Michigan House Republicans
Tisdel Talk: Get cell phones out of schools
RELEASE|April 29, 2024
Contact: Mark Tisdel

I want to tell you about legislation I’m working on to help reduce cell phone use by teens and tweens, but first a quick update about a major shift in the dynamic at the Capitol:

In my last column, I wrote about how things have been slow in Lansing because two vacancies left the Michigan House of Representatives deadlocked at an even 54 to 54 split. Those two open seats, which were both in heavily Democratic districts, were just filled in a special election. So once the results are certified the Democrats will be back to a 56-seat majority. That means they will again control the House, Senate, and governor’s office.

The first major thing we’ll be working on once things get rolling again is the state budget.

Okay enough politics; let’s talk about cell phones and some bipartisan legislation I’m working on to help parents in the battle to reduce screen time.

The United States is in the 12th year of a mental health crisis affecting teen and tween girls that seems to be driven by cell phone and social media use. (It’s harming boys too, but to a lesser degree.) That’s according to social psychologist and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Anxious Generation.”

In 2012 (right about the time cell phones started adding a front camera for selfies and Facebook purchased Instagram) reports of loneliness, depression, self-harm, and attempted/ successful suicides started to rise in teen and tween girls around the world. There have also been many studies showing causation between screen time and poor mental health in adolescents.

It’s not just from the use of social media, either. Phone use is rewiring developing brains. A September 2023 article in Michigan Medicine reported on a recent study that showed teens and tweens received more than 200 notifications per day. The phone is constantly interrupting, demanding attention, and kids are particularly susceptible due to fear of missing out on what their friends are doing. As a result, kids get an average of 4.5 hours of screen time per day, and half of the teens and tweens in the study were online between midnight and 5 a.m.

None of this will come as a shock to parents, and the harm is obvious, but good luck taking away your child’s phone when all of their friends and classmates have one.

I’ve been working on solutions to help. I wrote and will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to remove smart phones from elementary and middle schools. If signed into law, the bills will also seriously restrict cell phone use in high school.

Last September a Democratic colleague from Saginaw and I visited Traverse City West High School to see how their “away for the day” policy works, and the students seemed happier. When Avondale School District banned smart devices in the middle school this year, the announcement to parents was met by applause.

I’m also working on legislation that would prohibit minors from consenting to online contracts, like the End User License Agreements that nobody takes the time to read before scrolling to the end and hitting accept. Minors would have to get approval from a parent or legal guardian to sign up for websites. The legislation would also require sites to provide parents with the username and password to access a minor’s account, notify parents of login access changes, and prohibit site login between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Schools and parents need help to combat the “everyone else is doing it” peer pressure that truly exists. My legislative proposals can provide parents and school administrators with the best response of all: it’s the law.

Michigan House Republicans

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