MN House: Bill introduced to limit screen time for young kids HF570 – during a pandemic?

From the Minnesota Revisor

H.F. No. 570, A bill for an act relating to education; limiting the use of individual-use screens in preschool and kindergarten; appropriating money; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 124D.
The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Education Policy.

Full bill…

A bill for an act relating to education; limiting the use of individual-use screens in preschool and kindergarten; appropriating money; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 124D.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1.

[124D.166] LIMIT ON SCREEN TIME FOR CHILDREN IN PRESCHOOL
AND KINDERGARTEN.

Subdivision 1.

Limit on use. 

A child in a publicly funded preschool or kindergarten
program may not use an individual-use screen, such as a tablet, smartphone, or other digital media, without engagement from a teacher or other students.

Subd. 2.

Parent education. 

The Department of Education must contract for the production and implementation of a statewide public educational campaign to educate parents on the effects of screen use on children. The campaign must inform parents of the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for screen use for children ages zero to five, research on screen use and effects on early childhood brain development, the potential risks of excessive screen time impacting mental and physical
development, and the effects of parental overuse of screens when interacting with children under age five.

Sec. 2. APPROPRIATION.

$……. is appropriated in fiscal year 2022 from the general fund to the commissioner of education for a statewide public educational campaign to educate parents on the effects of screen use on children. The contractor producing and implementing the campaign must provide a private match of $1 for every $1 received.

I have mixed views on this as I have worked from home for many years and used to do it with three little kids at home. In a perfect world parents could juggle parenting and working a job at the same time. But it was hard enough before the pandemic. I can only imagine how hard it would be now – then add making parents feel badly about using technology. It feels like the message is pointed at the folks who juggle working and parenting. By folks, I mean moms. A census report last summer found that moms were 68.8 percent more likely to take leave from jobs during the pandemic than fathers. (Although I feel for the fathers who do take this on too!)

The bill targets parents who can’t afford a nanny, tutor or babysitter. Parents who can’t afford to put the kids into various afterschool activities to get an extra hour or two of work done themselves. Parents who don’t have grandparents able to step in to help. And it’s happening at a time when many of those options aren’t event available.

Even the school portion of the bill is unrealistic as teachers juggle in-class and remote learning at the same time. Instead of unfunded mandates and public services announcements designed to demoralize the people on the frontlines, perhaps there are ways to help support working parents and teachers to recognize that during the pandemic, and even to a lesser degree post-pandemic, technology is a tool. Or we could lower teacher-student ratios and change the economics that encourage two parents to work full time.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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