Virginia to restrict cell phone use by public elementary and middle school students

WATCH: Virginia to limit cell phone use in classrooms

Virginia is moving to restrict cell phone use in schools, joining a growing list of states that are banning or restricting cell phone use in schools, citing concerns about students spending too much time in front of screens.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order Tuesday establishing “cellphone-free” classrooms in all Virginia public elementary and secondary schools.

Under Executive Order 33, the state Department of Education must work with partners to develop guidelines for restricting phones in elementary and middle school classrooms by the fall, and implement those guidelines by January 1, 2025.

Second-largest school district votes to ban cell phones, social media for students

The executive order highlighted mental health issues among adolescents, including anxiety and depression, as a major factor behind the decision, partly stemming from teens’ significant use of popular social media platforms, which averages 4.8 hours per day, according to an American Psychological Association report released in April. The order also said that students who use phones during school days learn less and earn lower grades.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Teenagers use a phone in this undated stock photo.

The order suggested using pouches or designated “lockers” for cellphones as possible ways for students to store their phones during the school day. It also stops short of banning cellphones entirely, and it states that the Department of Education must address processes for parents to communicate with their children in emergencies and for everyday issues, such as forgotten items and pickup times.

Surgeon General calls for health warnings on social media for younger users

In an op-ed in June, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for warning labels on social media sites, similar to warning labels on tobacco products, to address “the greatest public health challenge of our time.”

Virginia’s executive order comes a month after the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school district, passed a ban on cellphones on June 18, effective in the spring semester of the 2024-25 school year.

States such as Florida, Indiana and Ohio have also passed similar laws, and several other states are considering doing the same. Bills are in the works.