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