Louisiana legislates student protections from digital device health risks: 4th state to create health and safety guidelines for schools

by Cindy Eckard
@screensandkids on Twitter

Children using digital devices are at risk for several impacts to their health, especially myopia, obesity, sleep disruptions and addiction. While social media is currently the focus of politicians and many children’s health advocates, my concern has always been the schools’ increasing demands for digital device use among growing children. Since it is the schools’ duty of care to avoid known harms in a learning environment, and since OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has regulated the hazards posed by computers in the workplace since the 1990’s, I contend that the risks are well known, and should therefore be avoided. Especially among children.


School is the child’s workplace, but students have no workplace protections from documented health hazards. Children are forced to use a consumer product – a digital device – with no consumer product protections. The notion that ‘recreational’ screen use should be limited, while equally hazardous educational use is encouraged is simply craven. Students’ health should not be traded for an education. Sedentary behavior is sedentary behavior whatever the setting.. Near work on a screen contributes to myopia regardless of the content, and blue light affects children’s sleep patterns no matter what they’re viewing. “Educational” screen use has been given a pass for far too long.

The myriad health risks children face are actually worse than those facing adults because kids are still growing. Their eyes are still changing and so are their bones and brains. Many of the chronic impacts of daily screen use, such as high myopia and obesity, can introduce lifelong health issues, including glaucoma, diabetes, and heart disease, so prevention of the original conditions is critical. There is good news however: research has shown that simply getting children back outside on the playground can help them avoid many of the health impacts introduced by the schools’ demands for more screen use.

But the increased demands for online classwork have displaced recess and outdoor play in many schools, so students are twice denied a healthy learning environment. Unlike social media, students have little or no choice when it comes to the use of school devices. Not only are they required to sit indoors tethered to a screen (increasing sedentary behavior and visual near-work)  but they are also denied the time outdoors that decades of research shows is necessary for the healthy development of their bodies, brains, eyes and vision. They are, essentially, required to hurt their own health, because of the growing demands placed on them from their schools to sit inside and stare at a screen.

New Louisiana law follows Maryland, Virginia and Texas

So in 2016, I approached my Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and he agreed to sponsor a bill that would protect students’ health from the impacts of the schools’ requirements for digital device use. It took two years, but in 2018, the first bill of its kind in the country passed unanimously in both the Maryland House and Senate and the governor signed it into law. Two years after that, using the Maryland law as a guide, Virginia passed the second law, providing health and safety oversight of classroom digital devices. The following year, a Texas mom who had been following the Maryland legislation was busy getting a similar one passed in her state as well.

The most recent effort in Louisiana, the 4th state to pass a law creating health and safety guidelines for the schools’ digital devices, was also the 4th mom-led effort. Dr. Holly Groh, an ophthalmologist, mother of four, and community leader in New Orleans, contacted me to see if we could get a law passed there, similar to the others. It took another two years to get it passed, but the new Louisiana law, sponsored by Representative Aimee Adatto Freeman, continues to improve student protections.

Remote learning impacted children’s health, increasing both myopia and obesity, especially. And in Louisiana, where obesity rates were already high, the urgent need to address the health impacts of the schools’ devices was made very clear to the General Assembly. The committee testimony was compelling, and included dramatic artwork created independently by high school students who used their art to illustrate how physically and mentally uncomfortable the daily use of the schools’ devices had made them.

Medical experts round out Louisiana work group

The most important aspect of the Louisiana law was the establishment of a work group comprised of children’s health specialists in a variety of fields, to work with the Louisiana Board of Education and the Department of Health and create a set of medically sound school health and safety guidelines. Experts in eye health, children’s vision, sleep, obesity, orthopedics, pulmonology and cardiology all contributed to the dialogue, to ensure that the schools’ devices will be used in ways that minimize health risks to the students.

The Louisiana health and safety guidelines created by the work group, were just released. A key recommendation in the new guidelines is the distribution of the digital device manufacturers’ health and safety warnings, to help families better understand the health risks of the devices themselves. These warnings are usually not provided to the students or their families when the devices are distributed by schools, even though they are included in the original product packaging. The law further requires annual review of the guidelines, to ensure that the student protections reflect the latest medical insights and research.

Additional recommendations include:

– increasing recess and time outdoors

– ensuring safe ergonomic configurations of the equipment

– staggering the use of devices throughout the school day to provide scheduled breaks

– setting proper audio levels

– not using devices during recess

– not using devices after dark

– a link to Louisiana’s substantial 16-page student privacy guidebook

Moving forward

There is a simple lesson to be learned from the passage of these laws: schools have been failing in their legal obligation to protect students in their care. Schools systems – guided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ed Tech plans – never performed any risk analyses on the health impacts to growing children required to use these devices every day. Children are now paying the price for this lack of due diligence with their health: obesity and myopia are both now at epidemic proportions while most school systems ignore their duty of care. So legislative action has been needed.

It shouldn’t take the passage of laws to get kids protected, but at least now those parents who are motivated to take action have examples they can draw upon, to illustrate the need for health and safety oversight of the schools’ equipment. The next state general assemblies will be easier to convince, with this growing list of legislative wins, and sadly, with the growing evidence that children have been negatively impacted.

But if you’re not ready to head to the state capital, perhaps the best place to start is with your own kids – make sure they have a complete dilated eye exam. Make sure they spend more time offline and outside. And ask your school’s leadership what steps are being taken to provide healthy and safe practices for your child’s use of school equipment.


Parents and advocates speak out against appointment of John King as SUNY Chancellor

For immediate release: December 5, 2022
Contact: Lisa Rudley, [email protected]; 917-414-9190


Parents and advocates speak out against appointment of John King as SUNY Chancellor

Parents and advocates from throughout New York state criticized the appointment of John King as the Chancellor of the State University system, based upon his dismal record as NY State Education Commissioner.

Said Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out, “As Education Commissioner, John King was a disaster,  pushing the invalid Common Core standards and redesigning the state tests to be excessively long, with reading passages far above grade level, and full of ambiguous questions. He worked to ensure that the majority of kids would fail the state tests and be labelled not college-ready, including in many districts where nearly every student attends college and does well there.  His actions led directly to massive opposition among parents and the largest testing opt out movement in the country.  Many schools are still dealing with the destructive impact of his policies; I would be very sorry if SUNY students are faced with a similar fate.”

Lisa Rudley, the executive director of NY State Allies for Public Education, said, “SUNY Faculty and students should be forewarned! John King consistently ignored the legitimate concerns of parents and teachers regarding the policies he pursued as NY State Education Commissioner, by rewriting the standards, imposing an arduous high stakes testing regime, and basing teacher evaluation on student test scores, none of which had any research behind it and all of which undermined the quality of education in our public schools.  This led to a no-confidence vote of the state teachers union, and if the state’s parents had been able to carry out such a vote, you can be sure they would have done so as well.“

Leonie Haimson, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, explained, “Under John King, New York State was the worst state in the country in its failure to protect student privacy and the last state to pull out of inBloom, the hugely invasive data-collection and data-sharing corporation created with $100 million of Gates Foundation funds.  New York was the only state whose Commissioner refused to listen to the outraged cries of parents concerning the plan to share the most intimate details of their children’s educational records with inBloom, which in turn planned to share the data with other ed tech corporations to build their programs around.  New York was also the only state in which an act of the Legislature was required to prohibit this plan from going forward.  Has John King learned his lesson regarding the importance of protecting student privacy?  For the sake of SUNY students, I surely hope so.”


Please provide your comments to the FTC on student privacy – deadline Monday 11/21/22

Right now, the Federal Trade Commission is collecting comments from the public about how their oversight of the use of personal data by commercial enterprises can be improved. As you know, many parents are rightly concerned that too many vendors that collect personal student data at the behest of schools and districts have recklessly allowed that data to breach, and/or have used it for advertising, sale, or other commercial purposes. The comment period to the FTC has been extended through this Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, and we encourage all parents to submit comments by the end of that day.

Since the pandemic, the risky use of digital programs and apps in schools has soared. Most of these programs are operated and owned by for-profit companies who have been collecting personal student data without parental consent, sufficient oversight, restrictions, and/or security protections. As a result, the number of student data breaches has exploded.

This is in part because the existing data security provisions in federal law are weak or non-existent. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, only requires “reasonable” security without the FTC having defined that term, while FERPA does not specify any security standards at all. And too many vendors are using personal data to target ads to students or their families, and/or to build new programs and services around, which are clearly commercial and not educational purposes.

We encourage you to submit your comments here; no later than this Monday at 11:59 pm. Let the FTC know that they should use all their authority to ensure that student data is safe and secure and used ONLY for educational purposes. A sample email is below, but please edit it any way you like. MOST important is for you to add any examples of when your children’s data was breached or improperly used. Please also share any such experiences with us, to aid us in our work going forward, by emailing us at [email protected]

A sample email message is below. Thanks!


To the FTC:

I am a parent and am very concerned about how the number of student data breaches has skyrocketed in recent years, through hacking, ransomware, and other cybersecurity events. Moreover, too often school vendors are also using and abusing student data for commercial uses. I urge you to require enforceable contracts that require encryption, as well as other strong security standards for the collection, disclosure, and use of student data. Also, these contracts must prohibit vendors from accessing or using any data they do not need for the purposes of carrying out their contracted services, and the information they do collect should be deleted as soon as possible, preferably at the conclusion of each school year or at the very least, when students graduate or leave the district.

I also urge you to strongly prohibit the use of student data for any commercial purpose, including allowing vendors to sell it, to use it to target ads, and/or to use it to develop new products or services.

Yours sincerely [ add your name here].

And have a great Thanksgiving!

Leonie Haimson & Cassie Creswell, co-chairs
Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
[email protected]
Follow @parents4privacy
Subscribe to Parent Coalition for Student Privacy newsletter at https://www.studentprivacymatters.org/join-us

Presentation at 1st Int. Congress on Democratic Digital Education and Open Edtech.

I just gave a brief presentation at the 1st International Congress on Democratic Digital Education and Open Edtech in Barcelona (remotely), on how the Parent Coalition began and how our fight continues.

We also engaged in a brief discussion about how the pandemic has undermined student learning & privacy thru the expanded use of online products – but push to privatize schooling via ed tech started before pandemic & sadly will continue long after its over.

My presentation is below.