Saturday, March 3, 2018

Support testimony for HB1110
Friday, March 2, 2018
Maryland House of Delegates
Ways and Means Committee

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

I am writing in support of HB1110: "Public Schools - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices." The bill's primary sponsor, Delegate Steve Arentz, represents my district and has championed this effort to protect Maryland's children from the growing list of health risks associated with the use of the schools' digital devices.

It is encouraging to see so many members of the House Ways and Means Committee as co-sponsors of this crucial effort: Delegates Buckel, Ebersole, Hornberger, Patterson, Rose, Shoemaker and Tarlau, thank you. This is a vitally important bill and your support is deeply appreciated.

Just this week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released data showing that obesity remains epidemic among children - and that diabetes and heart disease are a growing problem, as a result. The AAP also announced this week that teenagers should be screened annually for depression, given the recent dramatic spike in teen suicides. Ophthalmologists report that myopia is also impairing our children, leading to problems in school, and posing additional risks for blindness later in life from associated glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment.

All of these conditions - and more, such as sleeplessness, anxiety and addiction - are related to the daily use of digital devices according to researchers.

HB1110 brings MSDE together with MDH and a group of medical experts, the teachers' union, MABE, and parents to craft guidelines that will protect Maryland's children from avoidable harm, while they learn new technologies.

This effort has overwhelming support statewide and nationwide from the medical community, child health advocates, county elected officials and parents. The Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), the American Academy of Pediatrics' Maryland chapter, and the Mental Health Association of Maryland all endorse HB1110. Queen Anne's County Commissioners support this legislation. They are joined by Prevent Blindness America, Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, Parents Across America, and Common Sense Media, who has just launched a campaign to combat the health problems associated with digital device use.

These advocates and experts all agree: the unregulated use of school digital devices is a serious threat to children's health and preventative steps must be taken to ensure that Maryland students are protected. HB1110 creates a statewide framework of safety guidelines for local districts to adopt, enabling our children to master technology, without being harmed in the process.

Your favorable review of the legislation will make the difference in the health of every Maryland student, now and in the future.

Thank you for your consideration,

Cindy Eckard