No one's pretending smartphones aren't used by students during the school day.

But a proposed New Jersey law aims to get a handle on just how much usage these personal devices are getting on a daily basis, and the potential damage this could be causing.

A bill that establishes the Commission on the Effects of Smart Phone and Social Media Usage on Adolescents was approved unanimously by a Senate committee on Monday.

Under the bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, a commission of 15 members would be tasked with determining the extent of phone and social media usage in public schools, including the average amount of time that different ages spend attached to their devices each day.

As part of the process, the commission would also be tasked with determining the effects of in-school device usage on students' emotional and physical health.

"They're a primary means of socialization, but they can also be a major distraction," Elisabeth Ginsburg, executive director of Garden State Coalition of Schools, said of students' phones.

Ginsburg noted that for the most part, schools no longer prohibit students from carrying their phones between the first and final bell. Ideally, she said, they're not used during class, and instead are used during lunch and between classes — still plenty of time to text peers and create content on apps such as Instagram and TikTok.

"There's the whole aspect of cyberbullying, which can happen with cell phones," she said. "Now you can say something very nasty about another individual via text or social media, and it can spread through an entire school population in a very short period of time."

Under the bill, the commission would have to issue a report of its findings and recommendations, to the Governor and the Legislature, no later than one year after its first meeting. The commission would expire 30 days later.

The 15-member commission would include: the Commissioner of Education, or a designee; a public member appointed by the Senate President; a public member appointed by the Senate Minority Leader; a public member appointed by the Assembly Speaker; a public member appointed by the Assembly Minority Leader; and 10 members (mostly from related organizations) appointed by the Governor, including two parents of students enrolled in a public school.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

The follow individuals were arrested over the past several years. Some have been convicted and sentenced to prison, while others have accepted plea deals for probation.

Others cases are still pending, including some court delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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