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Letter to BVSD Requesting Implementation of Research-Based Digital Media Practices

Brett Kennedy, PsyD and Tracy Markle, MA, LPC, co-directors of the Digital Media Treatment & Education Center are supporting their local school district, Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to approach implementing digital media in schools from a well informed, researched-based place. They wrote a letter, which included the latest research findings on how digital media in schools impacts student learning, as well as, highlighting schools who have found ways to promote and sustain a positive learning environment while having digital media as a part of the curriculum.

June 6th, 2018

Dear Boulder Valley School Board Members, As co-directors of the Digital Media Treatment & Education Center, we are encouraged that the school board is open to discussing the issue of content filtering and digital media access in schools. The Digital Media Treatment and Education Center provides consultation, counseling, and psycho-education to students, families and organizations impacted by digital media overuse. As part of a growing coalition of clinicians, educators, and researchers from around the world specializing in the effects of digital media on human development, we are hopeful you will consider taking steps to implement restrictions on the use of technology in the classroom, as well as the online content made accessible to students through their Chromebooks and smartphones.

We believe there is a place for technology in the classroom; however, it is critical that our school district leaders develop a thorough understanding of the risks that smartphones and online access pose to students determined by their age, psychosocial factors, and cognitive development. Because, each child is unique, developing a system wide policy that will impact a cohort of students is a challenging endeavor. Therefore, we recommend the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) adopt regulated, and more restrictive policy to protect students most at risk. Vulnerability factors include: the age of the child, mental health issues (i.e. depression and anxiety), neurodevelopmental conditions (i.e. Autism, ADHD), and specific learning disabilities. Research finds that children with challenges in these areas are at high risk of digital media overuse that includes compulsive, uncontrolled engagement with social media, online gaming, Internet pornography, web surfing, and watching videos.

In the United States, 8.5% of children ages 8-18 meet the criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder (Gentile, 2009). Numerous statistics identify the first exposure to pornography occurs between the ages of 11-13. According to data from Child Guard: 65% of children between the ages of 8 and 14 have been involved in a cyber-bullying incident that occurred on social media. Without restrictions to content and access, it is a certain guarantee that digital media issues will escalate due to what we know about cognitive development. In general, the development of the prefrontal cortex, where our all-important executive function cognitions reside, are not developed and impulse control is impaired for children/adolescents. Digital media impacts this command center of the brain and makes resisting online gaming, porn, social media, and entertainment difficult, if not impossible, for many young people. Consequently, these students will struggle a great deal with attention, comprehension, memorizing, and staying on task. According to a 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics study, those with ADHD and Autism are particularly at risk.

We encourage the BVSD to adopt a policy that implements a Chromebook rotation model versus the one-to-one approach, filtered online access, except for what is required for the completion of academic assignments, and associated technological tools (i.e. Chromebook), and restrictions on smartphones in the classroom. Without comprehensive controls on what children can access through a digital device during school hours, compulsive behaviors in relation to social media, pornography, web surfing, watching videos, and online gaming will only become exacerbated and adversely impact learning.


Tracy Markle, MA, LPC Founder, Co-Director

Brett P. Kennedy, Psy.D. Co-Director