With the potential hazards of screen use gaining more widespread awareness, Maryland’s Department of Education has released a state-sanctioned best practices guide for digital device use in the classroom this month, in accordance with a bill aimed at protecting students from the dangers of excessive screen time. The resulting guidelines offer health and safety pointers, some of which take digital eyestrain into account.1
With respect to eye care, the one-page guideline calls for educators in the state to limit students’ time on devices to 10 to 20 minutes, with reminders to take eye and stretch breaks. Students should use devices at least 20 inches from their eyes while seated at a desk or table, and educators should keep the lighting conditions even throughout the room to minimize contrast between the environment and the screen.
The state is also offering free resources to help educators ensure proper posture, lighting and appropriate distance from the screen. These documents are available online, along with video guides.2,3
In 2018, a Maryland bill requested the state’s schools come up with guidelines on how long students can be exposed to screens and how laptops, tablet computers and digital readers can impact a child’s ocular health. The state’s board of education, in partnership with its department of health, was tasked with working alongside physician groups to develop preventative measures for digital device–associated eye diseases, as well as other screen-related health issues.4
Cindy Eckard, an activist who worked on the initial bill, called the state’s guidelines “profoundly mediocre,” and lamented that it doesn’t make mention of digital screens’ association with myopia or the impact of blue light on the retina, although it does provide information about blue light’s effects on sleep as well as computer vision syndrome and its relationship to dry eye, eye strain and fatigue and headaches. However, it’s a start, she says. “Parents now have a framework to reference when working to protect their children at school,” she says.
1. Spector C. Maryland mother pushes for screen time regulations in schools. Star Democrat.
2. Maryland Department of Education. Health and safety best practices digital devices in the classroom. Maryland Public Schools.Marylandpublicschools.org/programs/Pages/ITSLM/HealthSafetyBestPractices.aspx. July 1, 2019.
3. Maryland Department of Health. Health and safety best practice guidelines: digital devices. Maryland Public Schools.
4. Arentz D. Public Schools – Health and safety best practices—digital devices. Maryland General Assembly.