Gavin Newsom Will Work To Restrict Smartphones In California Schools

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Tuesday he would support efforts to remove smartphones from schools, a day after the U.S. surgeon general called for a warning label to be applied to social media platforms.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth,” Newsom said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

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

A recent Gallup survey found adolescents spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on social media. And a 2019 study found those who spend more than three hours a day can face increased risk of mental health problems.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Congress to add the warning labels to social media platforms on Monday, saying widespread use of the technologies had led to “significant mental health harms for adolescents.” In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Murthy said the mental health crisis among young people was an “emergency,” and said schools and parents should work in tandem to limit any harms linked to heavy social media use.

“One of the worst things for a parent is to know your children are in danger yet be unable to do anything about it,” the surgeon general wrote. “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.”

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies,” Newsom said Tuesday, “not their screens.”
“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies,” Newsom said Tuesday, “not their screens.” Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

Similar warning labels, which require congressional approval, have been mandated on cigarettes and alcohol products, and are often seen as one of the most powerful tools that can be leveraged by the surgeon general.

Murthy went on to tout a host of recommendations: that schools should become phone-free zones, kids should not be allowed access to social media until after middle school, and parents should prioritize and safeguard sleep and real-life connections.

“This is much easier said than done, which is why parents should work together with other families to establish shared rules, so no parents have to struggle alone or feel guilty when their teens say they are the only one who has to endure limits,” he wrote.

Newsom’s stance came the same day the Los Angeles school board voted to ban cellphones in classrooms, with board members warning of the hazards that devices present to students.

“Our students are glued to their cellphones, not unlike adults,” Nick Melvoin, the board member who shepherded the resolution through the vote, said this week, per the Los Angeles Times. “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.”