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Health care providers urge Bend-La Pine Schools to pull iPads from early grades, curb use of ‘addictive tech’ in classes

Well Wired

Will present 'letter of concern' signed by 135 to school board Tuesday evening

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- On behalf of 135 local pediatricians, child psychiatrists, child psychologists, therapists, social workers, counselors, and behavioral health providers, a representative of the health care community will present a letter of concern regarding tech use (iPads and phones) in Bend-La Pine Schools to the Bend-La Pine School Board on Tuesday evening.

The letter signed by the 135 providers includes recommended tech policy reforms and an offer to collaborate with the district when setting best practice tech policy for students' mental and physical health, as well as their academic success.

The letter will be presented via public comment at the BLP School Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the BLP Education Center on 520 NW Wall Street in Bend, the group Well Wired said in a news release Friday, which continues in full below:

Local pediatrician Dr. Kate Broadman has gathered the support of 135 (and counting) health care providers who all express concern about how iPads and phones are being used in Bend-La Pine Schools, including how the addictive technology impacts children’s behavior, mood, attention, academic achievement, and mental and physical health, all of which they see in their practices.

They also express an urgent need for tech policy change in Bend-La Pine Schools, adding to the growing call-to-action in the community. The letter comes on the heels of local healthy tech advocacy group Well Wired's efforts on this issue, including their parent survey with nearly 1,000 respondents, a presentation to the BLP superintendent, and public comments to the school board in May.

Well Wired is a healthy tech advocacy group and family community in Central Oregon. The group was formed in the fall of 2023 by Ami Formica and Brooke Mues, two local parents with backgrounds and careers in education, counseling, psychology, marketing, and business. 

On June 18th, Well Wired will also be attending the school board meeting to make public comment. They are encouraging parents, caregivers, and educators to join them in voicing their concerns and stories of students’ distracting and problematic use of tech at school – including kids playing video games; kids watching sports and movies; kids looking at pornography, even as young as elementary school; kids filming fights, and kids getting cyberbullied – all of this happening on school-issued iPads and on students’ phones, while on school grounds and during instruction. 

"The reliance on iPads for teaching reading, math, and other subjects is hindering the development of important skills such as handwriting, creativity, critical thinking, and person-to-person connection," the group says. 

Moreover, it claims studies show that iPad curriculum lacks efficacy, and the district has failed to show that it is improving test scores in Bend-La Pine Schools. Lastly, Well Wired says current research shows clear evidence that the use of addictive technology use increases the chance of poor mental health outcomes. According to Mental Health America, Oregon’s youth mental health ranked 50th out of 50 states in 2023.

"Kids are spending too much time on screens at home and at school, and too little time socializing with friends in person, playing outdoors, and having face-to-face experiences that will help them develop into thriving, healthy adults," the organization said in its news release. 

"Bend-La Pine Schools must acknowledge that addictive tech is contributing to the youth mental health crisis and consider how teaching with addictive technology contributes to distracted and shallow learning. Schools have an obligation to protect, support, and teach our kids better."

Well Wired, Dr. Kate Broadman, and their community of health care providers are asking to collaborate and consult with the district on tech policy reform to improve the physical & mental well-being of the children in Bend-La Pine Schools. Below is a list of some of the proposed and recommended tech policies:

  1. Remove iPads for the youngest elementary grades;
  2. Set age-appropriate screen time limits for students during the school day;
  3. Remove YouTube and other addictive, gamified programs from school iPads;
  4. Prioritize pencil-to-paper learning whenever possible;
  5. Utilize iPads only when doing so clearly improves the depth of learning or introduces a skill that cannot otherwise be taught effectively (such as coding), storing them away from student desks when not in use;
  6. Create and enforce stronger policies around phone use in schools, ideally adopting a district-wide “phone-free school” program as many other districts across the country have done.

Since launching in the fall of 2023, Well Wired has developed a database of more than 500 concerned parents, teachers and health care professionals in Central Oregon; had more than 600 people sign up for their five “Healthy Tech Talks” hosted by elementary school PTOs; surveyed 1,000 BLP parents (of which 93% wish for phones to remain out of the classroom); presented to Bend-La Pine School District Superintendent Cook, Deputy Superintendent Nordquist, and their tech leadership team; and is supporting Oregon House Rep. Emerson Levy on a possible phone-free school bill, including presenting to the House Education Committee at a recent informational hearing.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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