Smartphone Ban Proposed in LA Schools to Combat Mental Health Issues

Smartphone Ban Proposed in LA Schools to Combat Mental Health Issues


The Los Angeles Unified School District recently proposed a policy to ban smartphones for students in public schools. This ban aims to reduce distractions and the negative impact of these devices on the mental health of students. They aim to develop a policy in 120 days and if approved, it would be put into effect from the January of 2025. Several other districts like Florida, have already put similar policies in action over the last few years, to restrict social media access for public school students. The increasing chances of mental health risks and disorders like addiction, and anxiety along with severe cases of cyberbullying have been pressing reasons to take these actions.

The increasing usage of devices and their effects on the mental health of growing children has been an area of discussion for several years. Praigi and Henson, in one of their works published in 2014 discuss how the increasing technological advancements and access to social media have led to social isolation and loneliness among the masses. These forms of technology have replaced the physical form of interaction among humans leading to a rise in loneliness, isolation and eventually, fragmentation of the social system. These sociologists, based on their study have concluded that ‘social life’ now has become restricted to immediate circles of family and friends. Hence the evolution of technology has been a disruptive process from this perspective.

This effect has been far more on teenagers because they have gained access to these disruptive resources during their evolutionary/growing-up years. These children use these devices for both academic purposes as well as for recreation. Hence end up spending several hours a day glued to these devices. On one hand, these devices provide them with access to unlimited sources of knowledge that could help them learn, whereas on the other, they may lead to alienation and isolation due to disrupted social connection with family and society, in general. Even though it allows them to socialise with and learn from a vast community online, it has led to a significant increase in incidents of cyberbullying and harassment due to excessive exposure. Some of the positive and negative effects of usage of Social media have been discussed below.

Positive Outcomes:

1. Awareness:

Social media has become a medium to gain knowledge about different aspects of social and political life. The teens can make use of it to know the recent happenings around the world and gain knowledge on areas of personal interest. This could help increase awareness and build personality by contributing to intellect. For instance, they could learn about the ongoing campaigns on any social cause like movements for LGBTQ rights or environmental protection.

Read More: LGBTQ+ community members suffer mental health concerns in society.

2. Social connectivity:

It can also help them to connect with several other people on the internet who share similar interests and opinions. It can help expand the diaspora beyond physical boundaries. This can prove helpful in terms of professional growth and allow them to learn from people and sources from far and wide. It can also help connect with groups or communities that share similar hobbies, book clubs for example.

3. Expands creativity:

With expanding technology, skills related to several new tools and techniques can be acquired through social media. One can expand their expertise in their areas of interest using these. Eventually, these skills can help gain recognition and be used to support oneself financially. For example, we have recently seen people interested in fashion and beauty becoming influencers and bloggers by partnering with big brands and labels.

4. Community building:

Teens from similar backgrounds or facing similar circumstances can connect, irrespective of physical barriers, to support each other and foster a sense of community. For instance, teens facing mental health issues, body image issues, etc can connect and uplift each other by sharing experiences to build self-esteem. However, we also need to acknowledge that long-term exposure to these social media platforms and devices can have severe effects on the mental and physical health of a person.

Some of them are listed below.

Negative outcomes:

1. Effect on physical health:

Extended exposure can affect physical health in many ways. By spending long hours in front of their devices, teens put their physical health at stake. This is one of the reasons why unwanted weight and health issues related to it are becoming rampantly common among youngsters. There is a significant decline in physical activity and adoption of a sedentary lifestyle which leads to further complications as well.

2. Isolation:

Due to excessive hours spent on their devices, teens lose touch with their physical surroundings and people around them. Even though communication takes place online in a much quicker and easier way, the replacement of physical interaction affects mental health in severe ways. Relations get strained due to possible miscommunication. Because most of the time is being spent online, communication among members within the household reduces, affecting their relations.

3. Sleep deprivation:

Due to continuous exposure to highly stimulating bite-sized content, the brain becomes increasingly volatile, hence bringing it back to rest by transitioning into a relaxed state takes longer periods. This type of content is designed to increase engagement and excitement among viewers, however, it ends up affecting their attention span and sleep-wake cycles by overstimulating them with bulk loads of sensory data. Thereby affecting the quality of sleep.

Read More: Psychologists Speak on How much sleep we actually need

4. Cyberbullying:

By putting out large amounts of sensitive data about their public and private life, teens become highly vulnerable to cyberbullying. They may face instances of harassment, humiliation or exclusion. And this can lead to emotional distress or even depression. Hence they need to be sensitised to use these platforms safely.

5. Effect on Self-esteem:

Social media always portrays life in a manner very different from reality, however, if one gets carried away with what they see online and indulges in unhealthy comparisons with others, it may affect their self-esteem. This comparison can be based on looks, exposure, opportunities etc and can lead to body image issues or instances of self-deprecation.

6. Addiction:

For some teens facing problems in different spheres of life, social media may become a medium for escaping reality. They might indulge in several hours of mindless scrolling just to keep certain disturbing thoughts away. However this is not a healthy practice and can lead to addiction over time. Also sometimes one might become addicted to the need for external validation through likes, comments and appreciation they receive online. And can lead to compulsive use of these platforms in an unhealthy way.

Therefore, like any other form of technology, social media and smartphones can only be useful when used in an optimal amount. Excessive use over long durations of time can affect physical and mental health in several ways, some of which have been described above. Hence the decision of the state governments to ban smartphones during school hours can be seen as a welcome change in certain ways. Because it will limit the hours of exposure to devices, which would reduce distractions thereby leading to better concentration during class hours.

Read More: The Psychology of Addiction

Further to keep them engaged these teens can be involved in sports and other forms of team-building activities which will be beneficial for them. Hence it would lead to the overall betterment of the physical and mental health of students.

References +
  • Parigi, P., & Henson, W. (2014). Social Isolation in America. Annual Review of Sociology, 40, 153–171.
  • Young, B. (2006). A Study on the Effect of Internet Use and Social Capital on the Academic Performance. Development and Society, 35(1), 107–123.

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