Eric Thompson

New York Proposes Smartphone Ban in Schools to Enhance Focus and Learning

New York is poised to introduce legislation that would prohibit the use of smartphones in schools, a move that has generated significant debate among educators, parents, and policymakers.

The proposed ban aims to curb distractions, improve academic performance, and address concerns about the mental health impacts of smartphone use among students.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is reportedly planning to introduce legislation that would ban smartphones in schools.

Gov. Hochul said she will establish the bill later this year and take it up by January 2025, during New York’s next legislative session, according to a report by the Guardian.

The legislation would make it so that schoolchildren can carry basic phones that will allow them to text individuals — such as their parents, in case there is a “mass shooting” — but prohibit them from accessing the internet.

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“I have seen these addictive algorithms pull in young people, literally capture them and make them prisoners in a space where they are cut off from human connection, social interaction and normal classroom activity,” she said.


Hochul said she would launch the bill later this year and take it up in New York’s next legislative session, which begins in January 2025. If passed, schoolchildren will be allowed to carry simple phones that cannot access the internet but do have the capability to send texts, which has been a sticking point for parents. She did not offer specifics on enforcing the prohibition.

“Parents are very anxious about mass shootings in school,” she said. “Parents want the ability to have some form of connection in an emergency situation.”

In New York, the bills have faced pushback from big tech, trade groups and other companies, which collectively spent more than $800,000 between October and March lobbying against one or both of them, according to public disclosure records.

Meta is the largest of these, spending on lobbying $156,932 in New York in that time. The bills would require the social media giant to alter its platforms for very young users.

“They should know that as someone who is often subjected to millions of dollars of lobbying campaigns, it has no effect on me. So they’re wasting their money,” Hochul said, adding that New York is a “pro-tech state”.

“You’re not going to profit off the mental health of children in the state of New York,” she said.

The two New York bills would increase the government’s role in regulating social media platforms. This differs from other state-level bills across the country, which place some reliance on self-policing by tech companies to decide which features could be harmful by completing assessments of whether products are “reasonably likely” to be accessed by children.

“These addictive algorithms have been used against young people since 2011,” Hochul said. “If [social media companies] were going to self-police and manage this themselves, what has stopped them thus far? Clearly as a government, we need to step in.”

Supporters of the ban point to numerous studies highlighting the detrimental effects of smartphone use on students’ academic performance and mental health. For instance, research has consistently shown that students who frequently use their phones during school hours tend to have lower grades and decreased attention spans. Additionally, there is growing evidence linking excessive smartphone use to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Moreover, proponents argue that the legislation could help in curbing cyberbullying, a pervasive issue exacerbated by the ubiquity of smartphones. The anonymity and accessibility provided by these devices have made it easier for students to engage in harmful behaviors online, often during school hours.

New York’s move is part of a broader trend of increasing scrutiny on smartphone use in educational settings. Several other states and countries have implemented similar bans, citing comparable reasons. France, for example, enacted a nationwide ban on smartphones in schools in 2018, which has been largely viewed as successful in reducing distractions and improving student focus.

The debate in New York reflects a larger conversation about the role of technology in education and its impact on student well-being. As digital devices become increasingly integrated into daily life, finding a balance between leveraging technology for educational benefits and minimizing its potential harms remains a critical challenge for educators and policymakers.

As New York prepares to introduce legislation banning smartphones in schools, the move has ignited a complex debate. While many educators and policymakers support the ban as a means to enhance student focus and reduce distractions, concerns from parents and technology advocates highlight the need for a nuanced approach. The outcome of this legislative effort will likely influence similar policies across the country, as states grapple with the implications of digital technology in education.


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