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Department of Education
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.

21 comments

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4/1/21  10:23 am
Commenter: Laura Bowman

Comments on Digital Devices in the Classroom: Health and Safety Guidelines
 

First, I’d like to thank all who’ve helped craft these guidelines. They’re comprehensive, easy to understand, and research-based. They show authentic care for Virginia’s learners. I’m so pleased with them and believe they’ll be an excellent model for other states to follow. Here are my comments on them as the parent of a teen and an advocate for the health, safety, education, and well-being of children:

While catchy, widely used, and scientific sounding, the 20/20/20 rule isn’t based on peer reviewed studies and may better impact body health versus eye health. (Here’s a helpful article on its origins: https://tinyurl.com/45hks6fw).

The guidelines don’t state the best grade for the issuance of digital devices. What may be okay for a teen may not be okay for an elementary or middle school aged child. As the guidelines illustrate, children need to spend the bulk of their time, inside and outside of the school day, personally interacting with others, manipulating objects, playing and exploring outdoors, reading physical books, doing art and science projects, etc. versus using digital devices. School systems should be strongly encouraged to delay the issuance of these devices to students until at least eighth grade. There’s a popular parent movement called ‘Wait Until 8th’ wherein parents are united in not giving their children smartphones until at least 8th grade. I’d like to see this reflected in schools (and in these guidelines) as it pertains to issuing students digital devices.

I’d like the guidelines to better address the physical, mental, and emotional differences between a young child and a tween or teen as they pertain to the use of digital devices. How can parents and educators better ensure little learners’ eyes and bodies are protected? The guidelines could be less one-size-fits-all in this regard.

The guidelines include wonderful info-graphics. Could the graphics include illustrations on how to best achieve body and eye safety while using a device, both for younger and older children? (Here’s the incredibly helpful resource we used as parents to ensure safer use of our child’s school-issued laptop as he learned from home this school year: http://www.screensandkids.us/)

I think it would be helpful and practical to give the role of promoting and enforcing these guidelines within schools and communities to school systems’ heads of health/safety/nurses, and to individual school nurses. This allows for consistent and clear messaging and adds a layer of needed accountability to these guidelines. I’d love to see reporting from schools and school systems referencing how they used the guidelines and how the guidelines impacted the health and safety of students during the school year.

Thank you to Delegate Hope for sponsoring this important bill and to the Workgroup Committee for crafting these guidelines. In many ways, they exceeded my expectations and I hope my comments and insights are helpful to the group.

CommentID: 97694
 

4/7/21  12:15 pm
Commenter: Ann Marie Dougalss

Comment on HB 817- Device Use in Schools
 

Thank you for bringing all this to fruition. It is good to have something to reference at home and at school as our children are definitely being affected by the over-use and mis-sure of personal and school issued devices and most of us don't read/follow the manufacture guidelines on how to use digital devices.

Some considerations:

1. Parents, teachers and students need an in-person orientation on how to set up a work station at school and home, especially if devices are going to be sent home. We need all users to be formally trained from the beginning so as to establish good habits from the start.


2. The Law asked for peer reviewed research, but the 20-20-20 Rule which is suggested is not steeped in science. Consider the 20-20-2 rule (20 inches from eyes, no more than 20 minutes at a time; 2 hours outside). Comprehensive eye exams should be promoted to make sure children's vision is not being compromised. Dry eyes, blurry eyes and crossed-eyes are prevalent these days and fortunately preventable.


3. The Law asked to guide on the amount of time spent on digital devices, but no time amount was suggested for different age ranges and developmental levels. Please provide some time limits considering home and school cumulative totals per day. My ophthalmologist said more than 3 hours, even when taking breaks and using the equipment properly, enters the danger zone for [esp. developing] eyes.


4. If the curricular objectives can be met off screen, guide teachers to choose real life learning mediums which have less physical and psychological side effects.


5. On page 9, #1 under Movement and Activity, please consider removing “Every few hours” to "As often and as frequently as possible”… Getting up "every few hours" is not nearly enough and very dangerous. Sitting is the new smoking. Sedentary behavior is linked to a myriad of chronic health problems.


6. “Think Blink” is a catchy phrase to know and employ as we blink significantly less while on screen, which can lead to dry eyes, a condition now found in children that is very hard to mitigate and that can lead to blindness.


7. Please guide parents/caretakers, teachers, and school nurses to look out for signs of physical distress in children who are using digital devices, like rubbing their eyes, complaining of a headaches, red/bloodshot eyes, etc. Children may lack the verbal skills to accurately identify or report their physical discomforts. Simple remedies could be suggested for relief like increased outside time; cold/hot compresses for some relief; asking teacher for alternatives to screen work;  more body breaks; etc.                          Very good book recommendation: Vision for Life by Meir Schneider, Phd

8. Schools should consider an automatic “shut down” time feature on school issued devices. Homework often lasts deep into the night. Due dates and times should be aligned with sundown so as not to effect the needed sleep of our growing children and teens. The midnight assignment curfew is not conducive to sleep health.

Again, thank you for your work on this. This is so important to all our learning communities throughout our Commonwealth. With your guidance and age-appropriate application, we have the opportunity to enhance learning through ALL educational technologies from authentic primary sources and real life learning opportunities to modern day internet applications. I look forward to collaborating with you through the process of creating the best possible learning environments for Virginia Kids.

Ann Marie Douglass
Mom~ First & Foremost 
School Health Advisory Board (SHAB)
Screen Use in Schools Subcommittee Chair of SHAB
Member of Arlington Partnership for Children Youth and Families
Science Advisory Committee Member for Arlington Public Schools

CommentID: 97696
 

4/8/21  10:52 am
Commenter: Rae Pica, Rae Pica Keynotes & Consulting

Health & Safety Digital Device Guidelines
 

All of the health concerns cited are critical. But I'd like to offer yet another point of view -- one related to learning.

The research has determined that the more senses we use in the learning process, the more information we retain. This is particularly true of young children, who are active, experiential learners.

Screens employ only two senses at most: sight and sound. Consider the difference between a word comprehension activity on a screen, where a word and its definition are given, and one in which the children physically demonstrate the word. When they physically experience a word, the meaning becomes more relevant to them, and they're unlikely to forget it.

Consider the difference between a screen-based math lesson on such quantitative concepts as small/smaller, large/larger, etc., and one in which students use their bodies or manipulatives to demonstrate the concepts. Or an on-screen science lesson about habitats, versus one in which the children go outside to discover habitats or create their own in the classroom.

It's easy to be seduced by such shiny, fancy new things as digital devices. But they're not necessary to learning and are in many cases a detriment to it. Why subject our children to all the health risks of digital devices when learning without devices is superior?

CommentID: 97697
 

4/8/21  12:27 pm
Commenter: S Det

Long way to go
 

While I congratulate the authors for compiling this useful set of guidelines and resources, I think we are a long way away from guaranteeing that the students' safety and academic success is the #1 priority motive for compiling these guidelines. If we think any child is safe from online-induced trauma (aka: ACE) or online addiction with today's technology purposely designed to manipulate our behavior and well-being, we are missing the point. By not discussing these risks, we are doing a disservice to our children and families.

After viewing the documentaries ScreenAgers, Childhood 2.0 (https://www.childhood2movie.com/ ) and the Social Dilemma (from the Center for Humane Technology ), it is anyone's guess why a parent or teacher would want to give their child/student of any age unsupervised internet. 

Children with adult devices are exposed to disturbing content and strangers online and expose other children to the same content. This is happening daily on the school buses, in school libraries, in school bathrooms and the cafeteria. If a child has a data plan on his/her phone, the child can easily bypass the school's internet filter on school property-no safety there. Parents need to be told not to give their child a data plan (use wifi only). School buses are not CIPA compliant and need to be, if we expect them to transport a child with an internet (adult) device. Trust me, I've tried every parent control software mechanism out there, and none of them keep porn off a child's phone or computer. If it doesn't come on an internet search, it comes via an image or sound recording on an app or a shared link in a text from a friend who thinks it's "funny". 

As a parent of a child who likes sports, I've had to talk to several gym teachers and coaches about their lack in tech training. The teachers tell my child to search for an exercise video on YouTube and present to class. Do you know what you can find when you search for exercise videos on YoutTube? Heaps of pornographic twerk videos circulated through the middle school after that assignment. Do schools realize how this technology has pornified youth culture? See Ernie Allen's 2018 presentation, he's the former President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children:  https://vimeo.com/271364507 )

In my experience, school teachers, coaches and social club staff often tell their students to get on social media to promote their events. Have they watched Ms. Roger's emotional plea to Congress last month (https://youtu.be/ORENSbL7ddA) about the impact of social media on our youth and families. There is a serious gap in training with our school teachers, at least in my county.

Personally, I would like to see schools create a vetted collection of e-resources in a safe 'intranet' that supports the curriculum the school is teaching versus telling a student to go explore the internet. Require students use scholarly databases (only) for their school research found on their school's library page and cite the source versus doing willy-nilly search on Google or an incognito search engine. Initially, I was told that the reason we pushed our kids to bring their own devices to school was because we didn't have enough money to buy enough text books for all students, but somehow we found more money to supply Chromebooks to thousands of students during COVID. We are naive to treat technology as God for all solutions and need to think outside the box to protect our youth and their families.

CommentID: 97698
 

4/9/21  11:18 am
Commenter: Carrie Lombardi

Health and Safety Digital Device Guidelines
 

As stated in a previous comment, these new guidelines should not be a “one size fits all”.  The guidelines are not differentiating amongst grade levels nor state the appropriate age to issue devices.  Over this past year, we have seen the toll Ipads have had on all grade level students, but I am very concerned about our elementary-aged students.  I have three young children and I am worried about their learning experiences.  Ipads are not a natural way to learn.  At this age, they are glued to colorful graphics and game-like lessons and could sit for hours in front of a screen.  Some parents I know have told me how addicted their children have become to the Ipad due to the overuse of them during the pandemic.  Young children are not learning how to grip a pencil, rather write with their finger on the screen. They are not learning how to flip the pages of a book, rather swipe.  This is not natural.  They need to be learning hands on- more manipulatives, journaling, workbooks and especially outdoor learning.  Not to mention the health risks to their developing eyes as well as learning to live a more sedentary lifestyle!   These new guidelines need to include guidelines for different age ranges.  Hours on an iPad is not appropriate for young children.  They need to learn to play, socialize and explore.  We need to protect them and allow them these opportunities.  They are only little once….

CommentID: 97699
 

4/12/21  1:12 pm
Commenter: Lauren Ford

A stronger stance is needed to protect our children
 

I appreciate the efforts to pull together this draft guidance.

My concern is that these guidelines imply that use of technology for countless hours a day is a given for all children.  The intent of these guidelines appear to simply lessen the myriad physical, mental, educational, and developmental damage technology is causing our children. We must step back and remember that we developed technology to serve us. It appears we are now assuming we are here to serve technology. That it should be assumed children will suffer and our goals are simply to lessen the damage a bit. These are dangerous assumptions.

Our children - their physical health, mental health, and education - must always come first. There are times when technology can be utilized to support learning. But studies clearly show this should be no more than 1-2 hours a day for elementary aged children. Our pediatrician insisted that elementary aged children should have no more than 2 hours of screen time total - including tv, social media, schoolwork. The physical and emotional needs of our children have not changed since that time - only the political pressures of the tech industry. Why do we continue to allow them to push their products, take larger and larger chunks of our education budgets, at the expense of our children? 

These guidelines also seem to assume that regulation of technology rests primarily upon parents. This is reasonable for parent-provided technology. But when schools push for the majority of all work to be tech - based - this eliminates parents ability to limit screen time. When nearly all school work and homework are screen driven - parents are disempowered to control - shy of sitting next to their students all day to monitor they are working on "homework."

I ask that you are bold and courageous in your guidelines - and give specific time limits per age/grade that correspond with physical and mental health realities. With no screen time for infants and toddlers and shifting up gradually as appropriate by grade, developmental level. I would also suggest that 1 hour a day outdoors is not enough for elementary aged children. The more free play, physical exercise, and connection with nature children are allowed - the less likely they will suffer ADHD, anxiety, depression, and the better the learning outcomes. 

CommentID: 97701
 

4/13/21  12:36 pm
Commenter: Blythe Winslow, Everyschool

A True Challenge: Healthy and Safety Guidelines
 

Dear VDOE Workgroup Members:

You've worked hard on these Health and Safety Guidelines; thank you. I applaud the focus on physical health, especially. To be sure, there is no more important work than building better kids for a better future, a better world.

A bit about me: I'm the founder and Executive Director of Everyschool, a nonprofit whose mission is happier, healthier, smarter school communities through digital wellness and research-based classroom tech use. I spend all my working time reading the research on how technology impacts learning and well-being in schools and school communities, and then I create ways to share that research with educators.

To be blunt, and to sum up the what the scientific community knows about screens in schools (EdTech): schools have embraced tech with blind enthusiasm, and the results have been lackluster at best and quite poor at worst. Again, you are smart to try and steer this ship. We have a classic case of a flashy, newly-invented car without a seatbelt. And, when you look at data from the 2019 Nation's Report Card, which shows a strong link between higher screen time in language arts and lower reading proficiency, for example, your ears get pricked (https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/screen-time-up-as-reading-scores-drop-is-there-a-link/2019/11). Or, you might read research on the presence of cell phones in schools lowering kids' test scores, how reading print vs. electronic texts helps kids retain more, comprehend more, and test higher. You might read about how hand-writing classroom notes aides memory and retention, or how game-based learning apps decrease motivation and focus (please read our Research Summary here for more: https://everyschool.org/research). You  might also then go on to read about the Silicone Valley big wigs whose kids are flourishing in tech-free schools (https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html). How can we sort out all this research? And to be clear, the only way to truly embrace technology in powerful ways that increase learning and support well-being (and not just in ways that prevent sleep disturbances or eye strain) is to follow the research on EdTech. Because it's out there; it might be thick, it might be hard to read, but what else can we follow? 

These are the main tenets of EdTech research I hope you take into consideration more carefully when writing these Guidelines:

  1. Device use in school is not a must for 21st century success, especially in primary grades. In fact, large, longitudinal studies often show a link between higher screen time in school and lower student performance. What kids really need for 21st century success is empathy, creativity, and critical thinking skills. These can all be gained off-screen, and are often hindered by too much device time. Please consider not predicating your Guidelines on the concept that tech is always good or a necessity. Many of your points assume "tech is here, let's just do damage control with eyes and bodies." Again, go check the stats on Waldorf student outcomes (where are the Google execs send their kids, and where school is device-free until 8th grade). Please also consider making a bold move to incorporate broad screen time limit recommendations by grade level. Then, instead of addressing negative outcomes or adjusting for negative outcomes, you can prevent them.
  2. Young students are especially at risk for slower language and motor-skill development when screens are overused for learning. Hands-on play and IRL learning is most effective for this age group. Please consider including a clear range of acceptable screen time limit recommendations for elementary-aged students especially.
  3. Technology and tech concepts can be powerful and transformative in the classroom, but many teachers are unclear about what the research says about which kinds are better than others. Teaching coding and robotics and computational thinking show promise in EdTech research--as does teaching digital citizenship--while using e-readers instead of printed texts, typing classroom notes instead of handwriting them, or playing game-based learning apps are not at all as supported by sound research. Wouldn't it be nice to have a research-based classroom tech use model that helps teachers filter out the less useful tech and embrace the more transformative tech according to research? We have created this very thing, the first research-based teacher tech use model, called The EdTech Triangle (learn more here: https://everyschool.org/the-edtech-triangle). It has been accused of being both pro-tech and anti-tech. It's neither. It's merely a visually representation of EdTech's usefulness according to research. Please consider adopting a clear model like The EdTech Triangle that will provide teachers with a common language to create powerful lessons and use tech in the line with research. 

Last, I want you to consider your own words: "...the challenge for educators and caretakers is to maintain a balance between the physical and virtual worlds as well as to ensure that digital devices are being used in appropriate, meaningful, and empowering ways." Yet, when I read these guidelines, you have not been specific enough about how to achieve this "balance." Simple additions to the Guide, as listed above, can help you empower educators with more concrete specifics so they can move forward with creating happier, healthier, smarter classrooms. 

Thank you for your hard work, and good luck with revisions! Last, please reach out if you have any questions about this letter or Everyschool.org.

Kindly,

Blythe Winslow

www.everyschool.org

513-508-8190

CommentID: 97704
 

4/13/21  3:46 pm
Commenter: BP

Comments on technology in schools guidelines
 

I am the parent of two elementary aged children, and one preschool child in Fairfax County, Virginia. Thank you for proposing safety in tech guidelines for schools and for considering these comments. While technology surely has provided important opportunities for learning during the Covid crisis, when this pandemic is no longer a factor, the same considerations will not apply. I also believe the dramatic increase in school-based technology in response to the Covid crisis has been a valuable opportunity to see the many shortcomings of this way of learning for the younger learners (preschool and elementary).

There is ample research on the limitations of technology in elementary classrooms if you look (for example a study on the impact of tech in classrooms on international PISA scores, which showed detrimental impacts of laptops and ipads in almost all settings). Also see https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/12/19/131155/classroom-technology-holding-students-back-edtech-kids-education/.

Anecdotally, when I view my children learning via laptops, I observe distractions that young learners can't handle (going down YouTube rabbit holes when asked to use the site to hear a story is one of many examples), information overload (a third grader cannot realistically sort through all the information he finds on the internet on Egyptian pyramids for example; print materials are much more effective as the teacher, librarian or parent can help the child learn how to locate, browse, and choose material, and then how to digest that material for learning), headaches and exhaustion (they're tired after working on the computer, but not a "good" tired like they are when they run around in the sunshine; they are cranky and burnt out), and other problems. I do not see much benefit when compared to other modes of learning they have used before the Covid crisis. And, in fact, retention of information and excitement for learning both seem to be substantially less (my daughter was very excited last year about her 4th grade Pocohontas project wherein she read books, created a detailed poster board, and made an in-person presentation. She can still recite all the facts she learned. This year, in 5th grade, the Mesopotamia unit has been all digital, and she is noticeably less enthused and she can't tell me much she's I ask what she's learned. Many other examples can be provided.)

Other problems include but are not limited to  1. kids cannot effectively learn to spell when they write exclusively on computers (I have needed to homeschool my 5th grader on spelling this year as she was becoming self conscious her spelling skills were so undeveloped), 2. many of the digital learning tools are watered down versions of print (Myon reading used by our district is incredibly uninspiring low-quality writing as opposed to using something like Junior Greats readers), 3. much of the tech used in school lacks a meaninginful way for the student to receive feedback (my kids take tests or fill in questions in online forms and receive a score, but we cannot go back and review what they've missed -- how can they learn this way? Compare that to a teacher marking up a test and the parent and child working through the mistakes together), 4. see the research showing kids retain less information reading on screens than on print, 5. kids need to know how to write by hand still (again, I've needed to homeschool my son on handwriting this year; my friend of a second grader just noticed he writes several of his letters backwards; it was insufficiently practiced in school).

I also worry about the health effects (eye strain, posture / neck problems, headaches, lack of movement) of using tech during the school day at these ages. Research is also readily available on these impacts on elementary children as well.

It is for all these and other reasons, that I strongly encourage you to add into your guidelines strict limitations on technology usage in the preschool and elementary grades. While your guidelines may be a good start for middle school and high school students, differences in younger learners need to be recognized. Elementary learners should be writing with a pencil, reading print, conducting hands-on science experiments, creating projects, making presentations, having discussions, etc. and should be spending minimal time on educational computer programs. Thank you for your consideration. Signed, concerned parent

 

CommentID: 97705
 

4/14/21  12:42 pm
Commenter: Mary Sanders, HCAT Arlington

Comments on Digital Device Guidelines in Schools
 

First, I thank you for the work that has been done on creating these draft guidelines for screen use in schools in Virginia. It is very exciting to see this move forward and have these implemented in the 2021-2022 school year. I appreciate the additional citations of resources used to create the guidelines and the easy-to-read infographics used to illustrate the guidelines.

I want to highlight language used in HB817, which requests the guidelines “shall at a minimum address digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels, the amount of time spent on digital devices in the classroom, appropriate break frequency from the use of digital devices, physical positioning of digital devices in the classroom, the use of digital devices for homework, and recommended teacher training to ensure best practice implementation.”

I see that the presented guidelines only address part of this bill’s mandate. The issue of physical positioning of digital devices and break frequency is addressed with references, although with the 20-20-20 model, there is little evidence to show that only looking away for 20 seconds has any real impact on reducing eye strain. However, the very important issue of digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels is missing. Addressing this issue is critical as the use of screens in schools would vary widely from young learners in elementary school to high school students. No one size fits all approach will work for all PK-12 students in public schools in Virginia. Further, any set time limits for students on digital devices in schools must also take into account screen time that occurs in the household to capture the cumulative effect that screen time is having on children.

Additionally, these guidelines do not provide guidance to teachers on how to incorporate devices into school in a meaningful and limited way. Children across the state are losing out on opportunities to explore problem solving and learning in a hands-on environment. Children at all grade levels should be given more opportunities in the classroom (even in a virtual setting) to incorporate outdoor learning, hands-on experiments, reading books, completing paper assignments and movement activities to keep brains and bodies active. While devices can play a complimentary role in introducing or reinforcing new concepts, they are over-relied on to the detriment of children’s health, including posture, eye health and sleep habits. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, myopia (nearsightedness) was on the rise. According to the National Eye Institute, about 41% of Americans were nearsighted, up from 25% in 1971 and children, with their developing eyes, are at greater risk of developing this irreversible condition.

Additionally, as screen use rates among children have skyrocketed this past year, inactivity and obesity among children has risen right along with it. We need to ease back the overreliance on devices for educational purposes and put the emphasis back on hands-on and experiential learning in the classroom. Let’s do better for our kids mental and physical health and set stronger limits on classroom devices.

Mary Sanders, Healthy Community Action Team Coordinator and Parent

CommentID: 97709
 

4/15/21  2:41 pm
Commenter: Nancy Striniste, Director of East Coast Programs, Green Schoolyards America

Balance screen time with nature
 

As an Arlington,Virginia-based author, educator, and designer who specializes creating in outdoor learning spaces that connect children to nature, I am writing to advocate for consideration that screen time be balanced with outdoor time.  Time outdoors in green spaces with full spectrum light and fresh air is not just "nice to have", it is essential for human health, and especially for countering the detrimental effects of screen time on growing bodies and minds. 

Abundant research (https://research.childrenandnature.org/research-library/)  tells us that outdoor time has a positive effect on children's mental and physical health-- specifically on depression, stress, obesity, and eye health all of which are adversely impacted by excessive screen time. 

As RIchard Louv, author and advocate, states in his book, The Nature Principal, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.http://richardlouv.com/books/nature-principle/

Childhood has changed in many ways from the way it was 20 or 50 years ago.  The majority of children in the past likely had the opportunity to roam more freely outdoors, to find the nature they needed in out of school hours. Today's children are much less likely to have the unstructured time or the freedom to play in the out-of-doors, so it is our responsibility to bring that nature to the places where we allow children to spend their time-- which includes their schoolyards. 

During the pandemic schools and districts across the country from Maine to Texas and from New York City to California have embraced outdoor learning as a way to safely return to in-person school.  In addition to a 20x lower rate of contagion of the COVID virus, these educators, parents, and children discovered that time outdoors increased children's ability to focus and learn, their opportunities for full-body multi-sensory engagement, and measurably increased their joy and happiness.  Our children have experienced multiple traumas during the lockdown and before. Their healing, health, and happiness must be a priority.   With good design and a modest investment in teacher training and infrastructure (including equally warm and dry clothing for everyone), it is possible to teach anything and everything outdoors in a wide range of weather conditions. 
https://www.greenschoolyards.org/creating-spaces

Since early in the pandemic my organization has brought together hundreds of experts in health, curriculum, design, planning, and policy to create the National Outdoor Learning Library https://www.greenschoolyards.org/covid-learn-outside, a free and comprehensive set of resources available to help schools and districts plan for outdoor learning during COVID and beyond.  Many state departments of education across the country have referenced our resources as they create guidelines, and I urge Virginia to consider this too. https://www.greenschoolyards.org/case-studies-intro

At present, especially in Northern Virginia, many public schools have embraced outdoor learning and all that it offers.  Many of these outdoor spaces have been developed through parent advocacy and fundraising, most prevalent in areas where parents have the time and the means to volunteer and donate.  This has resulted in children in low income communities less likely to have access to the academic, physical, and mental health benefits that time in green spaces offer.  Outdoor learning has become an environmental justice issue and an equity issue. 

Every Virginia child deserves to be not only tech literate, but also nature literate, and every child deserves the health and happiness that comes with equitable opportunities to learn outside.

 

CommentID: 97711
 

4/20/21  4:44 pm
Commenter: Martha Teitelbaum PA-C - Emergency Medicine

digital use in school- health safety and learning
 

Increased computer use in our schools is diminishing to our children on multiple levels. Not only are there the physical effects - eye problems, headaches, irritability, anxiety and obesity to mention just a few serious issues but some do not learn with digital use.

Children need people interaction, one on one, groups instruction and outside physical activity to maximize their learning.  Many children are falling behind scholastically and on major skills such as hand writing, reading from a book and much needed social skills.

Our technology has changed, but our children's need for experiential learning and trusting relationships will never change.  Has worked well in the past

CommentID: 97720
 

4/22/21  6:15 pm
Commenter: Mikaila Milton

Comments on the VDOE Draft Health and Safety Digital Device Guidelines
 

Thank you Delegate Hope for sponsoring this important bill and to the workgroup committee for crafting these draft guidelines and providing the opportunity for comment.

Even before the advent of Covid 19, I have been concerned by the heavy use of screens in my child’s Arlington, VA school.  iPad were touted as a way to “personalize learning” and “bridge the digital divide”.  However the results of this experiment with our children has shown the dark side of our school district’s reliance on Ed Tech.  Not only has the eyesight of our children deteriorated (Every 3rd grader is checked.  The data show increasing eye problems.) but test scores have also dropped in Arlington since the iPads were introduced to every 2nd grader.  Depression is also on the rise in children and has been linked to screen use.

We need to fundamentally re-think the use of Ed Tech in our schools – especially in elementary school.  For elementary students, screens are more damaging than any benefits they may offer (with the possible exception for some learning disabilities).  Exactly the population they were supposed to help, poor and disadvantaged students have suffered the most – even before Covid.  Now those effects are even more pronounced. 

Not only are our kids suffering the negative physical effects of screens, they are ineffective as a learning tool.  Especially for elementary kids, reading on a screen is not as beneficial as holding a paper book.  Playing math games on a device is not as effective as manipulative blocks and paper exercises, dice games, etc.  Hands on science is enthralling for kids, but screen-based programs have crushed my naturally curious child to claim he hates science.  Studies have demonstrated that people retain more information through writing with pen and paper rather than typing notes on a computer, yet neither handwriting nor spelling is adequately taught in elementary school.

If our goal is healthy kids, who master their grade-level content, maintain a healthy curiosity and healthy body we need to eliminate screens from elementary schools and restrict their use to only those functions that cannot be accomplished as efficiently with paper and pencil in the middle and upper grades.

What has been demonstrated to improve both learning, mental state, and healthy bodies is outdoor time.  This should be mandatory for every level, especially in elementary school. Increased outdoor time improves test scores, boots mood, promotes a healthy lifestyle in our kids, and provides an important antidote to the increasingly sedentary and screen-based lives many of us live.

Please use these guidelines to promote the elimination of screens from elementary school, and restrict time on screen for middle and upper grades.  All calculation of screen time needs to include what children likely receive at home – everything from video games to movies and shows to homework all count as screen time for a child’s eyes, psychic state, and physical body.

Thank you,

A concerned parent and citizen

CommentID: 97726
 

4/23/21  5:15 pm
Commenter: Jenifer Joy Madden, DurableHuman.com

Good Start, Need Important Additions and Major Reorganization
 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Digital Devices in the Classroom Health and Safety Guidelines. I am a digital wellness instructor, health journalist, Commonwealth resident, and former Fairfax County Commissioner (Hunter Mill district). In 2020, I attended hearings on HB 817 and testified in support.  

The guidelines and infographic are an important start, but major improvement is needed. In current form, they do not correspond directly with the law, especially pertaining to the stipulations: 

  1. Digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels
  2. Amount of time spent on digital devices in the classroom

Regarding the written Guidelines (pp. 1-11)

The written section of the Guidelines contains some useful guidance, but as such is disorganized, repetitious and needs additional content. (see below)

More work is needed to make the document more user-friendly, such as adding internal links to recommended resources, or—better yet—clearly summarizing the information.

Since these guidelines are meant for teachers and other school staff, it may not be appropriate to include information for parents. However, if information for parents is included, it should be clearly delineated and separate from information meant for teachers.  

Regarding the Guidelines Infographic:

These guidelines are to protect students, not devices. Therefore, the first paragraph of page 1 should be modified to say “health and safety best practice guidelines for the effective integration of digital devices in public schools” to “to develop and distribute health and safety best practice guidelines for student use of digital devices in public schools,” as is stated in the written guidelines.

All messaging should directly and specifically correspond to the written guidelines.

In current form, content is disorganized and should be re-arranged for maximum impact and at-a-glance understanding.

For instance, since the Guidelines protect student safety and health around digital devices, it is appropriate that sections on Screen Time & Break Frequency/Ergonomics & Posture appear on the front page. Segments under those headings also need to be reorganized and clarified to avoid repetition and make concepts easier to understand.  Note: I can provide detailed edits upon request.  

For greatest instructional impact, graphics should depict specific best practices, such as:

  1. Ideal ergonomic setup, with child seated feet on floor in a chair with a back with arms in proper position.
  2. Child rubbing eyes to indicate it’s time to take a break from staring at the screen
  3. Child looking up from screen to illustrate 20-20-20 rule
  4. Child holding mobile device in correct position, i.e. holding a tablet with arms in the shape of an “L” and not a “V.” (much easier to understand than saying 100 or 110 degree angle)
  5. Child doing physical activity such as a jumping jacks next to desk to illustrate activity break
  6. Child depicted playing outside to illustrate outdoor exercise break
  7. Chart of daily screen time recommendations per grade level (less in younger grades, etc.)  

Additional content needed in the Guidelines:

  1. Digital device usage guidance per student grade level, age span, or developmental level.
  2. Recommended duration of student device usage by grade level, age span, or developmental level. (Many of the physical ailments described in the guidelines are caused by children spending too much time using devices.) 
  3. Reasons children need physical activity, especially in the outdoors.
  4. Physical signs to watch for that indicate a child is experiencing wrist strain. Strain should not be allowed to persist to the point that a student is wearing a wrist brace or taking medicine.
  5. How to measure humidity in the classroom such that there is sufficient moisture in the air for optimum eye health. It shouldn’t be up to students to “blink more” or “blink harder.” Those symptoms happen when children are already over using screens and not taking breaks.
  6. Instruction on how to measure WiFi levels in the classroom, students’ safe physical proximity to WiFi emitters (such as WiFi hot spots), and safe usage of digital devices that emit RF energy (example: do no place devices connected to WiFi directly on your body.) 

Guidelines should indicate where they can be added to existing curriculum, such in Physical Education or  Health.

Finally, digital wellness communicators such as myself and child advocates knowledgeable in this area should be part of the Guidelines refinement process.

CommentID: 97730
 

4/26/21  12:21 pm
Commenter: Cindy Eckard / www.screensandkids.us

(HB817) New research: digital device health impacts on kids
 

Re: HB817 Public schools: use of digital devices

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB817&201+sum+HB817

The VA draft guidelines are an excellent first step to protect growing children who are required to use hazardous devices that were never intended for children to use. It would be advisable to review the latest research in this evolving situation, to include concerned parents in the final review process of these draft guidelines and to provide an annual review process to ensure students continue to benefit from the latest research and mitigations, moving forward.

After nearly six years of researching and advocating for state laws to address this issue, and spearheading the first law of this kind to be passed (in Maryland - HB1110, 2018- http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/legislation/details/hb1110?ys=2018rs),  it is fundamentally a huge relief for me to finally see legitimate statewide considerations for mitigating the well-known health impacts that students are enduring because of the schools' demands for digital device use: myopia, obesity, sleep issues, musculoskeletal problems, addiction, headaches, depression, anxiety, dry eye disease and the displacement of advantageous, healthier alternatives - like playing outside, with real friends.

The bad news is that kids have been suffering for years because of the schools' increasing demands for online work. The good news is that we now have significant, reliable research from around the world to help guide us in prevention and mitigation of the serious, potential health impacts.

This guidance is just in from a huge myopia study in Taiwan: screens should more than 30 cm from kids' eyes, their continuous work should be less than 30 minutes at a time, and they need more outdoor time during the day, to avoid myopia and the sight-threatening complications it can introduce. https://reviewofmm.com/increased-distances-for-near-work-might-slow-the-progression-of-myopia/

And this just in from The University of Strasbourg - it is easily one of the most comprehensive overviews of this issue to be found: Child's Health in the Digital Age: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/9/3240/htm

"Results from several studies suggest that this [increased digital device use by children] is likely to engender multiple health risks such as early myopia and blindness [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10], obesity [11,12], sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression [13,14,15,16,17,18], leading to impaired performance at school and behavioral problems [19,20]. The potential impact of these health risks on our children’s future lives and the well-being of future societies as a whole could be dramatic and public awareness of this problem needs to be fostered in communities as well as on a worldwide scale."

It may be helpful for the members of the committee crafting these guidelines to review this new research to ensure that the measures suggested for Virginia students are based on the latest and best advice from the medical community, so that children in VA schools benefit from the best possible protections.

As we all emerge from the experiences of both COVID lockdown in general and remote learning specifically, new information about the impacts of increased screen use is being revealed. Here is an excellent new overview of those specific impacts, from Regis College in Massachusetts: https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/effects-of-technology-on-children/

What's clear is that Virginia is sincere in its intention to protect its children from these known risks as evidenced by the new law and these draft guidelines. What's also clear is that this is an evolving situation. As such, I would suggest that the revisions to the draft guidelines are completed with the participation of concerned parents, many of whom have shared their well-researched, articulate perspectives on the pages of this Virginia Regulatory Town Hall.

When a child's health and well-being is threatened, it is the right and obligation of parents to get involved. And it is the duty of all school systems to include parents in any discussion about school equipment hazards. So it makes perfect sense to include interested parents on the revisions of these guidelines, and to provide a mechanism for an annual review moving forward, to address health risks as they emerge within an increasingly digitized scholastic experience. 

Many deep thanks to Ann Marie Douglass and Laura Bowman for spearheading this critical effort to protect Virginia's children and to Delegate Hope for his sponsorship and stewardship of this new Virginia law to ensure that the schools' digital devices are prevented from harming students.

Thanks also Michael Bolling and the teams from both the department of education and the department of health who put forth this authentic and comprehensive approach for enhancing kids' health and safety, as directed by the legislation.  Hats off also to Peter Rousselot and Arlington Now, for amplifying the need for parental involvement in this issue, and to the Virginia legislature for providing this wonderful Regulatory Town Hall platform.


Cindy Eckard
www.screensandkids.us
www.twitter.com/screensandkids

CommentID: 97734
 

4/27/21  9:54 am
Commenter: JUDITH WILLIAMS

Children’s Vision and Digital Devices
 

April 27, 2021

On behalf of the Vision Impact Institute and the Kids See: Success Initiative, we congratulate you on the development of this important guidance document.  We would like to provide comments on the potential risks of increased digital screen time and its long term negative impact on a child’s vision and overall development. 

The Vision Impact Institute is a global non-profit organization that raises awareness and advocates about the importance of vision correction and protection to make good vision a global priority. In the United States, we advocate for children’s vision, eye health as a public health issue and the requirement of comprehensive eye exams in young children entering school and at key points in children’s development. 

Since experts agree that 80% of learning is through our eyes, vision and academic performance are intrinsically linked. While there are numerous benefits to short-term online learning, the long-term risks and negative health effects on vision problems, sleep, attention, and learning are even greater. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when almost everything has shifted to virtual work, it is more difficult to step away from screen time, and the increase in near work activities has been affecting our children’s vision.

In 2019, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health conducted a study in children and found that they spent a significant amount of time on their devices in a given day:

  • 5 hours on computers, laptops and tablets
  • 3 hours on their phones
  • 2 hours watching TV

 

Peer-reviewed research on this topic reveals that more time spent on near work activities was associated with higher risks of myopia or nearsightedness. It also points out the need for appropriately balancing outdoor time activities and considering alternative activities that limit online time to balance and combat the negative effects of time spent on digital devices.

The draft Health & Safety Guidelines for children is an important tool to provide health and safety best practices that could help educate parents and teachers on the important role they play in observing poor vision in and outside the classroom. At the same time, these guidelines provide an opportunity to potentially help reduce the impact of excessive near work on the progression of myopia in children, when including evidence-based resources that ensure parents, children, school staff and government agencies are aware about the imminent risks of a myopia boom.

In Shandong China, there have been efforts to reduce the amount of time students spend on mobile phones and tablets because more than 40 percent of primary and middle school students have myopia. It is known that too much screen time can result in additional health effects, including digital eyestrain, which can include burning, headaches, fatigue, blurred or double visionloss of focus, and head and neck pain. It is also critical to address the importance of early detection and prevention of vision problems that are not reversible, hence, the importance of eye exams for school, outdoor physical activity and overall whole-child health at all ages of development. As you well addressed in the guidelines, there are many other related effects from the use of digital devices linked to the impact on children’s social mental health; and poor vision is not the exception. 

We look forward to collaborating with you on this issue and remain available to provide any further information that would ensure students succeed inside and outside the classroom in order to shape successful futures.

References and links to peer review studies and documents:

  1. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  2. Systematic review on near work activities: https://visionimpactinstitute.org/research/the-association-between-near-work-activities-and-myopia-in-children-a-systematic-review-and-meta-analysis/
  3. https://visionimpactinstitute.org/research/digital-screen-time-during-covid-19-pandemic-risk-for-a-further-myopia-boom/
  4. Why limited mobile phones and tablets?
  5. https://visionimpactinstitute.org/what-online-back-to-school-means-for-your-childs-vision/
  6. https://visionimpactinstitute.org/todays-new-normal-can-shape-a-childs-tomorrow/

Additional information can be found under our research page  with more than 600 peer-review studies on the socio-economic impact of poor vision.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Judith Williams

Program manager – Americas

Vision Impact Institute

www.visionimpactinstitute.org

https://visionimpactinstitute.org/kids-see-success/

CommentID: 97740
 

4/28/21  2:10 pm
Commenter: Anonymous

End iPad usage
 

Please end iPad usage in the classroom. Many studies have shown the terrible side effects these devices have... esp on our children with autism and adhd. I fear for what this year has down to our children sitting in front of a screen all day.

CommentID: 97748
 

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. 

COMMENTS:       

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: 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2754101

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6830442/

 

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 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6487868/

 

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.

Everyschool.org and Greenschoolyards.org 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
 

4/28/21  9:13 pm
Commenter: Center for Safer Wireless

Devices in schools
 

There are many studies showing that the wireless radiation used in the devices that we are giving the children in school have a harmful affect on their bodies.  It is important to not harm our children with toxins that we could have avoided.  Please look at the information at this reputable site.  https://ehtrust.org/science/scientific-research-on-health-effects-of-screens-and-smartphones-to-children/

We can have the children be on the internet with ethernet wires and if we have to use industrial routers we should make sure the children and teachers are not near them.  They also should be turned off when not being used so the exposure is limited to when it is absolutely necessary.

Thank you for caring about the children and doing the best to protect them from harm.

 

CommentID: 97754
 

4/28/21  9:40 pm
Commenter: Seth Evans, Children's Screen Time Action Network

Digital Devices in the Classroom
 

Dear Mr. Bolling,

 

First, I wish to thank the Virginia Legislature, the Department of Learning and Innovation, and all of the educational activists for their concern and hard work in creating these guidelines for the use of digital devices in K-12 schools.  Virginia now can proudly add its name to the small list of states that are helping set guidelines for the safe and effective deployment of educational technology with schoolchildren, who are particularly vulnerable to its negative physical and mental health effects.

 

I would like to add comments, based on my 20 years of experience teaching grades 4 and 5 in Massachusetts, to those of the many concerned Virginians. Since retiring from teaching three years ago, I have also worked  -- first as a volunteer, and for the last year as a part-time staff person – as the Screens in Education Program Coordinator at the Children's Screen Time Action Network, which is, in turn, a program of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

 

My experiences in the last half dozen or so years as a public school teacher drew me to the Children’s Screen Time Action Network as a retired volunteer at the end of 2018. During those years I began to notice that an increasing number of students in my classes were having difficulty focusing on educational tasks. These same students seem to have a lower tolerance for frustration and boredom, and often created their own distractions when normal class routines were, for them, insufficiently stimulating. I spoke to my veteran teaching colleagues about this, and they agreed: there was something in the digital culture that was making these students less ready for learning. I began to discuss this concern with parents and children, which confirmed my suspicion: the students with the most difficulty sustaining focus were those that were the heaviest users of digital technology at home. I sometimes would ask students what they were thinking about when I needed to cue them in. For boys, it was video games; for girls, social media.

 

These devices were not designed for young children – and certainly not to “respond to the changing technological needs of students and teachers.” Children do not have technological “needs,” unless you consider paper books, pencils, and paper technology. Furthermore, the skills they “need” to succeed have not changed much over time either. Employers want students who can solve problems, think critically, work in collaborative teams, and communicate orally and in writing. Indeed, these skills, best taught through the guidance of caring teachers in large and small-group discussions and one-on-one coaching will guarantee that “students are ready to meet the demands of an ever-changing labor market.”

 

Teachers and policy makers need not fret either that students will lose out on “21st Century learning techniques if digital devices are limited in schools.  These days, basic computer skills are learned at home. And employers do not worry about students being able to use specific computer programs. After all, any specific program is unlikely to still be in use by the time they graduate.  Yes, coding and computer logic are helpful for some jobs, but these need not be taught in K-12 schools, and/or can be learned through high school electives and post-secondary education if the core thinking skills are in place.

 

For guidance on what are proper uses of digital technology in schools, the Department of Learning and Innovation should refer to the Ed Tech Triangle. Developed by the non-profit organization, EverySchool, those evidence-based guidelines contained there go a long way to ensure that “school digital devices are being used to enhance teaching and learning.”

 

The Department should also consider the following guidelines when thinking about the types of technology to be introduced in K-12:

 

  • In general, digital devices should be avoided in elementary school classrooms given the proven benefits of offline learning, and lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of screen-based instruction during these years, and the documented physical and mental health concerns related to the use of digital devices by young children. The introduction of online testing in the elementary grades should be prohibited, as it requires the introduction of digital technology in the primary grades (in order to prepare students for the tests). 
  • Beginning in middle school, limited use of technology is acceptable to introduce word processing, spreadsheets, and computer-based research. Otherwise, technology should only be used when there is no equally good way to teach a particular skill or concept. 
  • Technology-related skills needed by graduation – including word processing, the use of spreadsheets, and the ability to conduct internet- and computer-based research – should continue to be taught in high school, subject to established safe use guidelines. (One reason for postponing the use of computer-based research until secondary school is that  it is only older students that can understand the unethical and manipulative uses of digital technology and can discern good from bad sources.

 

Given the lack of evidence of positive effects on learning, and the growing evidence of physical and mental health consequences associated with excessive use of digital devices, there are additional policies that the Department should urge and/or require all districts to follow:

 

  • Parents and students should be afforded low-tech and no-tech options whenever requested, including paper copies of all textbooks, reading materials, worksheets, and testing materials.

 

  • Teachers should be instructed to minimize the amount of homework assigned that must be done online. Requiring students to spend time on digital devices interferes with families' abilities to maintain healthy limits on screen time.

 

  • Cell phone use should be prohibited in all classrooms during class time, with phones out of reach.
  • Districts should develop, institute, and enforce policies to ensure that schools and teachers follow manufacturers' guidelines regarding safe use of digital devices. Parents should be made aware of all manufacturers’ ergonomic and safe use guidelines, and should sign off on their understanding and acceptance of these guidelines prior to devices being issued to students.
  • Districts should create teacher, student, and parent education programs about the known and potential health consequences of the overuse of screens, including physical and mental health consequences, and the potential misuses of student data; and such programs should be delivered to all constituents on a yearly basis.  
  • School guidance counselors should be trained to recognize and treat potential negative mental health effects of overuse of social media and online gaming.
  • In planning for safe use of digital devices for school and homework, administrators should gather and make public data regarding: (a) in-school screen usage by grade level; and (b) the amount of time children, by grade level, spent on digital devices at home doing school-related work.

These policies, along with the helpful guidelines and comments suggested by others for protecting students’ physical health, should not be viewed as just a utopian “wish list.” Let’s take our duty of care toward students seriously and only use technology when it serves a vital learning purpose, and only when it is used in a safe manner. We are at a similar stage in our rush toward educational technology now as we were during the introduction of the automobile over 100 years ago: it is viewed as a “must have,” and adapted with little regard to public safety and public health. Consumer advocacy, many years later, resulted in safeguards like seat belts and other crash safety features. Let’s not make the same mistakes with digital technology.  There is no great rush -- other than that of the industry to capitalize on the pandemic-related surge in remote learning -- to increase the use educational technology. The worst reason to use it is because it is available. A deliberate, thoughtful approach is required. The State of Virginia has begun to take such an approach, but it must be willing to take a broader, holistic look at all of the evidence regarding ed tech’s effectiveness and its relationship to at-home use before issuing guidelines. I hope that these comments are helpful in that regard.

CommentID: 97755
 

4/28/21  10:03 pm
Commenter: James V. Rives, M.D.

HB 817 guidelines - Add screen time limits
 

I am grateful for the workgroup’s effort to make screen use in schools as healthful as possible, and the proposed document treats this thoroughly. My concern is that the guidelines’ promoting optimal use of screens will inevitably promote increased use of screens. Some of the resource materials, though endorsed by academic institutions, have a promotional tone and are sponsored by entertainment, social media, video gaming, and digital news media companies, e.g. the Boston Children’s Hospital guide (p. 5, resource 3) and the Cleveland Clinic video (p. 10, resource 4).

What is most missing from the guidelines is the setting of age-appropriate, total screen time limits per day to include both school-day limits and homework time limits, keeping in mind that most students will add additional leisure screen time.

In our fixed 24-hour day, the stated goal of “preserving offline experiences” (p. 6, #1) will necessarily require limiting screen time, and this should be explicitly addressed.

The guidelines’ worthy aim to diversify digital experiences (p. 4, #5) should be matched with equal effort toward overall diversity of media and experiences, including “human to human and hands-on interaction," to quote Dr. Azmaira Maker (cited on p.7, #6).

The guideline of minimum one hour per day spent outside is quite low (p. 6, # 8). I would present this as an absolute minimum with a much longer target for average time spent outside per weekday.

A common theme in the supporting materials is that screen use must be individualized for each child. That makes sense, but there should still be maximum time limits in the guidelines; teachers, parents, and students can then customize screen schedules within those limits. As we await longitudinal medical research on the still-increasing screen use by children, I urge erring on the side of caution, i.e. low maximum limits for total daily screen time.

James V. Rives, M.D.

Board-Certified in Psychiatry

Member, School Health Advisory Board, Arlington County, VA

CommentID: 97756
 

4/28/21  11:12 pm
Commenter: Sheila Leonard

Reduce screen usage for elementary learners
 

My seven-year-old walks downstairs and asks to check the blog on her school provided iPad. Over the past year during virtual school she has learned to make videos and "like" comments on the class blog. When she goes in-person for her two hybrid days, she watches videos on the iPad for P.E., during reading and math she's expected to complete lessons and levels on the respective apps. She's an advanced reader who loves to snuggle up with chapter books, but often lately, instead, begs us to let her on the iPad to complete a level in her reading application because her reading group friends are several levels ahead. 

We never say yes.

She is seven years old and should not be forced by public schools to learn, grow, or succeed through device instruction. In kindergarten, devices were sporadically and occasionally used, but after the pandemic, I'm worried public schools will forget that students used to read books, write on paper, and do math by hand. They should be running and jumping in P.E., not watching a video. 

Please ensure screen time for K-2 and 3-5 students is extremely limited, and that there is no required 1-1 device policy for these children. At the very least, parents should be able to opt OUT of this instruction. 

We're all walking around glued to our phones. We know what it does to our concentration, our creativity, our attention-span, and our physical and mental health. Take those lessons learned and STOP the use of devices in schools for young children. 

CommentID: 97757