California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced his support for restricting cellphone use in schools, urging the state legislature to strengthen current limitations. This initiative aligns with a growing national movement to reduce cyberbullying and classroom distractions.

Newsom, who has four school-aged children, said he would collaborate with state lawmakers this summer to tighten cellphone restrictions in classrooms for California’s 5.5 million public school students before the legislative session ends in August.

The governor’s announcement came a day after the U.S. Surgeon General urged for warning labels on social media platforms, highlighting their role in the adolescent mental health crisis.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth. Building on legislation I signed in 2019, I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” Newsom wrote on X.

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

On Monday, in a New York Times opinion piece, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy urged Congress to add warning labels to social media similar to those required for cigarettes and alcohol products.

Murthy described the youth mental health crisis as an “emergency,” urging schools and parents to collaborate in mitigating the harms of excessive social media use, including making schools phone-free zones.

“One of the worst things for a parent is to know your children are in danger yet be unable to do anything about it. That is how parents tell me they feel when it comes to social media – helpless and alone in the face of toxic content and hidden harms,” Murthy wrote.

The surgeon general also noted that adolescents who spend over three hours daily on social media have twice the risk of anxiety and depression, with the average daily usage in this age group being 4.8 hours.

Following Murthy’s statements, Newsom’s announcement came just hours before the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation, voted to ban cell phones in classrooms, impacting over half a million students across 1,400 schools.

“Our students are glued to their cellphones, not unlike adults,” said Nick Melvoin, the board member who led the resolution, at a board meeting. “They’re surreptitiously scrolling in school, in class time, or have their head in their hands, walking down the hallways. They’re not talking to each other or playing at lunch or recess because they have their AirPods in.”

The L.A. District’s efforts align with a nationwide push to curb cellphone usage in schools, with both Republican-led and Democratic-led states implementing initiatives.

Last year, Florida enacted a law mandating public districts to prohibit cellphone use during class, with some districts extending the ban throughout the entire school day. This spring, Indiana passed a similar law requiring districts to ban portable wireless devices in classrooms beginning next school year.

Additionally, last month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled her intention to implement a statewide ban on cellphones in schools by 2025.

In California, many school districts already restrict cellphone use during school hours. Newsom has previously signed legislation in 2019 and 2022 authorizing bans and additional protections for apps, however, these policies still pose challenges for teachers to enforce.

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