Expert weighs in on LAUSD vote to ban student cellphone use during school day

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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Expert weighs in on LAUSD vote to ban cellphone use during school day
An expert weights in on LAUSD's move to ban student cellphone use at schools.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted in favor of banning phones and social media throughout the school day for its 430,000 students, becoming the latest school district to greenlight the ban.

Experts are weighing in on the growing dangers of young minds in digital spaces.

"Cellphones and the use of social media use is contributing predominantly, negatively, toward the mental health crisis that we're seeing in youth," said Stephanie Marcy, a clinical psychologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Marcy said social media is facing a tobacco moment akin to a time when people didn't realize how harmful tobacco was. Mounting evidence shows what kids see on various platforms can lead to depression, anxiety and higher instances of cyberbullying.

"I'm hearing about kids videotaping things that they shouldn't be or taking pictures of things and then sharing it with other students, and the child doesn't want to go back to school," Marcy said.

Marcy said the concern isn't just what happens online, but also what doesn't happen offline when kids are distracted.

"It totally divides their attention, and it impacts their ability to engage socially and academically. And the same is extremely true if they're in the classroom," Marcy said.

Marcy said that academic interest and socialization improve in other school districts that limit cellphones.

She believes LAUSD's ban is a positive and necessary step, but it can't work without similar restrictions at home. As a mom herself, Marcy reasons with her own teenagers on having cellphone limitations.

"I tell them this isn't a punishment. (They) lack the discipline to be able to limit your time on screens. It's our responsibility as parents to be that prefrontal cortex for (them) and help (them) separate from something that is distracting," Marcy said.

The school board will review various strategies to restrict cellphone use in the new school year using different methods like locked pouches or a cellphone cabinet. Marcy says when rules are broken, the policy should include consequences that are meaningful to teens.