Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law Monday that encourages California school districts to develop and adopt policies limiting or prohibiting student use of smartphones on school grounds during school hours.

Portrait of Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi

“Growing evidence shows excessive smartphone use at school interferes with a student’s education and success, encourages cyberbullying, and contributes to teenage anxiety, depression, and suicide.” — Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance)

“Growing evidence shows excessive smartphone use at school interferes with a student’s education and success, encourages cyberbullying, and contributes to teenage anxiety, depression, and suicide,” said the law’s author, Assemblymember Muratsuchi (D-Torrance.

“This new law will encourage school districts to develop their own policy that strikes a balance between allowing appropriate student use of smartphones at school while making sure that smartphones are not interfering with a student’s educational, social and emotional development.”

Four Specific Exemptions

Assembly Bill 272 authorizes school districts to adopt policies to limit or prohibit smartphones with these specific exemptions:

— in an emergency;

— when a teacher or administrator grants permission for academic or other approved purposes;

— when necessary for the health and well-being of a student;

— or when needed by a student with special needs.

Evidence has shown that unrestricted use of smartphones by students at schools lowers academic performance, particularly among low-achieving students; promotes cyberbullying, and contributes to teenage mental health issues.

Between 2009 and 2017, the number of 14-to-17-year-olds experiencing clinical level depression jumped more than 60%, with a 47% increase among 12-to-13-year-olds, Muratsuchi said.

France’s Smartphone Ban for Young Students

In proposing the law, Muratsuchi pointed out that France adopted a nationwide smartphone ban in 2018 in all primary and middle schools as a way to promote pupil achievement and healthy social development.

Also, the London School of Economics and Political Science published a May 2015 study that found that test scores improved significantly at schools that banned cellphone use and that the most significant gains in pupil performance were made by the most disadvantaged and underachieving pupils.

The study concluded that “schools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap by prohibiting mobile phone use in schools.”

The California law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

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