Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Queen Anne's County Endorses 
Maryland Classroom Screen Safety Bill
Hearing for HB1110 in Ways and Means, Friday, March 2 at 1 pm

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Press Release:
Landmark legislation will establish safety guidelines for classroom computers 
February 22, 2018

HB1110:  "Public Schools - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices" directs the Maryland State Department of Education, consulting with the Maryland Department of Health to convene a group of medical experts and stakeholders to develop health and safety guidelines for the schools' technology equipment.

Sponsored by Delegate Steven Arentz (R-District 36, Eastern Shore) and 32 co-sponsors - representing statewide bipartisan support - the legislation is in response to the mounting scientific data that underscores the need to protect children from visual, physical and mental health risks posed by the unsafe use of classroom devices.

Delegate Arentz reports, "The research just continues to mount - our kids need to be protected, while they learn how to compete in the world today."

The University of Southern California's Roski Eye Institute has identified the use of screens as a factor contributing to the epidemic myopia now seen among children in the United States. Says lead researcher, Dr. Rohit Varma, "the use of mobile devices and screens on a daily basis, combined with a lack of proper lighting or sunlight, may be the real culprit behind these dramatic increases." Extreme myopia can lead to serious complications later in life, including glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment and macular degeneration -- all potentially blinding conditions. 

Clinicians are also concerned about dry eye disease, since children do not blink often enough when using screens, in addition to "eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches." Making matters worse, the research shows that because children don't realize anything's wrong, they don't report or mitigate their own discomfort.

Researchers are also concerned about the effects of sleeplessness caused by the use of digital devices, including computers used for homework at night.  The HEV blue light emitted from digital devices suppresses an important hormone called melatonin, which tells the brain it's time to rest.

Without melatonin, kids can't sleep, and, according to the National Sleep Foundation, become agitated and anxious. Their research reports that "adults usually become sluggish when tired while children tend to overcompensate and speed up. For this reason, sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with ADHD in children."

The World Health Organization reports that obesity, diabetes and heart disease in children are also being associated with the increased sedentary behaviors that coincide with unsafe digital device use, noting "the increasingly urbanized and digitalized world offers fewer opportunities for physical activity through healthy play."

Addiction to technology, anxiety and suicide are also grave concerns for clinicians, and the focus of numerous studies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the number 2 cause of death among teenagers today. And while much of those studies concentrate on personal use of computers, schools are increasingly using digital devices as their primary platform for communication, even within the classroom.

As a result of the increasing research, the American Academy of Pediatrics' Maryland Chapter and the Mental Health Association of Maryland as well as the Maryland State Medical Society, (MedChi) representing all of the state's physicians, have all endorsed the legislation, hoping that the General Assembly will heed the medical warnings.

National child advocacy groups are also endorsing HB1110, including Parents Across America and Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood (CCFC), which has more than 800 members in Maryland.

"Maryland lawmakers are leading the nation by protecting children from overuse of digital devices in the classroom. We applaud this initiative and wholeheartedly support this bill," said Josh Golin, CCFC Executive Director, whose organization has just launched the Children’s Screen Time Action Network. The Network will host the first national conference on children’s screen time issues in Boston on April 20-21.

Concerned parents across the state are hopeful that legislators will pass the bill and ensure that their children are using the schools' equipment safely. The legislation has the support of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools and the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County.

Queen Anne's County parent Cindy Eckard, who has spearheaded this effort, has compiled scientific studies and safety warnings from digital device manufacturers on her website, and @screensandkids Twitter account to help educate policy makers, legislators and the public.

"While the debate over the personal use of screens will likely continue as a parenting issue, it is the legal responsibility of the schools and the individual teachers to avoid known hazards and provide a safe classroom. Educational applications pose the same risk to our children's developing eyes and growing bodies as any other content," she says.

"The medical evidence cannot be ignored: our children will be damaged without protections in the classroom."

The hearing for HB1110 is scheduled in the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, March 2 at 1:00. For more information, contact Delegate Arentz's office at 410-841-3543, or Cindy Eckard:

Monday, February 19, 2018

Maryland students are counting on you to protect them:  

Ask lawmakers to pass HB1110

The hearing on HB1110 "Public Schools - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices" will be held on March 2 at 1:00 in the Ways and Means Committee. 

A letter from you is important, so that lawmakers know how much support this critical legislation has across the state, and beyond, as other states hope to see Maryland establish a model for the country. 

Children must be protected from the known health risks associated with the daily use of digital devices. This bill brings schools, doctors, teachers, children's health experts and parents together to craft safety guidelines to protect our children, now and in the future.

Please remember to put the bill number in your letter and on the subject line and copy these key people: Ways and Means Chair Anne Kaiser; Delegate Eric Luedtke, who heads the Ways and Means education subcommittee; Delegate Steve Arentz, the champion for students who has sponsored this effort; and your delegate(s).

Here is an easy copy/paste of their email addresses:
Here is a General Assembly directory of lawmakers in each county, their committees, and their contact information to help you include your own elected official(s).

Many thanks to all the co-sponsors

It's exciting to have such broad bi-partisan support across the state from 32 delegates who have co-sponsored HB1110. If you would like to include a copy to these caring lawmakers, that would be helpful too. The names in bold indicate House Ways and Means Committee members whose vote on this bill will be essential:

Christopher AdamsCarl AndertonWendell Beitzel, Benjamin Brooks Jason BuckelMark Chang, Jerry Clark, Luke Clippinger,   Joe Cluster,   Paul CordermanEric Ebersole, William Folden, Jeff Ghrist, Shelly Hettleman, Kevin Hornberger, Rick Impallaria, Jay Jacobs, Nicholaus Kipke, Stephen Lafferty, Robbyn Lewis, Brooke Lierman, Johnny Mautz, Pat McDonough, Ric Metzgar, Warren Miller, Edith Patterson, April Rose, Haven Shoemaker, Jimmy Tarlau, David Vogt, Chris West, C.T. Wilson

Thanks very much for your help. If you're short on time, please just call your Delegate and ask to get this bill passed. Children and parents across the country are counting on us to create this blueprint for student safety nationwide. 

We can do this.

Cindy Eckard

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Maryland House Bill 1110:

Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices

UPDATE: Hearing will be held on Friday, March 2 at 1pm in the House Ways & Means Committee.  Please see THIS PAGE for testimony instructions.

Please support this important effort in the Maryland General Assembly to get classroom safety guidelines for digital devices crafted and implemented. The visual, physical and psychological risks to our children posed by the schools' devices are a statewide public health issue. This bill offers an excellent solution for protecting Maryland students and is a model for other states.

HB1110 "Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices" brings the state department of education (MSDE) together with the health department (MDH) to craft classroom guidelines, based on the advice of a group of stakeholders. That group includes the teachers' union, medical experts, parent groups and child health advocates.

The bill will create a crucial framework of reference for schools, teachers, families and policy makers to ensure that uniform guidelines are in place.This is vital to the protection of Maryland students who will be using the schools' technology tools throughout their educational experience. That prolonged use - from Kindergarten to graduation - poses its own unique medical concerns.

Medical experts need to be involved in order to include clinical data, and to share vital updated information statewide as new research becomes available. Uniform standards will guarantee that all Maryland children are equally protected from the hazards of their school devices regardless of where they live, and that all school communities are benefiting from the latest medical research. 

We have a great deal of momentum already. The bill has 31 co-sponsors, representing broad bi-partisan support statewide and growing national support. We owe Delegate Steve Arentz a huge thank you for sponsoring the bill again. Updates and new research are posted on the Twitter account: @screensandkids. You don't have to be on Twitter to look at the feed; just go to the page, and you can click on the latest news.

The bill will be heard in the House Ways & Means Committee; a hearing date is expected to be announced this week. I hope you'll lend your voices to get this done this year. Please call your representatives, those who have co-sponsored, and those who are on the Committee to show your support.

Let's go save some kids.


Cindy Eckard