Virginia House of Delegates approves
classroom screen safety bill
UPDATE: Virginia General Assembly has passed HB817, making it the second state to acknowledge the digital device health risks posed to students by their schools, and to require health and safety guidelines.
Arlington, Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope is leading an effort to ensure that students throughout the state are given health and safety protections when using classroom digital devices, long known to pose serious health risks - especially to children.
The Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved the measure on Friday, Jan. 31, so it moves on to the Senate for consideration in the coming weeks.
The Virginia bill (HB817)
is patterned after a Maryland law (HB1110/Ch244
) unanimously passed in both the House and Senate in 2018.
Child health advocates are currently working with committed Maryland lawmakers to see that Maryland's effort is authentically implemented - and students get the medically sound classroom protections that the General Assembly mandated.
Let's make sure that Virginia passes this law too, and that the pattern of protecting children from known and avoidable health risks imposed by their schools spreads across the country. Special thanks to all of the advocates who are working so hard to
protect Virginia kids - especially Delegate Hope
, Laura Bowman and Ann
Here is a letter of support provided for the Virginia bill. Updates are posted regularly on Twitter; please follow that account to stay informed.
January 25, 2020
Virginia House Of Delegates
Members, Information Technology, Communications and Innovation Committee
Re: Support for HB817: Public schools; use of digital devices
Honorable Chairman Hayes, Vice-Chair Ayala and Members of the Committee:
am writing in support of HB817, to protect Virginia students from known
hazards in their classrooms, and ensure that the health of the state's
children is not jeopardized by their schools. I led a similar effort in
Maryland, which established the first law in the country to provide
classroom health and safety best practices for the schools' digital
devices. I hope Virginia will do the same.
decision regarding HB817 is a simple one: protect Virginia children from
known health risks at school or allow them to suffer the health impacts
posed by the hazardous digital devices they are required to use.
is a well-documented public health issue, not a curricular debate.
Efforts have been made to distinguish 'educational' from 'recreational'
use of devices, and 'passive' versus 'active' use of devices. These are
unsound arguments. Children suffer from poor ergonomics, vision, eye
health and sleep issues regardless of the content. This bill will ensure
that children's health is not at risk while they benefit from learning
opportunities the devices offer. Virginia students should not have to
choose between damaged health and the use of technology.
regulations are in place for adults who use computers because the
health and safety hazards are extremely well documented, and have been
since the 1990s. As consumers and employees, you have protections from
the hazards posed by these devices; Virginia students have none.
adults, you're fully grown. Your bones are formed, your brain is
formed. Your eyes are fully developed. But children are still growing.
They have unique health and safety needs - they are not just small
adults. The lenses of your eyes have developed pigmentation that offers
some protection from the devices' damaging blue light, giving you a kind
of built-in sunglasses.
Children's eyes don't have that yet. The blue
light from the schools' devices goes straight to the back of a child's
eye, and it's toxic, permanently damaging retinal cells, according to
eye health experts. An entire book was just published
underscoring the health concerns shared by ophthalmologists and optometrists nationwide surrounding device use.
Thanks to Delegate Delaney, a co-patron of this effort, Virginia has
recently passed a law to increase recess in schools. That is simply the
very best news imaginable as it relates directly to the schools' demand
for children to use digital devices every day. Constant near work on
digital devices combined with a lack of outdoor play is the one-two
punch that is fueling a worldwide myopia epidemic that experts say will
ultimately affect half of the world's population
in the next thirty years.
The University of Southern California's landmark myopia study
revealed that myopia affects minorities more than anyone else. Due to
genetic factors, children of Asian, African-American and Hispanic
descent will suffer the most. Recess - just playing outside - has
consistently been shown to be an effective myopia prevention
Increased outdoor play will also address the unbridled childhood
obesity suffered by so many children, now glued to their screens at
Pediatric health experts in every field are sounding the alarm.
Spiraling obesity, heart disease and diabetes among children has so
alarmed the American Heart Association, that the organization has called
for screen use limits
, recognizing the serious impact of increased sedentary behavior among kids.
schools' impact reaches into the children's health at home as well, as
students complete their assignments late into the night, crippling good
sleep habits. Blue light from the screens suppresses the production of
melatonin, the hormone we all need to fall asleep. Sleep is critical to a
growing child's health. Children are being misdiagnosed with ADHD
simply because they are exhausted. Sleep disruption is impacting
behavioral issues, eye health, weight, and mental health issues. Suicide
is now skyrocketing among children and young adults.
bill will address these issues, and establish the protections growing
children in Virginia need and are legally owed. The Communications
Subcommittee took the first step, recognized the urgency of this effort
to protect students and recommended that the effort moves forward.
Please lead Virginia into a healthy future, protect your children from
needless harm, and approve HB817.
Thanks very much for your consideration,
Eckard is a Maryland parent with a technology and communications
background who led the effort to create the first 'health and safety
best practices' for schools' digital devices in the country (HB1110/CH244).
Maryland passed the law in 2018. Ms. Eckard's testimony is available in
the archives of several Maryland state committees, including the the
Joint Committee on Information Technology, Cybersecurity and
Biotechnology; House Ways and Means; and the Senate Education, Health
and Environmental Affairs Committee. Her editorials have appeared in the
Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Psychology Today, and BAM! Radio
network. Television and radio news interviews are linked on her webpage,
which also provides extensive medical research regarding the myriad
health risks posed to children from daily digital device use and a
history of the Maryland law's progression: www.screensandkids.us
. Community members can follow Ms. Eckard's Twitter account, which
highlights the latest medical research relevant to children's health
impacts from the schools' digital devices. @screensandkids