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Guidance Document Change: The 2020 General Assembly passed House Bill 817 requiring the Department of Education (VDOE), in collaboration with the Department of Health and medical professional societies, to develop and distribute health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools no later than the 2021-2022 school year. These guidelines address digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels, the amount of time spent on digital devices in the classroom and at home, appropriate break frequency from the use of digital devices, and physical positioning as it applies to ergonomics and posture.
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4/28/21  8:44 pm
Commenter: Laura Derrendinger BSN, RN, MIA

guidelines not informed by independent peer reviewed research per HB 817 requirements

Written by Laura Derrendinger BSN, RN, MIA, nurse and mother of 4


Title : Comments to HB 817, The guidelines as written are not informed by independent peer reviewed research


Thank you for your efforts to create the guidelines.  I am a registered nurse with a background in public health.  Before becoming a mother, I worked overseas in emergency settings with Doctors without Borders.   I have no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, that interfere with objectivity in what I write.

When we speak about children we want to make recommendations that will support the best outcomes for children’s education and promote health.

To achieve this goal of keeping what is in the best interest of the child at the forefront of planning, all decisions we make about children, to promote health and safety, standard of practice is to rely exclusively on the use of independent peer reviewed research. 


1)    The health and safety guidelines as written do not appear for follow the legal mandate in HB 817 to use peer reviewed independent research to inform what is written in the document: Digital Devices in the Classroom: Health and Safety Guidelines 


2)    No medical independent peer reviewed data supports the use of digital devices and online platforms as tools that promote health and safety for children.  

Electronic devices and online platforms have not demonstrated in independent peer reviewed controlled studies to be a tool that promotes health when compared to other health promoting tools that are widely available, accessible and affordable.    


3)    A plethora of independent medical peer reviewed research does show possible irreversible brain and neurological harm caused by pediatric exposure to online platforms and electronic devices such as laptops and iPads (tablets).  Repeat studies by independent investigators validate concerns related to physical and mental harms associated with device use.  Examples are linked here:


NIH publication on brain structure changes in children exposed to digital devices:

Screen Media Activity and Brain Structure in Youth: Evidence for Diverse Structural Correlation Networks from the ABCD Study


4)    Reading ability and reading comprehension decreases with electronic screen use. Medical and independent education research inform with this statement.  MRI brain scans on children are beginning to explain at a physiological level why reading on printed paper for every age is a superior method if the goal is to help children learn best. 

5) The guidelines as drafted mention the a "20/20/20" rule.  Peer reviewed independent medical research has not yet developed a consensus on the effectiveness of the 20/20/20 rule with regard to protecting children's eyesight.  One might hesitate to include this in State issued Health and Safety guidelines for children as this could open concerned parties to liability for publishing guidelines that have yet to receive full validation by the medical community.   Even if eventual research suggests 20/20/20 guidance does protect pediatric vision, the 20/20/20 guidance is as effective as a filter on a cigarette for prevention lung cancer.   We need to look at the whole child head to toe and their environment.    A small intervention attempting to mitigate damage to children's vision will not address the long-term learning loss associated with electronic device use.  It will not address the other head to toe physical concerns: neurological harm and brain function and structural changes, association with obesity, sleep deprivation, hearing loss and the other physical and mental health symptoms connected or strongly associated with pediatric exposure to digital devices and online platforms.  

6) These guidelines do not address possible legal concerns and harms to children associated with online exposure to biased algorithms.   It's relevant for state issued guidelines to acknowledge possible legal risks incurred by exposing children to electronic devices and online platforms that have not been subject to independent content expert review for health and safely, product effectiveness and product adherence to laws protecting privacy and civil rights. 

7) There is a high prevalence of pediatric exposure in school and out of school to a product referred to by various names: electronic screens, digital devices and online platforms.    These digital products were sold to schools by for profit companies.  Unlike other products that children are exposed to, these digital and online products did not undergo vetting by the independent medical, educational, and legal experts to determine health and safety, effectiveness as a tool for teaching/learning and compliance with current laws that protect student and family data privacy and civil rights. 


The challenge today is to use what we do know from existing published independent peer reviewed research to inform practices that are in the best interest of children.    


The shared goal is to create an environment in school that does everything possible to promote health and robust learning so that children have the intellectual skills and physical health to be competitive in the workforce and contribute meaningfully to society. and are two independent peer reviewed research informed sources that are appropriate for using as the foundation to create state issued health and safety guidelines with regard to how digital devices and online platforms are used.   


CommentID: 97753