Lt. Gov. Jon Husted tells regional leaders that he supports smartphone ban policy in schools

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Schools across Ohio are, or are considering a smartphone ban and Lt. Gov. John Husted says the state will support them in their efforts to do so. 

“I don’t know if there’s a single thing that we could do to benefit the academic and mental health of our children (that’s) better than getting cell phones out of schools,” Husted said on Wednesday at the Appalachian Children Coalition Youth Mental Health Summit in Nelsonville. 

Research shows that the presence of smartphones in an academic setting negatively impacts learning, Husted said. Even when notifications are turned off, a smartphone being present can reduce a child’s academic performance by up to 10 percent. 

“We’re seeing a growing number of schools implement those policies, the educators and students and parents are very happy about those policies,” Husted said. “And so, we’re trying to share that with schools statewide so that they understand how to do it.” 

In addition to their negative impact on learning, Husted also talked about the dangers unrestricted smartphone access poses to children and teenagers, along with measures schools and parents can take to combat them. 

Experts recommend children under age 16 shouldn’t have access to a smartphone and that parents should reduce the amount of time their children spend on social media and monitor what content they’re being exposed to.  

Excessive use of smartphones can also lead to anxiety and behavioral disorders in children and teenagers, Husted said. 

“I think there’s an awareness building where moms and dads know that they have to get back in charge of the digital life of their children,” he said.

To illustrate the dangers of social media, Husted cited the example of Jacob Stevens, a junior high school football player from Greenfield.  

A smartphone displays the TikTok logo with a backdrop of TikTok logos
At a presentation to educators in southeastern Ohio, Lt. Gov. Husted criticized TikTok’s algorithm for recommending dangerous content to children and teenagers. [Daniel Constante |]
Stevens died of a seizure after taking the “Benadryl challenge,” in which participants ingest up to 12 tablets of Benadryl at a time to supposedly induce hallucinations. Stevens had been recommended content related to the Benadryl challenge by TikTok. 

Husted said what happened to Stevens demonstrates how dangerous social media algorithms can be and how they are controlling what content children see online rather than the other way around and getting them addicted to social media. 

“Our technology should be there to help us, not to run us,” Husted said. “These companies addict children, they collect data on them and they monetize it, making billions of dollars off of them.” 

Social media companies legally cannot be held liable for harmful content on their platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and therefore have little incentive to remove harmful content from their websites.  

However, Husted said there are things parents can do now to protect their children, such as placing filters on their children’s smartphones and taking their smartphones away from them at night so they can’t browse the internet while they’re in bed unsupervised. 

“We may not be able to ban TikTok as a country, but it’s banned in the Husted household,” he said. “The best thing you have are the adults in our children’s lives, being aware of what’s happening and doing something about it.”