The Maryland State Education Department’s digital best practices plan was created to stem the physical, academic and mental sinkholes associated with excessive screen time. It is the result of a 2018 bill, favored by the Montgomery County Board of Education, that recommended offline alternatives and screen breaks every 20 minutes.

There is no evidence that offline alternatives and screen breaks are available to Montgomery County Public School children, not pre-pandemic and not now — despite many parents requesting books and paper assignments to break up the screen time.

Was MCPS too busy to address excessive screen time? Yes. It was busy building a screen-based “virtual academy” for September in which about 1,600 families have shown interest. This may help reduce the expense of building brick-and-mortar schools, but what about the cognitive costs of sticking kids in Zoom rooms?

The National Education Policy Center says claims that online curriculums promote achievement because they can be more tailored “are not supported by the research. . . .” AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has seen the number of failing grades increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mental health-related emergency room visits jumped about 25 percent among children ages 5 to 17.

Overdosing kids on screen time and disfiguring teaching can be blamed on the coronavirus pandemic only so long. Embracing it as a permanent option ignores warnings from experts who know better.

Lisa Cline, Gaithersburg

The writer, a co-founder of the Student Data Privacy Project, is an advisory
member of the Campaign for a
Commercial-Free Childhood’s Screens in Schools work group.