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: