Ithaca parents seek signatures for open letter to school district on limiting screen time

June 19, 2015 by Rachel Cera

Digital devices can be a big distraction for kids, and Ithaca parents are urging educators in the Ithaca City School District to respect their preferences when it comes to screen time. A local group is reaching out to fellow parents interested in signing their open letter to the district.

Parents who wrote the open letter "do not think that technology policy is being set within ICSD with significant or meaningful input from stakeholders, including parents and teachers," says Adam Jacobstein, an Ithaca parent who penned the letter to ICSD superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown and the school board along with fellow parents, mostly from the Belle Sherman neighborhood.

"We have found that touch screen devices are so compelling for children this age that it can take away interest from activities that do not have such quick feedback but that provide depth in the long run," Jacobstein tells us. 

"We understand that computers are the primary tool today for writing and research and that computer literacy is essential for all older students," says the group in their letter to the school district. "We also recognize the powerful potential of some technologies for special needs students."

Jacobstein says, "For my wife and I, we believe that touchscreen devices can reduce children's attention spans and desire to sink into other more difficult, but ultimately richer experiences, such as reading for pleasure."

Beyond the potential for distraction, "many parents of older students have privacy and safety concerns," says the group's letter. "As for the addictive nature of iPad interaction, that comes just from the experience of raising children and observing how children interact with iPads," Jacobstein says.

The group hopes the school district will begin "a more transparent and community-inclusive process of input and feedback on this issue," and asks for "an acceptable use policy that is more specific and is written with input from parents and educators." They ask that the district delay rolling out iPads or similar devices to kids in the K-3 age group, other than for children with special needs, "until the above process has had a chance to take place."

Dr. Brown declined to comment to 14850 Today, responding through a spokesperson, "With the end of the school year and testing going on right now, it's a busy time in the district."

Area parents and other interested parties may co-sign the letter using Google Forms or e-mail Mr. Jacobstein at adamjacobstein1@gmail.com. Jacobstein told us on Wednesday evening, "So far, 147 people have signed it, 133 of whom are parents of ICSD students."

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