Pressuring schools to lower tech. Help!

Hello! I’m a very concerned parent living in rural California. I’m searching for a way to approach our local school district about lowering the amount of tech in the school. Several other parents and I have expressed concern but, thus, far they seem to be overlooked or brushed off. I am not giving up so easily! I am joining this site and others to hopefully see legislation to change the situation. In the meantime…

I learned my kindergartner will have access to a smartboard and is also going to a computer lab to do ABC mouse every day for 45 minutes. I don’t want her being plopped in front of a screen like this! As the students get older, in second grade, they will have iPads, some homework site called Odysseyware-- that students say is too easy and parents complain about-- daily use of smartboards AND the computer lab. This is way too much!

There seems to be plenty of research that proves the damage we are all discussing here. But the principal’s main arguments are: textbooks are expensive, the state of California is pressuring schools to have more tech, and the old “just lessen screen-time at home.”

I’ve looked over the California Department of Education website trying to find out what my rights are as a parent. Can I opt-out of whatever tech I want and ask the school to provide the books in paper/printed format rather than on an iPad? Can I say “no, I do not give permission for my child to go to the computer lab?” I’m hoping to get more parents engaged in the discussion about tech in our school and see the 1:1 program in grades 4-8 gone.

I feel I need concrete, printed reports/evidence before I go in with my pitchfork next week : )

Where can I find this information? THANK YOU!


If you haven’t already please go to Families Managing Media and Camapign for a Commercial Free Childhood/Screen Action Network web sites for all the material you could possibly need to buttress your case. In terms of your rights as a parent, often the School Boards Association for your state wil have info. In my experience the PTA the PTO are completely useless for anything but bakesales but I’d love to hear differently if anyone else has had any luck steering theminot being actua;ly helpful organizations to improve education,


Hi Becks,

I’m an Educational Psychologist from the UK. Hence, I don’t have much knowledge around school legislation in the US. This issue has, however, come up within schools I work with and I did some research accordingly to explore the impact of smart technology on learning.

There are a few issues that are prevalent in Europe around the increased use of Smart technology that might be worth considering. It’s not deemed sustainable for schools to continue printing paper textbooks, as the environmental damage caused by this is exponential. Hence, many schools are switching to computer technology.

It’s not necessarily problematic for a young person to use smartboards / ipads and to have daily screen time, as long as the activities are purposeful and appropriately pitched. Consider the fact that many (office-based) adults spend 8-10 hours a day looking at a computer screen at work without (necessarily) any catastrophic impact. There’s no evidence I’m aware of that some daily screen time is damaging; for example reading and writing using smart technology can actually be easier and more productive for many young people.

However, I think you certainly have the right to question the school as to what the lessons will entail and how the technology is being used. There’s a huge difference between using technology purposefully and appropriately and plonking a child in front of a screen to keep them quiet. They should have a “scheme of work” or lesson plans detailing how much time spent using technology and what activities will look like. If you feel that tasks are too easy or inappropriate, it’s certainly worth challenging that.

It’s also worth considering the social impact of removing your child’s access to smart technology whilst the rest of the class use it. This might make the child feel singled out and may have negative social consequences.


Wonderful that you have this awareness and are motivated to act on it. We should all be so conscious and mindful in our daily lives.

In addition to what you say in your post, I would add that developing a dependence on digital devices at a young age may not be conducive to the formation of a curious, critical, well-rounded self. I’ll quote part of a blogpost I wrote for @PatMc’s Low Tech Trek here:

We have let our private selves leak into electronic devices. They have become storage devices for large chunks of our lives—a dangerous liability should our devices be stolen or hacked. I don’t buy the argument that external forces have manipulated or coerced us. I believe that we ourselves have let this happen—and furthermore, we are passing on this vulnerability to younger generations.

If you haven’t read The Low Tech Trek, I would encourage you to. It will help you strengthen and clarify your ideas.


Hi Becks,

What an important topic! I write and speak about this topic quite frequently. I would love to chat with you more on the topic of low tech in schools. Would you be interested in setting up a Skype call some time in the coming weeks?

I look forward to hearing back from you!

All the best,


Hi Becks - I’m a journalist in the Bay Area and I’m really interested in learning more about the situation at your kid’s school, as well as what you are hoping to change. If you want to share more, feel free to reach out at



There are numerous other topics on this forum on this which you may find interesting. I’ll just add some cross-references:

And there is more. I’ll encourage anyone to use the Search function of the forum and create cross-links whenever possible!


This topic is so important. One of my solutions with my child was to pull out of public school. We pulled out for other reasons as well.

I totally agree with you- many of the apps you used encourage tech use with rewards (flashing coins that you can trade in for virtual pets) which cause the dopamine down spiral.

If you can afford a Waldorf or Montessori school those are usually no tech. Otherwise, you’ll have to put the pressure on the school. Don’t accept these circumstances if you think it’s wrong. Technology is helping education in many ways- but the application is not considered. Many curriculums and teaching techniques are started without proper research in public schools. It’s not that everything must be researched- it’s the flippant way things change based on fads and budgets.

My child’s class- born in 2008 are unique - they are the first class to experience iPads and exposure to video games so young- in school too!! Most of them struggle with handwriting and social skills. The classrooms are super loud and out of control now. My opinion is tech has a lot to do with this. Some kids outright have tantrums until they get an iPad- yes in 3rd grade. Yet the school still passes them out with little to no supervision. A popular parenting technique in our community is to put give an iPad to a child when they are acting out- Tbe American Academy of Pediatrics only warns about screen time but the manner it’s used- to never use it to calm down a child.

Anyways- I’m probably not helping you calm down about this!! I’m so sorry- I think keeping the pressure on the schools and going to press about your horrified reaction is brilliant.

All this said- I don’t want to bash technology- but think the truth about potential side effects should be put there and parents be given a voice to discuss this concern in a meaningful way with schools without being judged. Parents and every child should be warned about potential of ill harm to make informed decisions. Federally funded programs at minimum should not be requiring use of tools that may cause ill health.


@becks. I’ve already posted here so pls excuse my not really responding to your concern at hand directly until now.

As far as paper and pen used… the argument that this displaces time spent not practicing fine motor skills. Many professions do count on writing paper and pen still in some form. The spelling is another- you can’t learn how to spell on a laptop or device. There is no auto correct in Medical charts or law documents- it wouldn’t hold up in court to say it was my auto correct, I didnt write that;).

A school has many “opt out” options- like sex education- or religion but last I heard there is not one to date on technology (6 months ago).

I asked for paper form testing for CASSP testing last year and the school said that was impossible. They wrote emails saying I refused testing- but I promptly corrected them saying I requested paper but was refused the option. They said they would record the answers for my child on the computer- but that’s another story- they have been caught writing reports for kids as well so enough said;)

Anyways… it’s important if you do take on the school your child understand and almost agree with your position so they don’t feel left out. I explained to my child the school is a little behind in privacy education and realizing they are “forgetting” about handwriting. And my child says “Mommy all the kids play games and are not even learning”. The teacher writes some paragraphs for them too… So it works to just lay it all out there…


@hiddendepths. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the ergonomic impact of using technology for 8-10 hours a day… Depending on the amount of time and workspace setup- it could take years to develop repetitive use injuries. Once the repetitive injury occurs it takes years to heal. Pecking away on a 2D non dynamic hard screen or keyboard is not very forgiving. Turning a page is a dynamic activity but swiping screens over a lifetime has the same contact to the point of stress every swipe.

Also- the replacement factor of tech devices is not forgiving to the environment either- you ever see the tech graveyards in China and Africa? There is no way to effectively recycle every tech device. Until I saw these things I was totally onto paperless everything. Now I know when I throw a paper away I trust it will decompose- bamboo forests make it a little better…


I certainly wasn’t suggesting that using technology 8-10 hours a day is preferable, nor is replacing books with swiping a screen interminably. I think you’ve misinterpreted my intentions. What I was arguing for is a nuanced perspective in regards to using technology in schools. There are many benefits, as well as drawbacks. You seem to be asserting that education without tech is the way to go. I personally feel this to be too extreme a view.

Young people need opportunities to learn using a range of tools, building different aspects of intelligence; over-reliance on technology is clearly unhelpful. However, they also need to be made aware of the potential impact of technology on their own and others lives. How will this be possible if they are removed from school or placed in a ‘tech-free’ environment? I would question the value of ensuring that young people avoiding tech entirely; it’s an important part of everyone lives, even more so for young people growing up today.

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@hiddendepths I see what you are saying. We’re both talking at either ends here. I’m speaking from actual experience of watching a child have time displaced in 3rd grade using keyboards and iPads- this child actually forgot how to write!! This same child will probably not pick up a pen later in life so guess what we have then? A 2D skill existence. So that’s where the 8-10 hours a day comes from.

Kids will learn how to use computers despite all odds- poverty, low tech parents or teachers etc… there is one thing we must consider is the lost motor development- this cannot be chased into adulthood. Using a computer is simple- a monkey can be trained to do this.

Also- there are professions which require using pen and paper- and writing fast too like healthcare- it’s wrong to take away someone’s ability to write. There are kids out there who do not know how to write due to using technology. There is no talk about the harms in school at all…

The postural issues alone actually affect grip strength- so gripping a pencil is not an easy task after years of using computers. Ask any Occupational Therapist- how many people are on disability due to repetitive injury. And if these people can write a sentence once the injury starts.

We need to equip kids with all skills- and unfortunately motor takes time and practice. I was all for tech- any and everywhere until I saw the disintegration of skills in our next generation. this has been a discovery of advocacy- not a position I take based on opinion. I’m merely responding to the effects of what I see in schools.

We must not harm development for the sake of an unproven modality to learn- and give people the choice to develop naturally.


Thank you everyone for the replies! I have read all of them. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the issue is not with this one school, as we do consider moving and will likely move locations over our children’s schooling, but rather an education-wide embrace of technology that varies by district and teacher. In fact, other schools I talked are much worse.

I feel a bit defeated already. I am not giving up, but it will be a hard road to be heard on this topic.

I hope that by joining the community here and raising awareness there can be a larger change and, hopefully, legislation. Our children’s health and well-being is on the line, and I don’t think anything short of actual time limits on teachers/education will work.


@becks I see what you are saying about an education wide problem even though it varies widely between districts and schools.

One thing to consider is teachers and their lack of power- and how many teachers don’t really like the tech upswing. Historically education in the USA public has changed curriculums and teaching styles without consulting teachers on the front lines. Edtech was part of a desperate move to fix a bigger problem of what happened after severe budget cuts- they were vulnerable to our free market economy during a huge recession after the dot com boom. So now after things have recovered a bit we are stuck with a pattern (google classroom) that places a pseudo-bandaid on schools short budgets.

Anyways… the answer here is so deep and it will take a process we cannot see- so this requires perseverance and faith. Place one foot in front of the other and pick one issue- posture from laptops- or risk of screen addiction- or complaining the kids don’t get enough pen to paper time- and go to your child’s teacher with it- let them know you’ll be contacting the principle, superintendent and eventually the school board. Talk about this to your kids- let them know how you learned as a kid.

Also- teachers unions need to be coerced into taking a stand for Edtech developmental harms- The California Nurses Association advocates for patients- so why not teachers fir students education??

Our education system needs a total revolution- and there are many distractions in our government now to say the least!!

Anyways- don’t give up. Keep talking, you are supported here. You can use this forum to vent about your trials and successes in this journey.


There has been quite a bit of interest in this topic, now and in the past. Also on Twitter I encounter many good resources. This is a big thing. For people really interested in acting, I suggest giving Tech Wise Campaign Theme: Promoting prudent technology use in child education a good swing :slight_smile:


Lauren Paer, of Hawaii, posted a link to this video on the Facebook page of Friends of Time Well Spent. I think that parents and teachers–and tech people–concerned about the overuse of technology in schools will want to watch it.

Here is the video description:

Veteran teachers share how screen overuse is changing kids and undermining their academic and professional success. On the first episode of Screen Time Reset, we welcome Joe Clement and Matt Miles-- veteran teachers, fathers and co-authors of Screen Schooled-- who will share how they’ve seen students changing over the past 10-20 years as smartphones became ubiquitous and the time kids spend on screens marched upwards. They acknowledge that technology is a powerful tool with huge potential benefits, but they emphasize that in order to use technology effectively you need baseline capabilities that many students no longer possess- ironically in no small part because of their excessive use of technology. Joe and Matt have observed noticeable declines in students’ ability to follow basic instructions, problem-solve, communicate effectively and think for themselves. They worry that effective marketing from big tech companies has misled school administrators and led schools rushing to embrace tech in the classroom that often does more harm than good.


Amen- this is what I was so worried about 5 years ago. I’ve seen the evolution of this in my daughter’s class since kindergarten.

School districts in the US are so strapped for cash they fell victim to the sexy nature of Edtech. It takes years to see the damage done and lost development. We can only hope high school teachers will please start to communicate with kindergarten teachers about what happens after that first stare a kid has on a screen- and tell them our hope can never be dumped into one thing- especially a computer that we expect to make our lives more and more effortless.


@becks I understand your frustration. Currently my AP Statistics class consists of Khan Academy, which is a nice resource, except all we do is Khan Academy and not much else. It is a horrible way to learn, especially math. Students and parents have both complained to the school,the teachers, and the district to no avail. I understand wanting kids to get used to technology, but a lot of the time it is used to compensate for sub par education and teachers because as @healthyswimmer said , schools do not have resources. It is harder to learn and absorb information from a screen, but I feel as though sometimes the people who organize technology for schools do not take that into consideration. Tech literacy is important but not at the cost of quality education and human interaction.

Article About Retention from Screens vs Paper (a bit out dated)

Interesting explanation of the F-shaped reading pattern that makes using ebooks less effective( also a bit dated):


Information on how kids learn best is timeless and never outdated. If a child or even adults learn better on paper, no sexy/fancy tech ideation will ever change that.

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Here’s what we are doing at a very large school district in Kansas. 14 parents made public comment at a Board of Education meeting in November. It was a good platform to raise awareness throughout our community.

They took our comments seriously and next month a Digital Learning Task Force of 30 will have their first meeting to review the 1:1 initiative and set boundaries,etc.

Begin watching at 23:23.