Gov. Newsom calls for statewide ban on smartphone use during school day

Governor Newsom announced his support today for banning smartphone use for students during the school day. On Monday, the U.S. Surgeon General called for warning labels on social media sites, saying excessive use of social media is harming the mental health of children and teens.

Newsom signed a bill back in 2019 allowing school districts to decide how much they want to limit smartphone use at school. Now the governor is proposing a ban on smartphone use during school hours for children across the state.

"I think it’s extremely important that all the adults get on the same page and do this for an entire generation of kids who are really struggling," said Mike Gatenby, a James Lick High School Teacher. 

A day after the U.S. Surgeon General called for warning labels for the most popular social media sites, Gov. Newsom announced his support for banning smartphones during class time. A 2023 Pew Research Center study shows young people continue to develop mental health issues because of their access to social media. Gatenby has worked at James Lick High School in San Jose’s East Side Union High School District for 26 years.

"Students should be engaging with one another during break and lunch and interacting. Working on those social skills, not staring at their phones all day long," said Gatenby. 

East Side Union says its current policy requires students to sign an agreement saying that electronic devices will only be used for educational purposes. The district already provides computers and tablets for students to use. Mark Adams is a teacher and union president at James Lick High.

"As soon as a student picks up a cell phone, they lose that time. As a teacher, you grow frustrated because you know they’re not going to be able to receive that information. They’re not going to be able to do that learning," said Adams. 

Still, Mike Flynn disagrees with Gov. Newsom’s call for completely restricting smartphone use during the school day. Flynn says he sent his kids to San Jose schools and now runs a tutoring agency, Engenious Learning Centers

"Giving them that agency is a pretty important step towards being able to become a mature, effective, producing adult. So, if we take away everything, and we never let a child fail, and we don’t ever teach them the value of discipline, what are we ever teaching them?" said Flynn.

Newsom didn’t offer any details about his proposal to ban smartphones, but the California School Boards Assoc. says phone use should be left up to school districts and not the state.