Saturday, February 25, 2017

Start writing and calling now! Senate Educational, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will hear companion legislation, Senate Bill 1089, on March 15th at 1:00.

Teachers and Moms are speaking out!

For the HB866 Ways and Means Committee Hearing, Feb. 24, 2017:

My name is Erica Mah, a parent with 2 children in Baltimore County Public Schools.  I am sorry that I am unable to be there in person to give testimony in favor of HB 866 which I wholeheartedly support.  

But I have an obligation Friday afternoon and evening to my daughter’s school’s Literature Night where we celebrate favorite books - a most worth cause I am sure you’d all agree.  We celebrate books that children may have read on paper or on screen or even listen to as an audiobook.  Children are now able to access books in so many ways because of technology and in my opinion more access to books is always better.

But reading books using technology, and using technology at all, needs to be done with guidance.  Students should not listen to devices at a volume setting of 100 while using headsets (yes, 100 is the maximum).  Students should not read on a screen in a darkened classroom.  Nor should they read in font that is smaller than 12 points.  Or read slouched over a desk or with their eyes up as close as 6 inches to the screen.  Or play games while they are supposed to be reading, extending their time on the screen with flashing lights and animation.

But these are all things I have seen children do in classrooms using their BCPS issued devices.  These are issues I have asked BCPS to address, in particular to elementary school children as young as 6 who now have their own devices.  

Despite the massive rollout of devices to our young children, BCPS does not have health and safety guidelines for their devices.  Nothing about limiting the amount of screen time.  Nothing about protecting students’ vision or about font sizes.  Nothing about hearing and volume level.  Nothing about posture.  

That is why I am writing in support of HB 866. Because we need to educate our children with technology.  But we need to do this as we do everything for our children - with care and with their safety and health as the top priority.  Do I want my children to be familiar with technology?  Absolutely.  But do I want schools to do this at risk of my children’s vision and hearing and brain development?  Absolutely not.  

Please vote yes on HB 866 and thank you for asking schools to set guidelines to protect our children.

Erica Mah
Parent, Hillcrest Elementary School and Catonsville MIddle School
Baltimore County, Maryland


Dear Chairmen Kaiser and Carter Conway,

The bills you are considering (HB866/SB1089) that will engage medical professionals in setting safety guidelines in Maryland classrooms are very important to me. I hope you will pass them. 

As a twice-tenured fifteen year veteran teacher at the elementary level in NY, I have seen the damaging effects of screens firsthand. Having stepped out of the classroom for 8 years to take care of my own children, I was shocked at what I discovered when I returned to teaching.

They are not the same children that I had once taught before screens entered the classroom. I get through less curriculum, see less critical thinking skills and have children who are stressed, tired and zoned out.

And sure enough, when I inquire about it, it seems that all roads lead to violent video games or allegedly "educational" screen time that seems to be wasted time. I implore you to pass this bill. I would love to help initiate similar legislation here in NY. The time has come for the medical community to ensure that our children are truly safe from this inundation of digital devices.

Luz Rojas Kardaras
3rd Grade Teacher 
Southampton Elementary School
Southampton, NY
WJZ-TV coverage of House Bill 866 Hearing Ways and Means Committee, Feb. 24, 2017

Video: Hearing testimony on House Bill 866 
(With many thanks to a terrific General Assembly IT guy.)

Testimony letter for HB866: "Primary and Secondary Education - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices"

House Ways and Means Committee Hearing
February 24, 2017
House Bill 866: SUPPORT

Chairman Kaiser, Vice Chair Turner, Members of the Committee:

Thank you for hearing this bill today.  I'd also like to thank those members who have co-sponsored House Bill 866: Delegates Eric Ebersole, April Rose, Haven Shoemaker and Jimmy Tarlau.

They have joined Delegate Arentz - our hero - making a total of 26 members of the House of Delegates, representing nearly every county, to safeguard Maryland's students from well-documented, avoidable harm posed by school equipment.

The health risks associated with digital devices have been known for decades. OSHA regulated computer monitors for adults back in the 1990s. Having enjoyed a cutting-edge technology career, I have known about these issues for years. That's why I was shocked to learn that Maryland has no safety guidelines for digital device use among growing children.

Scientific evidence mounts each day underscoring the need for professional medical guidance to ensure the safety of our kids. Myopia has doubled in our country. Scientists assure us that the blue light emmitted from the screens is permanently damaging students' vision, especially the youngest ones. Neck pain, blurry vision, dry eyes, headaches, sleeplessness, obesity, anxiety, depression and addiction are all documented side effects of students who use digital devices every day.

You can review the specific studies and references on Or you can heed the advice of the Maryland State Medical Society, MedChi, whose members -- all of them doctors -- agree that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must get involved to protect our kids and establish safety and health guidelines for our classrooms.

What's key about the involvement of DHMH is that department's role within the scientific and medical community.  DHMH is uniquely qualified to monitor new peer-reviewed data, trends, and evolving approaches to screen safety.  They have access to the vast array of specialty practitioners whose expertise is direly needed: optometrists, ophthalmologists, ergonomic experts, environmental health experts, and psychologists.

Teachers and school administrators should heave a large sigh of relief over this bill, knowing that they are no longer left to figure this all out for themselves. They are not doctors, but they are nonetheless legally responsible for the safety of the children in their care.  The unsafe use of equipment that harms our children is not a small legal consideration.

Best of all, HB866 is free of charge. Legislative services reports in its Fiscal Policy Note that there is no cost associated with the passage of this bill.  Students are protected from permanent harm, teachers are protected from additional liability, and it's free.

Please pass this common sense, critical bill and protect the health of all Maryland children as they master the skills they will need to be successful.

Thanks very much,

Cindy Eckard

Friday, February 3, 2017

WATCH THE VIDEO of Joint Committee testimony  
LEARN THE FACTS about health risks facing students  

House Ways and Means Committee Hearing for House Bill 866:  
Friday, Feb. 24 at 1:00 

 WMAL Radio Update
House Ways and Means Committee 
to hear classroom digital device safety bill
February 23, 2017

(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND) The House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly will hear legislation on Friday, February 24th at 1:00 that directs the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to craft safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in Maryland public schools. 

Delegate Steven Arentz (R-District 36) has sponsored the legislation, House Bill 866, "Primary and Secondary Education - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices." The House bill has 25 co-sponsors and broad bi-partisan support. An identical bill has been cross-filed by Senator Steve Hershey (R-District 36), co-sponsored by Senator James Brochin (D-District 42) and Senator Susan Lee (D-District 16). It has been referred to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB866 aims to protect Maryland students from the health hazards that medical experts have for many years associated with daily use of digital devices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had regulations governing the use of computers for office workers since the 1990s, but schools have no medical oversight.

"More and more experts are proving that there are serious risks to our kids' health because they spend every day on a digital device," Delegate Arentz said. "Maryland students need to get the most out of this technology, so we want medical professionals to lead us in a safe direction."

Researchers have shown that many of the same health issues addressed by OSHA are now facing students who use digital devices every day in school. Retinal damage from blue light emissions, myopia, sleeplessness, muscle and joint pain, headaches, blurred vision, obesity, anxiety and addiction have all been associated as health risks facing students because of daily digital device use.

The bill has substantial support from the state's medical community. The Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), which represents all of Maryland's doctors, voted to support the legislation at their most recent meeting, according to Gene Ransom, MedChi's Executive Director.  One of the co-sponsors, Delegate Clarence Lam, is a physician who leads Johns Hopkins University's preventative medicine residency program.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the Maryland bill also has the attention of several large health groups across the country. The nation's leading vision health organization, Prevent Blindness, supports the Maryland bill. Senior Vice President Jeff Todd wrote a letter commending Maryland's "efforts to ensure children’s vision, eye health and safety is at the forefront of any statewide effort related to childhood development."

Optometrists from around the country have also sent support to the General Assembly urging passage of this legislation, including J. Scott Sikes, O.D., a NC Optometric Society Education Trustee and Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, OD, FAAO, an Associate Professor at the Illinois College of Optometry and an attending optometrist in the Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Service of the Illinois Eye Institute.

“Protecting eyesight when it comes to the progressive use of digital technology and screen time addiction in young people is our number one priority” said Justin Barrett, CEO of Healthe, a company that creates products "to reduce exposure to harmful digital UV and High-Energy Visible (HEV) blue light emitted from such devices." "We hope the lawmakers will pass this important legislation to set a precedent for other states in the protection of all students."

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, PhD, LCSW-R, a nationally recognized addiction expert and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, writes: "I commend the screen safety effort in Maryland and strongly encourage the General Assembly to pass HB 866 and SB 1089 to mandate medically sound classroom regulations."

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a national advocacy organization with nearly 50,000 members, including 1,000 in Maryland. The group has asked Maryland lawmakers to give HB866 their "complete endorsement."  In a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, CCFC Executive Director, Josh Golin, writes, "It is critical that medical professionals develop clear, research-based, age-appropriate guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools."

Citing its 30-page research document released in August,
Parents Across America (PAA) is another national advocacy group endorsing HB866/SB1089. PAA notes that it "has prepared extensive materials about the harmful effects on children's academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development when digital devices are misused and overused... We applaud the Maryland lawmakers who have responded quickly and appropriately to this critical situation."

Maryland parents have rallied to support the classroom screen safety bill as well. Leslie Weber, Co-Founder of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools (ABCSchools), the largest public education advocacy coalition in the county, says, "This bill is greatly needed, especially in Baltimore County, where one of the nation's largest 1:1 digital initiatives is underway.  Children as young as 5 are in front of screens most days -- objective guidelines from the DHMH are needed to ensure the safety of these students."

Janis Sartucci, a member of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, said, "This bill is long overdue. Our children need to be protected from a variety of health risks that could affect them for a lifetime. We must get DHMH involved to be sure kids aren't hurt."

Queen Anne's County parent, Cindy Eckard, has testified and written extensively about the need for medical oversight of classroom digital devices. Her Op Eds have appeared in both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. During a recent radio interview Ms. Eckard told WBAL Radio reporter Robert Lang,  "Of course we want our kids to master technology; we just don't want them harmed in the process."

Ms. Eckard also noted that teachers have a legal duty of care to protect students from known hazards in the classroom. "This bill will help teachers too, giving them statewide, uniform safety guidelines, from medical professionals and specialists at DHMH."

Links to medical research; recorded General Assembly testimony; a screen safety press conference held in Annapolis with actress/comedian Paula Poundstone, and detailed information regarding the legislation are available on the website or email questions to Ms. Eckard at


Concerned citizens should contact the Chair, the Sponsor, and their own Delegate(s), while copying members of the Ways and Means Committee. All phone numbers are 410-841-extension.

Ways and Means Committee
Chair, Anne R. Kaiser, Montgomery County, Dem.

Vice Chair, Frank Turner, Howard Co, Dem.

Ways and Means Committee MEMBERSHIP 
This email list also includes the Sponsor, Delegate Steve Arentz:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

HB866 Sponsor
Steven Arentz, hero
Kent, Queen Anne's, Cecil & Caroline Co., Rep.


* indicates Ways & Means member

Angela Angel, PG, Dem.

Susan Aumann, Balt. Co., Rep

Wendell Beitzel, Garrett & Allegany, Rep.

Benjamin Brooks, Balto. Co., Dem.

Ned Carey, AA, Dem.

Alfred Carr, MoCo, Dem.

Mark Chang, AA, Dem.

Joe Cluster, Balt. Co., Rep.

*Eric Ebersole, Balt.Co & How Co., Dem.
Diana Fennell, PG, Dem.

David Fraser-Hidalgo, MoCo, Dem

Michael Jackson, Calvert & PG, Dem.

Jay Jacobs, Kent, QA,Cecil, Caroline, Rep.

Ariana Kelly, MoCo, Dem.

Trent Kittleman, Howard & Carroll, Rep

Benjamin Kramer, MoCo, Dem.

Stephen Lafferty, Balto. Co., Dem.

Johnny Mautz, Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, Wicomico, Rep.

Susan McComas, Harford, Rep.

Pat McDonough, Balt Co and Harford Co, Rep.

Ric Metzgar, Balto. Co, Rep.

*April Rose, Carroll Co., Rep.

*Haven Shoemaker, Carroll Co., Rep.

*Jimmy Tarlau, PG Co., Dem.

To reference bill:



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Here's the House bill: HB866

Delegate Arentz has done an outstanding job getting support for this critical effort to protect Maryland students.  There are 24 co-sponsors from all across the state:

It will be heard in the Ways and Means Committee. A cross-filed bill in the Senate is expected. Details about the hearing(s) will be posted here, and on Twitter: @screensandkids

Please contact your legislators and the members of the Ways and Means Committee to let them know you want this bill to pass.

You can find your lawmakers' contact information here:

You can find information about the Ways and Means Committee here: