The city ended its ban on cell phones in public school classrooms back in 2015. But nearly a decade later, with Gov. Kathy Hochul floating restrictions on their use in schools, a ban seems to be back on the table.

"It is an issue I’m paying close attention to. I’m glad the governor is making it a priority and having everyone grapple with this,” Schools Chancellor David Banks said. “I get asked so often about mental health issues with kids and what programs we have and I will tell you, the phones seem to be at the top of the list of being problematic in schools."

What You Need To Know

  • Schools currently set their own policies on cell phones, and some schools due require students to lock them up

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul said the phones are distracting and social media is harming student mental health

  • Schools Chancellor David Banks said he shares those concerns

Currently, it’s up to each school to set its own cell phone policy. Some schools ban the devices, often requiring students to lock them in pouches, so they can’t be used during the day.

Banks said he recently spoke with students at one school where that’s the policy.

“I heard some amazing things from those kids who said, ‘I would have never wanted to do this, but once they did it, it’s been the best thing ever.’ And another person put their hand up and said, ‘We talk to each other more now,’” Banks said.

Hochul has more broadly been pushing for social media reform, saying the feeds are engineered to be addictive and are harming teens’ mental health. On Thursday, she said she believes smartphones are a big distraction in schools. 

But an outright ban may prove unpopular with parents, who want direct access to their children in the age of school shootings.

“Let’s talk to parents, let’s talk to educators over the next year and consider some proposals to have more restrictions,” Hochul said. “I understand parents’ needs and their desire to stay connected during the day if there’s an emergency. The old-fashioned flip phone will do that if you want to text your family.”

Banks said these issues are complicated, but that it’s time to consider them.

“Kids are on these phones 24 hours a day and [there’re] all kinds of research coming about all the negative impacts that it’s having on them. We can’t control what happens once they’re home, so 18 hours of the day. But maybe six to eight hours out of the day, we might have a little bit more control. So it’s certainly something we’re looking at. We haven’t made any decisions yet,” he said.