In support of Maryland guidelines on screen time in schools

Two nationally-renowned experts on the impacts of school policies on children’s wellbeing—Alex Molnar  and Faith Boninger—urge Maryland lawmakers to endorse HB 1110, the groundbreaking legislation which would protect children from the known health risks of digital devices used in schools:

March 7, 2018 

Hon. Anne R. Kaiser, Chair, Ways and Means Committee 
Hon. Eric G. Luedtke, Chair, Education Subcommittee 
Maryland House of Delegates
6 Bladen Street 
Annapolis, MD  21401 

Re: Support for HB 1110 — An Act Concerning Public Schools – Health And Safety Guidelines And Procedures – Digital Devices 

Dear Chairwoman Kaiser, Chairman Luedtke, and Distinguished Subcommittee Members, 

Thank you for considering Delegate Arentz’s House Bill 1110, "An Act Concerning Public Schools – Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures – Digital Devices." We are writing to ask that you endorse this bill.

Our research explores the proliferation of digital technologies in schools.  Although the use of such digital technologies may have some benefit for children’s learning, these possible benefits are by no means assured to exceed those of non-digital forms of learning. As much as companies are eager to sell digital technology to schools, and schools are eager to increase children’s achievement, research does not support claims that shifting to digital educational platforms achieves the desired goals.  What a growing body of research does indicate, however, is that excessive computer use by children leads to several concrete negative health effects.  These include vision problems, disturbance in sleep patterns, social-emotional disturbance, and addiction to digital devices. 

Given these documented health risks for children, HB 1110 is timely and important legislation. The health of Maryland’s children going forward is dependent on the Maryland Department of Education, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Health, developing clear, research-based health and safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools.  HB 1110 will ensure that appropriate guidelines are developed in an equitable manner, with input from parents, educators, other stakeholders, and groups well-versed in the health impacts of screen devices on children’s development.  It will also establish Maryland as a national leader in providing safe learning environments for children, and offer model legislation for other states to follow. 

Maryland schools may decide to increase the extent to which children use digital devices in their coursework, but with the guidelines called for by HB 1110, they will do so at a level that can contribute to children’s education without threatening their physical and psychological well-being. We urge you to support HB 1110.

Sincerely, 

Alex Molnar
Faith Boninger
Commercialism in Education Research Unit
National Education Policy Center
(institutional affiliation is provided for identification purposes only)

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