Join Club

Peter’s Take: Parents Need to Stand Up for Safe Use of Schools’ Digital Devices

Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Long before COVID-19 and during COVID-19, I have been critical of APS’s excessive reliance on digital devices.

I’ve cited many scientific studies documenting the damage that excessive screen use causes to students who are suffering the health impacts emotionally and physically, showing that overuse of digital devices also affects students’ educational growth and development. Even though some APS students are doing well in a virtual environment, COVID-19 has aggravated and increased substantially these previously documented harms.

Although these risks to students’ health pre-existed COVID-19, the increased impacts from remote learning are now alarming health professionals.

Health impacts from remote learning

Children are worse off than before COVID-19 as their screen use is constant. Sedentary for most of their day, many don’t have the opportunity to learn and play outdoors. The screen’s blue light may be impacting healthy sleep patterns- creating serious secondary impacts from sleep disruptions and associated mental health issues.

Childhood myopia was well established as a worldwide epidemic long before the lockdown. But the damage done by constant screen use and lack of outdoor play in the last year has created a “crisis” according to the American Optometric Association, which just held an ’emergency summit’ to address the growing health threat to children’s eye health and vision associated directly with increased screen use among children.

Children’s eyes are more vulnerable to the impacts of digital devices because they are still growing and haven’t developed the same kind of light protection that adults have, so they are more likely to be impacted by the blue light coming from the schools’ digital devices they are required to use.

That blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, which is needed to fall asleep.  As a result, children are now suffering more than ever from sleep disruptions, which impacts nearly every other aspect of a child’s health, from the ability to focus and perform in school, to the development of mental health issues.

Childhood obesity has long been rampant, but now is sky-rocketing due to increased sedentary time imposed by relentless screen use.

APS parents should insist on digital device safety in school

Fortunately, a new Virginia law addresses the health risks associated with the schools’ digital devices. The new law requires “the Department of Education (VDOE), in collaboration with the Department of Health and medical professional societies, to develop and distribute health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools no later than the 2021-2022 school year.”

On March 29, VDOE posted a draft of the mandated Health and Safety Digital Device guidelines for public comment, asking the public to weigh in regarding classroom digital device safety before April 28th.

Every APS parent should seize this opportunity to comment to VDOE and insist to their child’s principal that these guidelines be followed.

APS’s over-reliance on digital devices and virtual learning, particularly in K-5, was already a serious problem pre-COVID-19. Although APS labelled this “personalized learning,” it detracted from the genuine, in-person classroom interactions which are vital for the development of young children.

With their experiences observing virtual learning at home over the past year, many more Arlington parents now have a first-hand look at the overuse and adverse impact of the schools’ devices on their children’s health and well-being.

These guidelines address digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels, the amount of time spent on digital devices in the classroom and at home, appropriate break frequency from the use of digital devices, ergonomics and posture.


VDOE’s proposed new Digital Health and Safety Guidelines provide Arlington parents with a timely and critically-important opportunity to weigh in using the VDOE comment form. Parents should do that.

Parents also should contact their school’s principal to insist that APS needs to do much more to “think outside the screen.” Offer more outdoor classroom spaces, manipulatives, math workbooks, journals, grow gardens.

Simply turning off the devices, and going outside to play dramatically improves a child’s visionweight, and mental health. Free of charge. Arlington children need more time outside and less time on screens.

Thanks to Cindy Eckard for her help with this column.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC, a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

Recent Stories

The “Markers Market” is coming back to Pentagon City, planned for the first Sunday of every month starting this weekend. The market featuring local artists, creators, food, and music is…

Police are investigating the death of a man found in a vehicle on a quiet residential street near Marymount University. Police say the man’s death “does not appear to be…

This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can…

Green Valley’s New District Brewery is auctioning off its equipment, ARLnow has learned, but the door is not fully closed on the local brewery opening elsewhere. Arlington’s only production brewery…

Synetic Theater Camps are a wildly fun, highly accessible choice for young people who love moving, playing games, and making memories. Registration is open now for Summer Camps (sessions June 20-August 25) and there are even a few spots left for Spring Break camp, April 3­-7.

Located in National Landing, these performance-based camps are designed for students of all ages – no theater or performance experience required.

Led by professional teaching artists, campers learn acting, movement, and technical theater skills through the lens of Physical Theater. Physical Theater incorporates acting, movement, dance, mime, and acrobatics. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’ll find many similarities.

Most first-time campers are new to the performing arts, and teaching artists are well-versed in engaging students at all levels. Parents and campers report that one of the best parts of Synetic is the community, with many families returning year after year because they feel a strong sense of belonging.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

EDBS Dental Billing Solutions is pleased to announce that it has achieved compliance with the federally mandated standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) through the use of Compliancy Group’s proprietary HIPAA methodology, The Guard® compliance tracking software, and HIPAA Seal of Compliance®.

The HIPAA Seal of Compliance is issued to organizations that have implemented an effective HIPAA compliance program through the use of The Guard, Compliancy Group’s proprietary compliance tracking solution.

Clients and patients are becoming more aware of the requirements of HIPAA compliance and how the regulation protects their personal information. Forward-thinking providers like EDBS Dental Billing Solutions choose the HIPAA Seal of Compliance to differentiate their services.

“Since the nature of our business being exclusively remote, we take HIPAA compliance very seriously. With the help of Compliancy Group, we are able to take steps to fortify our systems to protect PHI information and familiarize each employee about HIPAA and how we can further safeguard PHI data.” said EDBS Dental Billing Solutions founder Goldie De Leon.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

WHS Spring Festival

Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!

Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and

District 27 Toastmasters 2023 Virtual Conference

District 27 Toastmasters invites you to its annual conference where you can hear phenomenal speakers, attend professional development and personal growth seminars about leadership, negotiation, communication, teamwork, and mentorship. Learn how to develop your personal story and how to improve


Subscribe to our mailing list