge, including Boyertown School District. Shippensburg Area School District and schools in Washington, Green and Fayette counties. At the same time, math and reading scores have decreased over the past several years across the country.

“Our students deserve the opportunity to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets,” Aument wrote. “Studies show cell phone restrictions in school have a positive impact on academic performance, and many students say restrictions have improved their mental health. To that end, I intend to introduce legislation that would incorporate the use of secure, lockable phone bags in which students would deposit their mobile device. At the end of the day, students would have their bag unlocked and be able to utilize their phone upon leaving the school.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today