Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mounting scientific research supports
Maryland Screen Safety Legislation

Legislative agenda meetings are being held right now that will determine the priorities and objectives of the Maryland General Assembly's upcoming session, and the plans of those who wish to influence the lawmakers.

After two years of non-stop efforts, many children's health advocates nationwide are hoping this is the year that Maryland's elected officials will lead the country in protecting students from avoidable physical and psychological harm long known to be associated with daily use of digital devices.

While the debate over the personal use of screens will likely continue as a parenting issue, it is the responsibility of the schools to avoid known hazards and provide a safe classroom. The current digital curriculum in Maryland is not mutually exclusive of safety concerns. Academic goals can still be met, while measures to protect our children's vision, eye health, physical growth and mental wellness can be crafted by the medical professionals who know the most about these issues: the Maryland Department of Health.

The following is a review of the efforts thus far to promote a safe learning environment for all Maryland students, and an extensive list of scientific research underscoring the need for immediate action to protect all of our children.

New research is routinely shared on Twitter; please follow the account to learn more: @screensandkids.

Cindy Eckard

Legislative background, media coverage and support

Paula Poundstone helped promote the Maryland classroom digital device safety proposed bill by enthusiastically participating in a press conference in Annapolis just weeks before the General Assembly convened in 2017. She has lent her voice in support of this effort several times on social media and on her own web page. The NBC News Baltimore affiliate TV station covered the press conference:

This is video taped testimony given to the Maryland Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology & Biotechnology November, 2016; it summarizes the issues and some of the primary challenges facing the legislative effort.

Here is the Press Release and list of legislative sponsors for House Bill 866/Senate Bill1089  from the 2017 Maryland Legislative Session, requiring the Maryland Health Department to craft classroom safety guidelines for digital device use in schools.  It also has links to hearing testimony and radio interviews.

Those who provided written or spoken testimony for MD legislation during the 2017 session included:

Richard Freed, Ph.D., author
Tim Kasser, Ph.D., professor
Susan Linn, Ed.D., Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital
J. Scott Sikes, O.D., pediatric optometrist
Prevent Blindness, Jeff Todd, Chief Operating Officer
Bradley Shear, attorney, advocate
American Academy of Pediatrics, Maryland Chapter
MedChi, Maryland State Medical Association
Parents Across America
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Geoffrey Goodfellow, OD, FAAO, Illinois College of Optometry
Michael Brody, M.D., University of Maryland
Dr. Jared E. Duncan, Maryland pediatric ophthalmologist
Dr. Maria Pribis, OD
Elizabeth Hoge, MD, Georgetown University Medical Center
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D., LCSW-R, author, advocate
Parents Coalition of Montgomery County
Advocates for Baltimore County Schools
Baltimore County Council PTA
Maryland Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council

Specific Searches on Google Scholar regarding digital device health risks to children

Searched only in 2017 for "digital devices computers screens myopia children"

Dry Eyes, Computer Vision Syndrome, Digital Eye Strain

Asthenopia, computer, children

PubMed Results for "Screen Time" search:

Specific Study References

Review Education Group regarding blue light and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)  "This cumulative and constant exposure to the blue-violet light is going to accumulate over time and has the potential to cause damage to the retinal cells, which is going to slowly lead to retinal cell death and can in turn lead to AMD."
November, 2017: Myopia Rise and Vision Health Issues Left in its Wake

January, 2016, USC: "Study of 9,000 Los Angeles-area children confirms global trend — the incidence of childhood myopia is increasing at an alarming pace"


"Blue light damage to the retina has research support from studies with both acute and chronic exposure."

November, 2017:  Mobile technology dominates school children's IT use in an advantaged school community and is associated with musculoskeletal and vision symptoms.

Rise in Teen Suicides

November, 2017: Increased Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents linked to Screen Time (N=500,000+) Includes extensive citations

Ergonomics issues discussed by Cornell University in the 1990s

1999 Document from Cornell University regarding student computer ergonomics (70 pages):

Overview of Health Risks

Overview of health risks from daily use of digital devices by children
Health Impact of Excessive Screen Time: A Smoldering Crisis for Organizations, by Ernest F. Martin Jr., Virginia Commonwealth University, USA. Scroll to PRINTED Page 88:

Blue light and sleep

Environmental 24-hr Cycles Are Essential for Health:

Attenuation of short wavelengths alters sleep and the ipRGC pupil response:

Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009–2015 and association with new media screen time:

Blue Light-Blocking Glasses May Help With Sleep, Cognition

Screen time and sedentary behavior

Re-evaluating the effect of age on physical activity over the lifespan:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Governor Hogan ignores public health issues in Maryland schools

Thanks to Cheri Kiesecker for this graphic
Governor Hogan's administration is turning its back on Maryland students who are currently required to use school-issued digital devices with absolutely no medical oversight, when every day, more research shows that daily use of digital devices will harm children's eyes and growing bodies, and increase the likelihood they will experience serious health issues such as obesity, depression, addiction and diabetes.

Letters have been written to his former Chief of Staff and to Secretary Schrader, which were simply patronized and ignored.

So the following was written in a letter to the governor in May. This effort is supported statewide, as evidenced by the large number of delegates who co-sponsored a bill in the last General Assembly session.

The documented health risks facing Maryland students who are required to use digital devices in school every day are serious; many children will be harmed, needlessly. Any online search will reveal how well known these risks are in the medical community; the research dates back to the 1980s.

For instance, the laptops distributed to Maryland students were never designed to be workstations, as pointed out by the manufacturers themselves who specifically state the devices can cause serious injury. The schools are completely ignoring the health warnings of the manufacturers. OSHA has protected office workers from many of the same health risks since the 1989, but our growing children - who are more vulnerable to permanent damage - have no safety protections whatsoever.

Please take action at your soonest opportunity to ensure that Maryland students will have classroom safety in place when they begin school next year. 

This effort has the full support of the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland Chapter and Prevent Blindness. National leaders in child health issues follow my Twitter account, as do reporters both locally and for the New York Times.  The issue has growing public support, thanks to shows such as Good Morning, America and 20/20 which have run segments as recently as last week regarding digital device health risks to children, teens and adults.

Details, letters of support, and extensive medical research can all be found on my blog: You'll also find television and radio interviews, and links to my Washington Post and Baltimore Sun Op Eds on the site, along with testimony from recent General Assembly hearings.  My most recent article appeared in Psychology Today just last week.

Our children are legally entitled to a safe classroom, and right now they don't have one. They are in danger, specifically because of the unregulated use of hazardous equipment, required by their schools. These are known, documented health risks that are avoidable, and they are not being avoided. There are many people who are now considering legal action, as a result.

I don't believe for a moment that you would allow this situation to continue if you were personally familiar with the details, Governor Hogan, which is why I am appealing to you directly. I sincerely hope I'm correct in this perspective and that you'll take swift action to correct it.

You have known firsthand the sorrow of seeing children who are sick, and the price paid by the entire family as a result. Many diseases cannot be avoided; but harm from school equipment can be.

No Response from the Governor

A Public Information Act (PIA) request for staff emails about the legislation and the disappearance of a School Health web page revealed the worst kind of indifference among the governor's top people, including Health Secretary Schrader's top staff. Doctors in the Health Department did nothing but desperately attempt to escape responsibility.

The Office of School Health director -- a nationally known pediatrician -- suggests in one email that the documented health risks posed by the schools' digital devices are a curricular issue. Not her problem. That's like saying uncapped bottles of bleach stored in a Kindergarten classroom is a housekeeping issue.

At least one Democratic gubernatorial rival has enthusiastically stated support for classroom screen safety guidelines to be crafted by the Maryland Department of Health. Let's hope others will too - especially those on the decisive General Assembly committees - since Governor Hogan appears disinterested in protecting our children.

Let's also hope that legal actions, such as injunctions, won't be necessary to keep Maryland students protected from avoidable harm in their own classrooms. Our kids should not have to suffer before anything is done. 

Cindy Eckard

Friday, June 16, 2017

Maryland Health Department Staff Emails 
Reflect Startling Apathy for Children's Health

It's disturbing to read the callous questions that health department staffers posed to each other when considering the classroom screen safety legislation that was sponsored by over 25 delegates in the most recent Maryland General Assembly session.

House Bill 866 directed the health department to craft digital device safety and health guidelines that would protect Maryland students from known and avoidable health threats that could permanently damage our children.

Ponder that, for a moment. Students are required to use school devices that are known to be hazardous, with no oversight or protection, putting them at unnecessary risk for retinal damage, muscle and joint pain, sleeplessness, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression and addiction. More concerns are raised about these devices every day, and have been for decades.

The Maryland bill would have protected our kids from avoidable health risks that their schools are imposing on them. This can't be repeated often enough, or loudly enough.

Staff communications obtained through a Public Information Act (PIA) request reveal the attitudes of state health department managers who focused exclusively on their own political advantage, not on our children's health, when considering the MD classroom screen safety legislation.

Getting the PIA request documents has been a struggle. They were not provided within the required 30 days. The files were modified -- headers, names of recipients and emails were deleted before the documents were provided. And top staffers have consistently ignored subsequent requests for complete documentation.

To understand the emails DHMH has provided so far, a lesson is needed to decipher the units of this bloated department. DHMH stands for Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. PHPA stands for the Prevention and Health Promotion Agency. Since PHPA is responsible for environmental health issues, some believe PHPA should craft the classroom screen safety guidelines.

OPHI stands for Office of Public Health Improvement.  The Office of School Health (OSH) is in the OPHI division. Dr. Cheryl De Pinto is the medical director. Tina Backe is the School Health coordinator. NP stands for "No position." And LL stands for legislative liaison.

Here is an email from Ms. Backe asking unnamed staff members (the original header on the email was not provided in the PIA documents) to review the digital device safety bill. She instructs them to keep a number of considerations in mind.

What's missing?
Any mention whatsoever of our children's health.  From the School Health Services Program Coordinator. Not one word.

Now read what Dr. De Pinto writes. It's important to realize that she is a pediatrician, which makes her disregard for our children nothing short of chilling. It's astounding that a pediatrician who has written findings on Maryland childhood obesity for the CDC could wash her hands of our children's health so completely and focus her thoughts exclusively on political bureaucracy. Childhood obesity and its relationship to digital media use is an alarm sounded by major health organizations and universities nationwide. This is a public health issue, not a debate about curriculum.

Even her own colleague questions her position - look at the original email, below. Ms. Backe implies responsibility, and notes that they already write guidelines with the department of education (MSDE).  She asks, "How is it that OPHI is not involved in the creation of these guidelines?"

Excellent question, Ms. Backe.

Sadly there are more emails that show apathy for students from those who are supposed to protect them. This pediatrician, who is a long-standing top manager in the department, desperately tries to dodge any responsibility:

The answer to Dr. De Pinto's question came from the Environmental Health Board director. He requested $100,000 in consultation fees in a letter to the fiscal policy analyst reviewing HB866, claiming this bulging health department, replete with experts, needed to hire an outside consultant to craft digital device safety guidelines for Maryland students.

Details to follow.

Cindy Eckard

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Public Information Act Request Results: 
State officials disregard children's health, seek political expedience

Over 25 Maryland lawmakers recently signed on as sponsors for legislation that would have required the state health department to create common sense guidelines to protect students from being harmed by hazardous school equipment: their digital devices. 

Using computers every day puts kids at risk for a variety of health issues - which has been scientifically documented for decades, by OSHA and other federal agencies. With the help of teachers' union leaders, the bills failed. But it wasn't just those few lawmakers; they had help from the health department, who was working hard to stay out of it, and dodge responsibility.

Since the close of the 

Much has happened since the close of the Maryland General Assembly session. Scientists who were looking into computer ergonomics and vision risks to students 30 years ago have been found. They tell the same story: we tried to stop this, but no one wanted to listen. 

Laptops unsafe as daily workstations

Manufacturers' warnings have been unearthed: laptops were never designed to be daily workstations. Makers like Dell and HP have openly warned against using them as such, and make specific recommendations for exterior keyboards and accessories to be used in order to prevent injury. But schools continue to ignore the manufacturers' warnings, as well as the health warnings voiced by the Maryland State Medical Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics' Maryland Chapter.
National attention to Maryland Legislation

The Maryland legislation has been featured in the media nationwide. BAM! Radio Network aired an interview on the ravages of daily computer use to our children and a Psychology Today article was published, entitled "Growing up in a False Reality." 

But the state health department continues to shirk its duty to protect our kids, who remain at risk for permanent eye damage, joint and muscle pain, addiction, anxiety, obesity and depression. 

Public Information Act request submitted

In response, a Public Information Act (PIA) request was submitted to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to better understand the Department's role in the legislation.

That PIA request was ignored for many weeks, long past the date required by Public Information Act regulations. When the documents were finally received, a profile of utter disregard for children's health emerged from all those involved. 

The staff emails show that they focused on "strategy," what was best for the DHMH staffers themselves, and political posturing. Our children's health? Secondary to their politics. According to one of the top leaders in the department, staffers should ensure screen safety responsibility didn't "land" with their unit.  Details, quotes and email screen shots will be posted here in the coming days.

Waiting to hear from Governor Larry Hogan

The lesson in the legislative process for screen safety is this: no legislation is needed to craft classroom safety guidelines. It is the job of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to protect students against public health threats, and to avoid known risks in the classroom. That's why kids don't play with mercury in science class any more. Turns out the schools were requiring students to put themselves in danger.

We're waiting to hear from Governor Hogan right now. His office is aware of the situation. He must ensure a safe place for our children to learn.

To stay updated, please follow @screensandkids. If you're not on Twitter, you can still visit this page to see what's new: (just click away from the sign-up window).

Cindy Eckard

Monday, April 10, 2017

Through the Looking Glass
The MD General Assembly and
Classroom Screen Safety:
A study of disturbing nonsense

For student health advocates across the state and across the country, watching the developments surrounding the nation's first classroom digital device safety legislation during the recent Maryland General Assembly was a surreal, Alice in Wonderland kind of experience.

Just the idea that parents would have to take their case to the state legislature, to protect their children from serious harm caused by their teachers and schools is a bizarre concept. Aren't teachers supposed to be caring, nurturing people who protect children? And yet, their silence is deafening, even after learning of the myopia, retinal damage, sleeplessness, muscle pain, eye strain, anxiety, depression and addiction associated with daily use of digital devices in school.

Perhaps they are silenced by a craven shadow government, the Maryland State Department of Education, that consumes the lion's share of any budget, and then arrogantly dismisses the people who pay their salaries, while utterly disregarding the medical needs of the growing children whom they are paid to serve.

A culture of fear

Bloated and self-satisfied, state and local school boards and the crony political groups who shape them dole out mandates without a single thought to the health of our kids, and then - according to what teachers say privately - intimidate any staff member or teacher who doesn't get onboard.

Worried about their performance reviews and professional futures, teachers then dutifully strap our children to computers every day. Exactly how many hours are kids online at school? The schools won't say.  All that technology, all that data crunching, and nobody can generate a valid screen time report. Fascinating.

Catching up with reality, let's remember parents are paying the taxes and sending the kids to school, where students are legally owed a safe learning environment. In return, our children are being systematically neglected in the pursuit of political agendas put forth by school boards and school bureaucrats at every level.  With the full participation of their teachers.

What is going on here? Chase the white rabbit. Drink me.

Certainly the health department will do something to protect our children, 
since the schools won't.

And so emerged the Maryland classroom digital device safety legislation: HB866/SB1089.

The bill directed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to create safety guidelines to protect our children from being harmed in a variety of ways from daily classroom use of school-issued electronic devices. The Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) and the American Academy of Pedicatrics' Maryland Chapter (MDAAP) whole-heartedly endorsed the bills and warned lawmakers of the serious health risks facing our kids.

With the medical community backing this effort, surely the legislators would listen. And of course, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would leap to defend our kids from being harmed. That's what they do, right? Protect kids from health hazards?

But wait. There's a Cheshire cat. And a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

DHMH removed the web page that revealed its responsibilities 

Once the DHMH Office of School Health was publicly revealed in testimony and letters to lawmakers to be already responsible for crafting the digital device safety guidelines, things started to disappear from the DHMH Office of School Health website. The smoking gun - the page that outlined their responsibility - was pulled offline.

And when the cached version of that smoking gun was then posted on, it was pulled off the server altogether, so the public could have absolutely no web access detailing the DHMH Office of School Health obligations to protect our kids and draft safety guidelines.

But Alice liked to read. She knew many techy things, and posted the full Office of School Health page online once again, making sure that the public could still see the disappearing pages, and know who was purposely hiding their responsibility to protect Maryland's children.

The white rabbit dashes by. The schools are hurting our kids and they don't care. Are we still in America? The health department is supposed to protect them and doesn't care either. Are the flowers talking?

MSDE mislead Senate EHEA Committee, 
claiming plans for digital device safety

Meanwhile, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) wrote a fictional account for the Senate Committee hearing the bill, claiming they have plans to address the digital device safety issues themselves. They lied. They don't. They later admitted it.

"If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't.”

The House Ways and Means Committee conveniently sat on the House bill, leaving it up to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (EHEA) to vote down the Senate version. Ponder, for a moment.  The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee refused to protect Maryland students from avoidable health hazards in the classroom that would have cost the state nothing.

Zero dollars, and kids protected from permanent, avoidable harm. But... no.

OSHA has protected office workers from many of the same health hazards since the 1990s. But our kids? Nothing. The bill died, along with hopes for any medical protection for Maryland students.

Who did this? Jesters of the Queen, politicians who made hollow references to nonsensical objects. "Couldn't this cost the state extra money in furniture?" asked one delegate, trying to sound "thoughtful." "What about cell phones at lunch and in between classes?" wailed a Senator as if the schools were now issuing cell phones.

But who exactly is the Red Queen? There was no authentic opposition to the bill. And those who voiced "concerns" had no sound reasoning, especially in light of the serious health risks to children, as verified by the state's medical community.

Whose invisible hands, then, 
strangled this critical legislation to protect our kids?

Is the state school system so aggressive and feared that nothing and no one can interrupt its singular goal to strap our children to computers all day? Or is the health department so determined to avoid responsibility for protecting students they will do anything to stop the bill? Is it both of them, working together?

Or is it the teachers' union, who took "no position" on the legislation? The only lawmakers who balked at the bill are staunch teachers' union supporters; one of them is even a teachers' union employee. Another union-supported EHEA Committee member tweeted out enthusiasm for the bill during the hearing, but then voted against it. Was she "educated" during the meeting?

If that's the case, teachers might want to check with their own union rep to see just who got thrown under the bus this year, along with our children. Did your union even mention this classroom safety legislation? Do Maryland teachers know that they can be sued by parents if a child is damaged by a known harm that should have been avoided? Look up your "Duty of Care," and then reconsider the screen time you impose every day on our children.

But perhaps the invisible hands came from even higher sources.

The state's pediatricians and medical society agree that students will be harmed by unregulated daily use of the tools that the school system is requiring our children to use. This very simple bill did nothing but put medical oversight on the relentless use of school-issued equipment that has been recognized to be hazardous for decades. Someone in leadership could have made this bill go through. No one did.

As a result, Maryland students have been abandoned by nearly every state agency, school employee and elected official in the state of Maryland. Apathy and lunacy have ruled the day.

And while this General Assembly session was certainly nightmarish, it wasn't all a dream - many more people are now aware of the health risks facing Maryland students and will continue to pursue classroom safety guidelines.

Many people stood up for our kids

Delegate Steven J. Arentz
There were many heroes in this effort. Delegate Steve Arentz sponsored the House bill and rallied 26 co-sponsors. Twenty-six, bi-partisan sponsors from one side of the state to the other. Quite a feat, and very well done. Thank you to those co-sponsors. And thank you, Delegate Arentz. Your commitment to Maryland students is unquestionable. You are a hero for our children.

Gene Ransom and his team at MedChi saved the day, and came to the defense of our children.  Heroes. The MD chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, heroes, recognizing screen safety needs in the the classroom for the very first time.

More heroes: Senator Jim Brochin and Senator Susan Lee who stood up for kids and co-sponsored the Senate bill sponsored by Senator Steve Hershey. Thank you. And thank you to Senators Ron Young, Johnny Ray Salling, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, and Bryan Simonaire who all voted for the bill in the Senate EHEA Committee. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And there were many supporters across the state, and nationwide. Thank you, Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, Advocates for Baltimore County Schools, Baltimore County PTA Council, Campaign for Commercial-free Childhood, Prevent Blindness, Parents Across America, and national child advocates Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Cheri Keisecker, Roxana Marachi, and Rae Pica. And a very special thank you to the incomparable Paula Poundstone and Rams Head Tavern for participating in a press conference to raise public awareness about screen safety.

Thank you to all the parents, professors, authors, child development experts and eye specialists who wrote and testified as well, including Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, Dr. Scott Sikes, Dr. Maria Pribis and especially Dr. Jared Duncan.

Yes, there was a great deal of support.

Where do we go from here?

Now it is up to the parents to roll up their sleeves, get a full account of the screen time required by their schools, monitor their children's online school activities, and put every single person who is responsible for their children's protection on notice.

We are parents, taxpayers and voters. We won't forget who abandoned our children and enabled them to be in harm's way. Maryland's elected officials, teachers, administrators, school boards, departments of education and health departments will now all be held accountable for their legal duty to protect our kids, since those responsible have clearly abandoned their ethical and moral obligations to do so.

Cindy Eckard

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Maryland State Department of Education
now says screen safety is "inferred"

On March 15, 2017 the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) knowingly provided misinformation to the Senate EHE Committee in its testimony regarding SB1089, claiming that Department has plans to address the health risks posed to our children by classroom digital devices.

In its letter to the Senators (see full letter, below), MSDE testified that screen time health issues are part of its draft ESSA document.

When pressed, however, the Department now says that screen time issues are "inferred" in the ESSA draft and offers only the following reference to classroom screen time:
  1. Develop guidelines/policies related to digital content that ensures accessibility and encourages personalized learning, prepare students for College and Career, and promote academic achievement and digital literacy. August 2017 State 
  2. Provide models of best practice for the use of technology in daily instruction and encourage the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA) Practice Tests. 
This is unacceptable and insufficient. Our children are legally owed a safe classroom environment.  Maryland's entire medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland Chapter and MedChi has endorsed HB866 and SB1089, underscoring the urgency of this legislation to protect children of all ages from being SERIOUSLY AND UNNECESSARILY HARMED by the schools' hazardous equipment in a variety of ways, from myopia and permanent retinal damage to depression, sleeplessness and addiction.

The schools can't and won't protect our children. They are not medically qualified.  The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is hiding from their School Health responsibilities now too. (See below.)

We must have medical oversight for the medical hazards facing our children, introduced by the use of school-issued equipment.

Call or email Delegate Luedtke's office (410-841-3110) or contact him @EricLuedtke. Ask him to find a way to get HB866 passed, and back over to the Senate.

Each day, this legislation becomes more and more important.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thank goodness for Google cache. 

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of School Health web page that outlines its responsibility for classroom screen safety is still available to the public:

Oh, no! Now that's missing too?
It's okay. We saved it here

Despite what DHMH tried to say:

On March 10, 2017, members of the House and Senate Committees considering SB1089/HB866 were told of the DHMH responsibility for screen safety guidelines, as identified on the DHMH Office of School Health web page. But that page has disappeared.

Dear Delegate Kaiser, Senator Carter Conway,

The classroom screen safety bill (HB866/SB1089 "Primary and Secondary Education - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices") now being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee will be heard by the Senate EHEA Committee next Wednesday, March 15. This bill directs DHMH to create safety and health guidelines to address the serious health risks facing Maryland students, now that the children are using digital devices in school every day.

OSHA has protected adults from many of the same health hazards posed by computer equipment for decades; doctors are quick to point out that the risks are more serious for growing children. Maryland students using digital devices in school every day now face increased myopia, permanent retinal damage, dry eye disease, headaches, sleeplessness, obesity, anxiety, addiction and more.

Drafting classroom safety guidelines is already DHMH's responsibility as part of its School Health program. This is made clear on the Department's School Health web page:

Responsibilities of the Office of School Health include:
⦁    To develop policies, procedures, and programs to meet the health and health related needs of school aged children

This bill simply directs DHMH to craft guidelines for classroom digital device use specifically, because the school equipment poses serious medical risks to children, requiring professional medical oversight.

MedChi and the American Academy of Pediatrics' Md. Chapter (MDAAP) endorse this legislation, recognizing "there is a growing body of evidence that there are serious potential health risks for children associated with excessive use of digital devices," and that "it is critical that health and safety guidelines be developed to ensure that those risks are accounted for in the use of digital devices in the classrooms."

The medical community also underscores the need for consistent, statewide guidelines from DHMH and notes that "legitimately, the local jurisdictions don't have the time or expertise to put a framework together."

The Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC) also endorses this legislation, recognizing that Maryland's children need to be medically protected from known health hazards. Children's advocates nationwide are anxiously hoping for its passage, as a blueprint for their own states.

With 26 co-sponsors from across the state for HB866 , and both Baltimore County and Montgomery County Senators co-sponsoring SB1089, this legislation has broad bi-partisan support. The Fiscal Policy Note reports that the bill will not cost anything.

More technology is becoming increasingly accessible to more and younger Maryland students, so it is critically important to direct the state's medical experts to protect them from avoidable harm. I hope you will help to ensure this effort is successful.

Thank you very much for your consideration,

Cindy Eckard

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Here's what the Senate EHEA Committee saw before a majority voted SB1089 down.  Thanks to Senators Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, Johnny Ray Salling, Bryan Simonaire and Ron Young for protecting our kids from being harmed in school.

Montgomery County Attorney questions MSDE claims regarding safe use of digital devices. MSDE letter regarding SB1089, is below.

Dear Ms. Gable,

According to Tiffany Johnson Clark, Esq., the MSDE draft of Maryland's ESSA Plan addresses issues surrounding the amount of screen time that public school students will have on digital devices.  In my review of THE DRAFT DOCUMENT, I have not been able to find the specific section that addresses the amount of screen time that students should be on digital devices while in public school classrooms.  Can you please assist me in locating the section of the draft that speaks to this issue?

We believe that this representation from Ms. Clark has been used to influence the votes of members of the Maryland legislature on a bill that seeks to address this very issue.  In an effort to provide the legislature with accurate information, we would like to have the specific citation to where the issue of digital device screen time in public school classrooms is addressed in the draft ESSA Plan.

Thank you for your expert assistance.

Janis Zink Sartucci, Esq.
Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, MD


The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) believes there is little proof of harm to our children as a result of using digital devices in school every day. This, despite the entire medical community underscoring serious medical risks. Both the Maryland State Medical Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland chapter strongly support this bill.

Read on... written by the chief ed tech proponent in the school system... signed by the MSDE legislative representative.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Senate EHE Committee votes down screen safety bill, putting Maryland students at risk for blindness from school equipment

Thank you Senators Nathan-Pulliam, Young, Salling and Simonaire for voting to protect our kids. Perhaps the others will reconsider? 

March 17, 2017

Dear Delegate Arentz and Co-sponsors of HB866,

Last night the Senate EHE committee voted down SB1089, the cross filed bill for HB866, which directs DHMH to do its job, and create safety guidelines to protect our children from hazardous school equipment, as part of its Office of School Health. A simple, no-cost request that our children do not suffer from permanent damage from using devices that are unsafe.

The Committee voted it down last night, following Wednesday's hearing wherein the Senators saw a very informative video, received favorable oral testimony from a pediatric ophthalmologist and the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland chapter, all of which underscored the urgency of this effort.

Piles of letters were received by the Committee in support as well, outlining all the risks our children face because of unregulated use of devices in school. Experts from around the country in a variety of specialties from optometry to psychiatry weighed in, alongside some of Maryland's largest parent coalitions.

Please do everything within your power today to persuade your colleagues in the Ways and Means Committee to favorably review HB866. A social media campaign was launched before dawn this morning among parents across the state, and across the country.

Whosoever knowingly harms a child will be held responsible.

Thanks very much for your help,

Cindy Eckard

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watch the VIDEO of Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Hearing, held Wednesday, March 15th. Testimony for SB1089 begins at 2:02:02. 

This is the video the lawmakers saw during the Senate hearing for SB1089 on Wednesday, March 15th.

LEARN MORE about the MEDICAL RISKS facing students. 

The Maryland State Medical Society and the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics endorse screen safety bills HB866 and SB1089: