Support for best practices for digital device use in schools grows

Parents Across America-Roanoke Valley leader, Laura Bowman, shared the following email with Virginia Delegates who are considering a bill on best practices for digital device use in public schools. As the use of digital devices in schools continues to grow at unprecedented rates, it’s vitally important that the parent voice is heard when it comes to the healthy and safe use of these devices by children.

“On the Communications Subcommittee docket tomorrow morning, you will see Delegate Hope’s House Bill 817.  Parents across the state are grateful to Delegate Hope for listening to their voices of reason and concern. 

HB 817: Department of Education; Department of Health; guidelines for use of digital devices in public schools. Requires the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Health and medical professional societies, to develop and implement health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools no later than the 2021 – 2022 school year.

There is growing and warranted concern for children’s health and safety due to the over-use of digital devices. Some incorrectly maintain that not all screen time is equal, and if it’s being implemented for educational purposes, we need not be concerned for the safety and well-being of children. The problem is this: The eyes and body don’t differentiate between content that’s deemed educational and content that’s deemed entertainment.

Regardless of content, there are health risks posed to children when using digital devices. One of these is myopia linked to excessive screen time. 

According to this report by the Keck School of Medicine at USC: “The largest study of childhood eye disease ever undertaken in the U.S. confirms that the incidence of childhood myopia among American children has more than doubled over the last 50 years.” The report largely attributes the rise in myopia rates to the increase in screen time by youth. 

Other health risks associated with digital device use are childhood obesity and threats to heart health.

According to the American Heart Association“Increasing trends of screen time are concerning; the portability of screen-based devices and abundant access to unlimited programming and online content may be leading to new patterns of consumption that are exposing youth to multiple pathways harmful to cardiometabolic health.”

Increasingly, parents are concerned about sleeplessness in their children due to digital device use.

From the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Recent systematic reviews of the literature reveal that the vast majority of studies find an adverse association between screen-based media consumption and sleep health, primarily via delayed bedtimes and reduced total sleep duration. “

As a collaborative partner with the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) on behalf of Parents Across America (PAA), I’ve been working with CCFC on their soon-to-be released ‘Screens in Schools Toolkit’. The comprehensive information and tools in the toolkit will be highly beneficial to parents, students, and educators alike. The need for this toolkit is great, and so is the need for action to be taken by the state of Virginia; the health of children across the Commonwealth is of utmost importance, after all. That is something we can all agree on, I’m sure.

I encourage Virginia to follow Maryland’s lead and implement best practices for digital device use in every school in the state. We have the opportunity to be leaders in prevention and like Maryland, be a model for the nation when it comes to the health, safety, and well-being of children.

The passage of the Maryland Health and Safety Best Practices-Digital Devices bill was celebrated by parents and endorsed by the following organizations: Prevent Blindness, American Academy of Pediatrics’ Maryland Chapter, Maryland State Medical Society, Mental Health Association of Maryland, Maryland Occupational Therapy Association, Parents Across America, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, Common Sense Media, Advocates for Baltimore County Schools, the PTA Council of Baltimore County, and the Montgomery Board of Education.

Increasingly, parents are worried about the amount of time their children are spending on school-issued digital devices. As Parents Across America shared when the Maryland Digital Devices Bill was being heard:

“Laws are in place to protect youth from alcohol and cigarettes. Children cannot drive cars until they reach the age of consent. But we have been sadly behind the curve in protecting them from the harmful effects of using screen devices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had regulations governing the use of computers for office workers since the 1990s, but schools have no medical oversight.”

As a Virginia parent and an advocate for the health, safety, education, and well-being of children, I urge you to be advocates for children as well and support HB 817. Parents want their school systems to use best practices when it comes to their children’s health and safety, and this bill is a much needed and positive step in the right direction.”

If you’d like to submit commentary on Virginia HB 817, here are the names and email addresses of the committee members:

Delegate C. E. Hayes Jr. , Chair, Communications, Technology and Innovation

Delegate Hala S. Ayala , Vice Chair, Communications, Technology and Innovation

Delegate Danica A. Roem Subcommittee Chair, Communications

For more information on the impact of screen use in schools, including questions for parents to ask of their school divisions and a wealth of scientific research, please go to Screens and Kids.

Posted on by Laura Bowman Posted in Misc

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