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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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.
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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:

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:

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