Oct 18, 2022 - News

Utah governor wants schools to ban cell phones in classrooms

An illustration of a child standing and pressing her hands against a giant smartphone screen.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Gov. Spencer Cox is calling on schools to try cell phone bans in classrooms to improve kids' focus and mental health.

Driving the news: Cox advocated limits on kids' social media exposure during a news conference Monday.

  • School cell phone bans could improve learning environments, he said.
  • Lawmakers are also looking at requiring social media companies to obtain parental permission before allowing children to open their own accounts, Cox said.

Why it matters: Some research — such as a 2018 study that Cox cited — have linked social media exposure to depression and anxiety.

Reality check: The governor's office has little authority to enact phone bans or require parental consent for social media.

  • Absent legislation, schools are on their own to set rules for cell phone use.
  • Courts have halted some state regulations on social media companies on First Amendment grounds — though most of the debate has focused on how companies "censor" certain content, rather than limiting kids' access.

Details: Cox wants to see schools ban kids from possessing cell phones in classrooms, not just using them.

  • "There's something about having it on your person, that connection where it's always even subconsciously, it's just ticking away and you feel that need to look at it and see what's happening because maybe you're missing out on something," Cox said.

The other side: Parents have fought cell phone bans, saying kids need to be able to call for help in the event of shootings or other urgent safety issues.

  • Some experts, however, say frantic calls can jam communication networks and disrupt kids' attempts to stay safe in the moment of a crisis.

The big picture: School cell phone bans have varied nationally and internationally — but most have failed.

  • The National Education Association in 2016 found that more than 70% of schools that forbade cell phones went on to reverse their decisions.
  • But France and China have both banned the devices nationally for younger kids, and more districts have been considering doing so recently.

Of note: Utah's state school board required schools to update their cell phone policies in 2019.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

No stories could be found

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more