New Minnesota 'screen time law' limits use in kindergarten and preschool classrooms

Starting July 1, students in publicly funded early education classrooms can’t use a screen without teacher engagement. The new law aims to ensure that classroom screen use is active and engaging.

"Little kids learn best through live interaction, sensory experiences, touch, taste smell, and live interaction with human beings. Screens don’t give you that," said Early Education Consultant Lisa Venable.

Venable testified before a House committee in favor of the law in 2020.  Her biggest concern with screen use among young children particularly is the scientific research that shows the detriment it can be to development if left unsupervised. She says this law is a step in the right direction.

"We really wanted to be mindful that teachers - if they’re using a screen - that they’re engaged in it. So they can put on a dance video, for example, but everybody is dancing together in the class, they’re not just watching it."

Research has repeatedly shown over-use of screens negatively affects brain development in young children. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics recently scanned the brains of children 3 to 5 years old and found that those who use screens more than one hour a day without supervision had lower levels of development.

Technology, however, can be a great classroom tool when used properly. The Minnesota Department of Education encourages an introduction to screens in early education classrooms. 

"There is a reason children have those early, healthy experiences with technology," said Olivia Christensen, an education specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education. "To be able to give that positive experience and help children become accustom to how to use technology in a safe way."

Christensen helped educate districts about the implementation of the new law. She says engaged screen time was already best practice, but this law just puts it in writing.

As parents prepare to send their kids back to school in the fall, Venable suggests asking the teacher how much screen time will take place in the classroom, and subtracting that from the daily exposure they get at home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest no more than one hour of screen time a day for children under the age of four.