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07/19/2024 01:31 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: May 8, 2024 11:28 AM
From: Representative Mandy Steele
To: All House members
Subject: Children’s Smart Phone Usage Linked to Poor Mental Health
By all accounts, the members of Generation Z (born in and after 1996) are suffering from anxiety, depression, self-harm, and related disorders at levels higher than any other previous generation. Rates of anxiety and depression rose by more than 50% from 2010-2019.The suicide rate for girls 10-19 rose 48%. For girls ages 10-14, it rose 131%. Academic achievement is trending down. These patterns are present around the developed world. Additionally, surveys show that members of Gen Z are shyer, more risk adverse, less social, dating less, and less likely to get jobs as teens. Of course this is not true of every member of Gen Z, some are thriving. But taken as a whole, Generation Z is struggling with their mental health and is lagging behind previous generations. The sociological and economic implications are concerning when we see this impacting an entire generation.

What happened that altered adolescent development? The answer is simple. Children were allowed to trade in their flip phones for smart phones, devices designed for addiction. Flip phones still allow for children to communicate by voice and text with parents and peers, but we do not see harm to well-being associated with use. It is only with the use of addictive smart phones that we see these alarming trends. There isn’t a single other product that parents would let their children freely use if they knew that many would end up with a pattern of habitual and compulsive use that disrupted their lives and looked a lot like addiction. This generation of parents is the first to navigate this complex issue, and it is clear to me that parents need guidance.

For this reason, I intend to introduce a resolution that would direct the PA Department of Health (DOH) to study the impact of smartphones on children’s health and development. The DOH would issue a report on their findings on its website, recommend alternatives, and consider requirements for pediatricians to provide the DOH’s guidelines to parents.
It is imperative that we empower the medical community to study the potential harms of smartphones in order to protect our youth. Please join me in co-sponsoring this resolution so we may better understand the effects of smartphones on children’s health and development.

Introduced as HR455