No smartphones for over 429,000 students in Los Angeles: it’s been voted

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Come January 2025, almost half a million students in California are expected to be barred from their smartphones.

That’s because the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to ban smartphones for its 429,000 students in an effort to shield kids from distractions and social media that hinder learning and harm mental health.

This comes just days after the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy advocated for adding warning labels to social media apps, highlighting their potential harm to young people, especially adolescents.

Now, the board of the second-largest U.S. school district approved a resolution with a 5-2 vote on the matter. They have 120 days to introduce a policy that prohibits student use of cellphones and social media platforms. This policy is slated to be in place by January 2025.

“I think we’re going to be on the vanguard here, and students and this entire city and country are going to benefit as a result,” said board member Nick Melvoin, who introduced the resolution.

L.A. school officials will deliberate on whether phones should be kept in pouches or lockers during school hours and what exceptions should be made for different age groups and students with learning or physical disabilities. They will also explore using technology to limit access to social media platforms and how the policy will handle various devices such as smartwatches.

Board member George McKenna opposed the resolution, worried that the policy would be overly restrictive. Board member Scott Schmerelson also voted “no”, citing concerns about whether the ban would apply during non-instructional time and how enforcement would be managed. “I think it’s going to be a full-time job being the police of the phone”, Schmerelson said.

Last year, Florida, with approximately 2.8 million public school students, enacted a law requiring school districts to block student access to social media. Several other states have proposed similar measures.

While the research on mental health risks is still evolving, Surgeon General Murthy emphasized that the urgency of the issue demands immediate action. He referenced a study showing that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at increased risk of mental health issues. In addition, he pointed to a poll indicating that the average teen spends 4.8 hours per day on social media.

The L.A. school district noted additional evidence linking cellphone addiction to rising levels of anxiety and cyberbullying.


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