VA Department of Education offers guidance for students learning virtually / Public News Service


As many Virginia schools return to temporary virtual learning, some students are spending more time in front of screens. In response, the Virginia Department of Education provides tips to help moderate children’s screen time.

The department’s “Digital Devices in the Classroom” guide offers tips for parents and teachers to manage children’s exposure to technology. Charles Pyle, director of media relations for the department, said the guide was written in consultation with doctors and technology experts.

“One of the recommendations is that you take a break, have the students take a break every 20 to 30 minutes from the device,” Pyle said. “Not just to rest your eyes, but also to get up and move around a bit.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive screen time can lead to irregular sleep, behavioral problems, and impaired academic performance, among other symptoms.

The guide encourages parents and teachers to create a daily plan for their students that involves spending at least one hour a day outdoors and away from a screen.

The DOE also recommends turning off electronic devices at least 60 to 90 minutes before children go to bed. Scott Edmonds – head of eye care at United Healthcare – explained that electronic devices can emit blue light, which interferes with people’s sleep patterns.

“It suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which is our sleep hormone,” Edmonds said. “So when you’re exposed to blue light late in the day, your sleep can be disrupted.”

A September report from the Pew Research Center reveals that about 70% of parents say their children are spending more time in front of a screen than before the pandemic. About 40% of survey respondents said they had become less strict about their children’s screen time during the pandemic.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our health issue reporting fund. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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