Bill to Limit Cellphone Use in Schools Passes Senate Committee

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) to limit the use of cellphones in schools passed the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 10-1, positioning it for possible consideration in the final 2024-25 state budget.

Senate Bill 1207 would incorporate the use of secure, lockable phone bags in which students would deposit their mobile devices until the end of the day at schools.

“Students’ cellphone use in schools is a major issue, not just when it comes to classroom distractions, reduced student attention spans, and declining academic performance – it also negatively impacts their mental health and social skills,” said Aument. “The data is clear and has confirmed what parents, teachers, and administrators are experiencing in the classroom.”

The Derry Township School District school board says that the use of smartphones “may create a social, intellectual, and emotional barrier to being fully present during school and can cause disruption to the education process.”

“Smartphones in the classroom have become a big issue. Students are distracted, they aren’t engaged and they aren’t socializing with others…Not only does smartphone use distract students from learning, it also distracts them from other people. Right now, loneliness is at an all-time high around the world,” said Janae Riehl, then a 12th grader at Manheim Township School.

“[Cellphones in school are] the impetus of a lot of problems that our schools and our teachers are managing in the classrooms,” said Sherri Smith, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. She added that, “‘Constant connectivity’ by students inhibits the building of collaborative relationships, not to mention the distraction of their attention from school.”

“Describing frequent cellphone use as an addiction, [Danielle Lindemuth, a school board member from Elizabethtown] advocated for a ban [on cellphones in school], saying such use in school is detrimental to student learning and social and emotional well-being,” wrote Diane M. Bitting for LNP | LancasterOnline’s June 18, 2024, School Briefs.

Additionally, more than 200 Pennsylvanians to date have responded to a petition Aument circulated to seek support for his effort to limit student cellphone use during school hours. Interested individuals can sign the petition on Aument’s website here.

According to 2023 data provided by the Pew Research Center, teenagers spend an average of three and a half hours a day on social media. Teens report feeling overwhelmed by the drama on social media and feeling worse about their own lives as a result of using it.

Teens are also less capable of handling the negative impacts of social media use as they report getting less sleep – also a result of increased cellphone use. Studies show that access to and use of mobile devices before bed significantly hurt sleep quality and quantity.

“Young adults spend more time on social media and using their smartphones, and it’s taking a toll on them mentally, emotionally, and academically. Cellphone restrictions have proved successful in reversing these trends, so I appreciate the support my bill received and look forward to its continued advancement,” Aument said.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration, and Aument is hopeful for quick passage so that the funding provided by the pilot program can be offered to schools for the beginning of the 2024-25 school year.