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N.Y. Gov. Hochul to Support Bill Banning Smartphones in Schools

Endorsing potential legislative action for the next session, Gov. Kathy Hochul suggested banning smartphones from schools, but possibly allowing cell phones that can send text messages and not access the Internet.

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(TNS) — Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering a ban on smartphones in schools as several state officials aim to keep children safe online from social media platforms and their impact on youth mental health, according to a recent report.

In an interview with The Guardian, Hochul said she plans to introduce a bill later this year that would ban smartphones in schools. If passed, it means kids would be allowed to carry cell phones — not smartphones — that can't access the Internet but can send text messages.

The governor did not share how the ban would be enforced.

The potential legislative action would be planned for the next session, which begins in January 2025. Currently, there is no formal legislative proposal to ban smartphones in schools.

Hochul pointed to the addiction of social media that is plaguing children and young adults in the state and country during an interview with MSNBC.

"I'm saying, leave our kids alone," said Hochul during the MSNBC interview. "Let them socialize. They can talk to their friends, but stop doing this. Stop selling our kids personal data for your financial gain. And also, parents should be able to turn it off at midnight, let the kids get some rest till 6 a.m. because otherwise, they're going to this place all night long and they're exhausted."

Hochul said that students could still have a "flip phone" that allows text messages for parents to still communicate with their children — but would prevent the inevitable clicks to social media platforms.

"But I think talking to the parents I have already, this is something they would welcome," Hochul added. "They want their kids to be kids again and not be held captive to this force. Just be a kid again."

The remarks this week come months after Hochul outlined her priorities for the year in her 2024 State of the State address, which included numerous efforts to expand the availability of youth mental health services and crack down on social media features deemed harmful to children's mental well-being.

In October, two bills were introduced that aim to protect children by prohibiting online platforms from collecting and sharing personal data without consent and limiting addictive features of social media platforms that could harm mental health and development.

The officials cited recent research that has shown devastating mental health effects associated with children and young adults' social media use, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self-harm. Children could face risks when data is collected online — and viral "challenges" also have endangered kids and young adults.

The first bill, called Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, would require social media companies to restrict the addictive features that most harm young users. Currently, platforms serve content to users that they don't follow or subscribe to — curated using algorithms that gather and display content based on a variety of factors.

The second bill, called The New York Child Data Protection Act, would prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data or anyone under the age of 18 for the purposes of advertising, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. For users under 13 years old, this informed consent must come from a parent.

©2024 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.