Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Tim Kaine, D-Va., have introduced two new amendments to Federal legislation that would focus on studying and better understanding the impact smartphones have in the classroom.
During the Dec. 12 Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee markup session, those two amendments were attached to the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA), which the committee passed on a 20-1 vote. The bill will now go to the Senate floor for full consideration.
The AREA bill would focus on reauthorizing and making changes to the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), the Educational Technical Assistance Act, and the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Authorization Act.
The ESRA legislation authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences – which is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, the bill also reauthorizes the Educational Technical Assistance Act, which could potentially provide technical assistance to educators through the Regional Education Laboratory and Comprehensive Centers.
The first of the two amendments would direct the statistics commissioner at the National Center of Education to gather data on schools, local educational agencies, and state policies focused on student smartphone use, including policies that deny students’ use of smartphones.
The second amendment would direct the research commissioner of the National Center for Education Research to look at how student smartphone use during instructional hours affects academic improvement and mental health. It would also assess school, local educational agencies, and state policies focusing on student smartphone use.
Notably, in 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 76 percent of U.S. schools had varying degrees of cellphone bans in place.
“The negative impacts of social media on the well-being of our children are becoming more and more evident. Nearly 60 percent of students self-reported that they are using their phones for non-education purposes during class instruction – commonly for texting and checking social media,” said Sen. Romney.
“Curbing the non-educational use of smartphones in the classroom may not only help raise students’ GPAs and increase their focus, but also help improve the mental health of our students,” he added. “I’m pleased to see my amendments unanimously approved by Committee – it’s imperative that policymakers have access to evidence-based information before implementing changes to help our students improve their health and academics.”