Ohio Lawmakers Encourage Students to Limit Screen Time

Ohio state senators have approved a measure aimed at restricting cell phone use within school premises. However, the bill grants local school districts the authority to establish their own guidelines for student cell phone usage.

“Navigating parenthood in the smartphone era is undoubtedly more challenging than previous generations,” stated Natalie Hastings, a mother of two.

Emphasizing the significance of setting boundaries regarding technology, Hastings highlighted the difficulties encountered in managing cell phone usage at schools.

“Instances of bullying and unauthorized video recording prompted the implementation of specific protocols at the school level, allowing students to carry phones to school but power them off and store them in their backpacks,” she shared.

Commencing in the upcoming fall semester of 2023, Akron Public Schools will enforce a new policy mandating secondary students to store their cell phones in magnetically sealed “Yondr” bags. While students can use their phones during designated times such as lunch or breaks, they must ensure phones are on silent mode and securely stored when not in use.

Educational institutions across Ohio are intensifying measures against phone usage, with state legislators actively participating in the initiative.

“Prohibiting smartphone usage during instructional hours is a commendable concept,” stated Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).

Huffman and his colleagues recently passed House Bill 250, a legislation introducing a directive requiring public schools to establish cell phone regulations, emphasizing minimal phone usage throughout the school day.

Moreover, the bill mandates the Department of Education and Workforce to craft a standardized policy on student phone usage, a move prompted by Governor Mike DeWine’s concerns over the adverse effects of phones on students’ well-being.

Hastings expressed general support for the Senate’s bill.

“I believe each school principal is best positioned to tailor the regulations to the specific student body they oversee,” Hastings noted.

She expressed reservations about an alternate proposal — H.B. 485, which seeks to restrict personal devices like phones, laptops, headphones, and smartwatches unless authorized by the teacher, required for emergencies, health-related purposes, or specific accommodations for students with disabilities.

The bill necessitates public schools to devise internet safety guidelines and to introduce courses on the potential downsides of social media for students in grades 6-12.

However, it remains uncertain whether House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) aligns with the Senate’s perspective.

“Questions were raised within our caucus regarding the specifics of the cell phone regulations, with several members desiring a detailed understanding of the proposed language,” Stephens remarked.

State Representative Tom Young (R-Washington Township), the sponsor of H.B. 485, expressed reservations about the Senate’s actions.

“While they have the prerogative to proceed, we intend to conduct hearings on my bill to gather feedback from districts and stakeholders to ensure the adoption of best practices,” Young emphasized. “Citizens must have the opportunity to voice their opinions on consequential legislation, especially one of paramount importance. We aim to approach this matter conscientiously.”

Hastings urged for a gradual approach and emphasized the evolving landscape of addressing distractions caused by technology.

The Senate’s version will now undergo a final voting process in the House.

This news piece was originally featured on News5Cleveland.com and is being shared through the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. It is exclusive to WEWS in Cleveland and cannot be republished freely by other news outlets unlike other OCJ articles.

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