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New proposal seeks to warn parents about effects of too much screen usage

HONOLULU (KHON2) - A new senate bill, Bill 433, would appropriate funding for the Hawaii Department of Health to do research on screen time and its impact on children, and fund a social media campaign to raise awareness on the issue of screen time usage.

Hawaii Island Senator Russell Ruderman, who introduced the bill, says he created the bill because of the negative impacts of devices on children and teens that he's seen.

"You can watch a group of kids whether they're 5 or 10 or 15, watch a group of kids, sitting around. They're all staring at their phones, even if they're talking to the person next to them, they're all doing it through text," said Ruderman. 

"Its a great concern that we are raising a generation of people who are addicted to a screen and who are lacking in social skills, the ability to relate socially to others."

The Hawaii Department of Health supports the bill. 

In its testimony on the bill, the department referenced data they found. They found that more four out of five high school and middle schoolers played more than three hours of videogames on an average school day. They also found a majority of students did not meet the federal physical activity requirements of at least an hour of moderate exercise a day. 

"These are the kids that have actually not had a lot of close social interactivity... best friends, gotten over their social anxiety. While this is not all children, we are seeing an increase in social anxiety as well as depression in teenagers," said Nadine Tenn Salle, Queens Pediatric Doctor. "Can we blame technology for all of this, absolutely not. But can we say that it is playing a role, 100 percent."

She thinks there needs to be guidelines in place for the community and even for schools.

"How much is okay for educational purposes and how much should be limited instead of just randomly sitting on Iphones or electronic medias with no particular purpose," said Salle.

So far the bill has passed through the senate and is making its way through the house. 

The health department estimates that it would cost about $250,000 dollars to fund.

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