Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016
Press Release
MD classroom screen safety legislation press conference

(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND) In a press conference held at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Dec. 23, award-winning comedian, author, actress and activist Paula Poundstone urged Maryland lawmakers to pass a bill that will direct the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine medical guidelines for the safe use of digital devices in Maryland classrooms.

"It makes all of the sense in the world to put decisions about the health of our children's brains into the hands of health professionals. We don't ask the schools to govern how many immunizations we give them," Ms. Poundstone, who advocates for classroom screen safety in her home state of California, said.

Delegate Steve Arentz (R-Dist. 36) is sponsoring the effort: "More and more experts are proving that there are serious risks to our kids' health because they spend every day on a digital device. Maryland students need to get the most out of this technology, so we want medical professionals to lead us in a safe direction. It's a win for education and a win for our children's long-term health. Let's get uniform screen safety regulations put in place by doctors who know what's best for growing children."

The legislation seeks to provide protections for Maryland students in the same way that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protects office workers. OSHA has regulated the use of computer monitors since the 1990s noting many of the same health risks that students face today in class: digital eye strain, myopia, retinal damage, sleeplessness and psychological problems such as addiction, depression and anxiety.

Cindy Eckard, a mother of two Maryland public school children, has been urging lawmakers to regulate classroom screen safety, citing voluminous scientific research. She has created a blog ( where the public can learn more about the health risks children face when required to use a digital device every day in school, and into the evening, for homework.

Ms. Eckard laughs when asked if she doesn't like technology. "My entire career was spent in high tech communications, " she explains, "Of course I want my children to master technology; I just don't want them to be injured by it. Eye experts are worried that children are actually going to be blinded by these devices, and so am I."

Citing several research studies, Ms. Eckard identified five major health risks that she says the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene needs to address, to ensure that Maryland students have a safe learning environment at school: myopia, retinal damage, musculoskeletal aches and pains, sleeplessness and psychological damage.

Health advocates around the country, such as Prevent Blindness and the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health are watching the Maryland legislation.

Prevent Blindness Chief Operating Officer Jeff Todd writes: "Recent research finds that children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens, which is a growing concern as the popularity of cell phones, computers and tablets for school reading and personal use continues to grow each year. We commend Maryland’s efforts to ensure children’s vision, eye health, and safety is at the forefront of your state’s efforts related to childhood development."

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, PhD, LCSW-R, a nationally recognized addiction expert and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, writes: "Over 200 peer-reviewed clinical studies correlate excessive screen usage with disorders such as ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, mood dysregulation and even psychosis... Indeed, many of the studies indicate that even moderate screen exposure can be clinically problematic for some children... I commend the screen safety effort in Maryland and encourage the General Assembly to pass legislation that will mandate medically sound classroom regulations," Dr. Kardaras wrote in a statement.

Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, OD, FAAO, is an Associate Professor at the Illinois College of Optometry and an attending optometrist in the Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Service of the Illinois Eye Institute. Regarding the Maryland classroom screen safety legislation, Dr. Goodfellow writes: "All of our eyes are under stress more than ever before. Whether it is blurry vision, tired eyes, headaches, increased nearsightedness, double vision, or red eyes, we know that our world full of digital devices can have lots of unintended consequences. This doesn’t even include the more non-eye related implications such as sleep disturbances or addiction propensities. I wish Maryland success in your labor to promote digital screen safety awareness."

Statewide support is also in place. The Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC) sent a letter of support for a similar bill last year, noting the need for regulations to protect students from the environmental health risks posed by daily digital device use in the classroom.

And Maryland parents are also endorsing the legislation. ABC Schools writes: "Advocates for Baltimore County Schools (ABCSchools), the largest public education advocacy coalition in Baltimore County, will support the 2017 Maryland General Assembly bill to develop objective computer health and safety guidelines for Maryland schools. Our students must be protected from well-documented potential impacts on the musculoskeletal system, vision, sleep, cognitive development, and social-emotional development."

Lisa Cline, a Montgomery County parent and Fields Road Elementary School PTA president agrees. "Our kids deserve every protection possible. Technology is not going away. This bill ensures that kids use it safely so none of us looks back someday and says, 'We should have...'.

For further information, contact Cindy Eckard at Follow @screensandkids on Twitter, and visit for detailed medical research.

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