Back to school: Legislating students’ screen time
School is back in session, and for most students, more classroom time means less screen time.
In France, a law recently took effect prohibiting students up to age 15 from using cell phones – as well as tablets and smart watches – during school hours. (High schools can enforce the ban at their discretion.)
According to Thomson Reuters Westlaw data, similar bans have not caught on in the US. While school districts may develop and implement policies around students’ use of electronic devices during the school day, no states have adopted bans.
Westlaw data reveals that at least one state has considered an electronics ban for students. In 2017, Pennsylvania legislators proposed House Bill No. 690, which included the provision: “The possession by students of telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers, cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other vehicles provided by the school district.” The bill was referred to the state’s Education Committee but it was not adopted.
More recently, Ohio legislators addressed students’ use of electronic devices in House Bill No. 477, which the House passed in June. However, even if the state Senate passes the bill, an electronics ban would not go into effect. Current language in the proposal simply notes the state’s schools “… may adopt a policy prohibiting pupils from carrying a pocket pager or other an electronic communications device in any school building or on any school grounds or premises of the district.”
Concerns with students’ use of electronic devices during school hours range from distracting students from learning to spreading germs when they share devices.
Westlaw data shows that West Virginia is among the states that regulate electronics use by penalizing “[u]nauthorized or unacceptable use of personal technology devices” by students, such as using devices during class or for cyber bullying, among other reasons. Other states, like Mississippi, prohibit students’ use of electronic devices “during the administration of scheduled statewide tests” but not during regular school hours.
For now, the majority of legislators seem inclined to allow local school districts to determine what’s best for their students.