Moving to Learn

Screens in Schools Policy Guidelines – Open Letter to Education and Health Governments

Below policy guidelines were forwarded to all
Canadian Health and Education Ministers on July 10, ‘23

I’m a pediatric occupational therapist (OT), biologist, international speaker, author of “Virtual Child” and am a member on Fairplay for Kids – Screens in Schools committee, who is passionate about changing the ways in which children use technology. Through my work as an OT in schools I’ve observed rapidly increasing use of screen-driven educational instruction, both pre/post-covid, despite prolific research showing detrimental effects of screens on child health and wellness. I’ve written to the American Academy of Pediatrics requesting screen usage guidelines for school, but they’ve told me it wasn’t their role nor their mandate. Due to pervasive infiltration of the technology industry into trusted institutions such as schools, I request that your government organization consider my request to partner together to implement the following Screens in Schools Policy Guidelines. Screen overuse is spiraling out of control resulting in significant harm to children and requires immediate ‘top down’ authoritarian intervention.

The onslaught of screens in homes and schools has resulted in significant negative outcomes for students, teachers and parents indicating the need to push the ‘pause tech’ button for reflection and planning. Students are sedentary and unfit resulting in 1 in 3 developmentally delayed and 1 in 3 obese or overweight. Screens are overstimulating to eyes, heart and brain causing visual impairmentcardiovascular damage, impaired brain development and attention deficit. Screen use is isolating students from what they yearn for the most, human love and connection resulting in soaring rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Screen overuse by parents and teachers is causing a ‘disconnect’ with children resulting in a host of emotional, mental, and social disorders. Children and youth have never been sicker than they are now and the time to act has passed. At this point in time, ALL screen use should be considered detrimental to child development, behavior and learning. A U.S. 2021 study reported that setting and monitoring screen time limits, discussing impacts of screen use, taking frequent breaks, incorporating movement throughout the day, encouraging adults to practice healthy screen use and tapering screen use are effective measures to reduce harmful effects of screentime on children and youth. A Canadian 2022 research article proposes evidence-based recommendations for school-related sedentary behaviours for children and youth recommending replacing sedentary learning activities with non-screen-based learning activities to support student health and wellbeing. These 2 studies mandate schools form not only technology management policy to address declines in student health and wellbeing, but also enact media literacy programs. 

Screens in Schools Policy Guidelines Draft

The following six research evidenced proposed policy guidelines for use of screens in schools for grades K-12 are proposed to promote student health and learning. Also included in these guidelines are movement and nature screen replacement interventions to enhance and ensure literacy achievement. A member of your government organization is requested to be appointed to provide input in the finalization and launch of these guidelines prior to Sept. 1, ’23. Please contact Cris Rowan for additional information and procedures.

  1. Provide preliminary student, teacher and parent research referenced education regarding detrimental impact of screens on child physical, social, emotional, mental and cognitive functions. Instruction should include the four critical factors for enhancing child development, behavior and learning with implementation examples for home, school and community.

Rowan, C. 2023. Ten Pillars of Successful Schools – Optimizing student health, safety and education. Retrieved from author’s Moving to Learn blog on July 9, ’23.

  1. Prohibit cell phones on school site by students, parents and teachers during school operating hours, as well as off school site during field or sports trips. Teachers can bring phones onto school site for use before/after school and use during lunch breaks but cannot bring their phones into classroom. Provision of a land line phone is suggested in all classrooms for all in-school communication with the teacher. Parents will be required to organize their schedules with their child(ren) prior to school day so as to not disrupt student learning. In the event of a school shooting, police have advised students to NOT use cell phones as this distracts their attention away from their teacher.

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press, May 6, ’23. Teachers say B.C. school teens showed improved grades and social skills after a ban on phones. Retrieved on July 9, ’23; author’s hometown.

  1. Restrict use of laptops and tablets to 2 devices per classroom; ensure adequate blocking of all entertainment and harmful media content including video games, pornography, social media, self-harm, cyberbullying and suicide. Schools will be required to stop use of all social media including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. as well as use of emails with students, and alternatively adopt safe non-digital methods of communication with students and parents.

Rowan, C. 2023. Video Games – Why are we knowingly letting children use an addictive substance? Retrieved from author’s Moving to Learn blog on July 9, ’23.

  1. Prohibit use of all screen technologies until grade 3 literacy achieved. 

Wiley RW, Rapp B. 2021. The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Literacy Learning. Psychological Science 32(7): 1086-1103.

  1. Provide textbooks, paper, pencils, abacus boards and chalkboards to optimize foundational components for literacy attainment and improve student performance in printing, reading and math. Mandate provision of one set of encyclopedias per classroom; reopen and restock library.
  1. Implement use of nature and movement concepts with provision of in/outdoor schools (half day, half class is outside with noon switch), standing tables, wobble boards, body breaks, 2 recess and 1 lunch period outside, gym obstacle course, loose parts/fort materials and enhanced, age-appropriate playground structures.

Thank you for your consideration of this most urgent request.

Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT
CEO Reconnect Webinars, Zone’in Programs Inc. and Sunshine Coast Occupational Therapy Inc.
Member of Fairplay for Kids – Screens in Schools Committee
6840 Seaview Rd. Sechelt BC  CANADA  V7Z0E1
604-885-0986 O, 604-885-0389 F, 604-740-2264 C
Websites:, Blog: Book: Virtual Child

Additional Article

10 Reasons Why Classrooms Should Be Phone-Free Zones
By Kathleen Barlow

Kathleen Barlow is a former teacher and parent to 6 children and currently serves on her local school board.  Screen overuse very slowly had become a big problem in Kathleen’s family and now she is passionate about trying to help other families and the communities in which they live, in this same endeavor.

Screens in Schools Policy Guidelines was written in July 2023 by pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, author and international speaker Cris Rowan in conjunction with Fairplay for Kids – Screens in Schools committee. Rowan’s website is Reconnect Webinars which contains a Fact Sheet with over 400 research references, blog is Moving to Learn and book is Virtual Child. Rowan can be reached at

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Cris Rowen

Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT

An outspoken critic on the impact of technology on human development, behavior, and productivity

Cris Rowan is a pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, author, international speaker passionate about changing the ways in which children use technology. Rowan’s expertise includes detrimental impact of screens on child brain/body development, behavior and learning. Rowan’s website is (with > 400 research references on Fact Sheet in Resource section), blog is and book is “Virtual Child.”

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