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.
A concerned parent and citizen