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Proposal would limit youngest learners’ device usage

Data regarding the effects of excessive screen use on young children is growing, and the news is not good, according to Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven).

She sponsors HF570, as amended, which would prohibit children in publicly funded preschools or kindergartens from using an individual-use screen, such as a tablet or smartphone, without engagement from a teacher or other student. Children who have an individualized education program would be exempt.

The bill was held over by the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF237, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) is the sponsor.

HF450 would prohibit children in publicly funded preschools or kindergartens from using an individual-use screen, such as a tablet or smartphone, without engagement from a teacher or other student. House Photography file photo

Citing a 2019 report by JAMA Pediatrics, Morrison said kids under age 5, who were exposed to screens only one hour per day, experienced cognitive decline and struggled with language and memory functioning.

The proposal aligns with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children younger than 18 months should not be exposed to screens, with the exception of video chat with an adult. It also recommends that children ages 2 to 5 be exposed to one hour maximum per day, and that hour should be co-viewing with an adult.

“The brain develops rapidly in the first five years and young children and babies require a relational experience for healthy brain development. They learn best by direct experiences with their senses, whole bodies and live interaction,” Morrison said. “Screens take away from exploration, creative play, reading, talking and singing, which are all critical for early development.”

The bill would also provide a yet-to-be-determined appropriation for a campaign, run through the Department of Education, to inform parents of the effects of screen use on children. The contractor hired to create the educational campaign would need to provide a dollar-for-dollar match.

Cyndi Cunningham, public policy chairperson for the Minnesota Child Care Provider Information Network, supports the proposal, saying schools need clear parameters and parents need education to ensure children are engaging in meaningful relationship building and interactive play.

“Parents need educational support in the complex world of raising children with technology, where it has been strongly promoted and recently increasingly used for educational means,” she said. “It has become the norm.”


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