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Advocates for Baltimore County Schools

ABCSchools is a coalition of education advocacy groups, each having a unique focus, but all sharing a common mission: improved
responsiveness, accountability, transparency, and performance for Baltimore County Public Schools.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/accountableschoolboard/

February 22, 2017

Dear Chairperson Kaiser, Vice Chairperson Turner, and Members of the House Ways and Means Committee:

We are writing to ask for your support for cross-filed bills that are pending in the Maryland Legislature, HB866 and SB1089. This
legislation directs the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to craft guidelines to ensure students in pre-K through high school
use digital devices safely in class and at home for homework.

ABCSchools has heard from a number of concerned Baltimore County parents due to the fact that all first through sixth graders in our
public school system are now getting their curriculum delivered on laptops with plans to expand the program to all middle schools and
high schools. One of the most frequent issues we have heard relates to the amount of time students, especially those in elementary
school, now spend with digital devices. Parental and teacher concerns also relate to consequences from the lack of health guidance on
how to use technology safely. Our advocacy group understands that there is a role for technology in schools for children, but it must
be used safely, and in balance with everything children need to be healthy and learn.

Here are some specific concerns:

Ergonomics Parents worry about headaches and muscle and joint pain due to positions in which students are using the
devices.
Sleep disruption Homework for middle school students that can only be done on the devices makes it difficult to adhere to
the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation against device use in the hour before bed.
Vision Nationally, there are increasing rates of myopia in children, along with eye strain.
Physical activity and obesity One particularly widespread concern among parents is the use of technology for recess.
Addiction Many parents have commented on the gamification of learning and how some children become fixated or
obsessed with the gaming aspects of the technology, and that they spend less time on other essential activities for learning
and well-being.

Medical research shows that myopia, blurry vision, dry eyes, headaches, muscle and joint pain, sleeplessness, obesity, anxiety, and
addiction are all associated with daily use of digital devices, and that many of these hazards are associated with more diseases, such as
diabetes and heart disease.

Baltimore Countys School Health Council has begun to preliminarily address these issues, and while this is an important step in the
right direction, ABCSchools believes that statewide, professional guidance that is independent and focused on the well-being of
children is needed. It is essential that schools across the state have guidance from health professionals, including pediatricians,
ophthalmologists, and nurses, on safe use of technology in schools.

It is our hope that the Ways and Means Committee will support HB866/SB1089 to ensure the safety of all Maryland students. Twenty-
four delegates are co-sponsors for Delegate Arentz's bill, clearly demonstrating that this is an important issue statewide. Children
should not be inadvertently harmed doing classwork and homework. Health risks must be identified and mitigated.

Sincerely,
Advocates for Baltimore County Schools
abcschoolsmd@gmail.com