Jeremy Corbyn recently called out the Finnish education system as the one we should aim to emulate in this country. Michael Moore produced a documentary detailing the quality of Finland’s education system and media across the world have since been abound with details of the unique Finnish scholastic approach.
With political leaders citing other countries methods as best practise perhaps time to look at what Finland are doing well and see what our schools and educators could borrow from their process.
Finland completely rejuvenated their education system about 40 years ago as an integral element of the country’s economic recovery plan but evidence this was successful didn’t come until the 2000’s when a standardized test given to schools across 40 countries showed that Finnish schools produce the best readers. Three years later tests confirmed they then led in Maths. By 2006 Finland were first in science, third in reading and 6th in maths. It seemed the education revolution in Finland had a real impact.
NO TESTS AND BIG ON EQUALITY
So what do they do differently? Well there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland until the end of students last year of senior school. Pupils are not ranked, don’t compete within the school or across regions. So ‘teaching to the test’ is an outdated principle in Finland.
Instead equality is the buzzword integral to the culture of the countries education system. So much so that the gap between the lowest performing pupil and the highest is the smallest in the world.
“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
Despite Finland spending 30% less than the USA on each student a striking 93% of their students go on to graduate. That’s 17.5% more than the US. Facts such as these are why other countries are looking at Finland’s methods and asking themselves “how can we do better?”
“We prepare children to learn… how to learn, not how to take a test,”
Pasi Sahlberg - Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture
PLAY IS INTEGRAL. SCHOOL STARTS LATER.
So what else is different? Well schools allows 15 minutes of free playtime up to four times a day. The kids are getting fresh air and exercise both of which proactively benefits them when they hit the books. Now whilst Finland might not test these children studies have shown that 15 minutes exercise has a positive effect on kid’s ability to learn and study resulting in higher test scores for active pupils who exercise in or before class.
In Finland kids spend far more time playing outside and aren’t rushed into the education system. Compulsory schooling only starts at age 7.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
There is a widespread cultural phenomenon throughout Finland’s education system and it is one of doing “whatever it takes” to get a child to where they need to be academically.
This might be a headmaster taking a child under their wing as a personal mentee to letting them express themselves with how they dress or flex their wiggles by letting them get outside more. This approach is more easily demonstrated by the fact that Finish schools have dedicated SEN teams available to each class ensuring that each child benefits from their education equally.
Teachers in Finland are highly educated and require a masters degree (5-7 years in the making) in order to be qualified to teach. They are then given a great deal of autonomy in the process and are respected within their communities far more than in other countries.
With the commitment of so many years under their belts and the regard for their profession being highly placed they are also far more likely to view teaching as a lifelong career which bodes well in terms of retaining the highly educated better qualified staff for longer.
Can UK schools adopt a more Finnish approach right now?
Well by taking a leaf from the Finnish schools habit of encouraging physical literacy in the school day. Whilst we know that schools are in no position to suddenly introduce 15 minutes of play before every lesson however hundreds have already started to include standing desks to allow children some physical freedom in the classroom.
Standing whilst you work can have the same effect of improved engagement, academic performance, personal well-being and good mental health. By letting kids stand and move more whilst they work schools are reportedly reaping the benefits similar to the schools whose children are allowed additional playtime and outdoor exercise.
LITTLE TO NO HOMEWORK / THE INNER MOTIVATOR
So what else separates Finland’s process from our own?
Well Children are given little to no homework but most importantly kids are encouraged to tap into their inner motivation. Teachers and school systems focus on working out psychologically how best to stimulate a child’s own inner motivation. Teaching them not to work to tests well but instead how to think analytically.
Goals are set but by the kids themselves. They are asked to identify their own goals and these might be yearly or weekly but the emphasis is on the child taking ownership of their own journey.
This seems to go hand in hand with the desire to teach them not to perform for others but for themselves. A key component of the system which seems integral to its success. In short they introduce a joy of learning by taking away the side British children, bemoan. Tests, homework, few breaks…working to satisfy someone else’s standards.
The overarching educational reform Finland dared to implement has turned them into a world leader of education. They seemingly afford their teachers and pupils far more respect than we do nationally and importantly both now outperform us. So if you’re a teacher or headmaster and you think you can take a leaf out of the Finish playbook. Then don’t wait for national reform.
As Ghandi was apparently mis-quoted as saying. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And implement some positive class or school wide changes in your institution. Show other schools, your pupils and communities that you are prepared to improve and change for the better. Positive change is contagious. It simply has to start somewhere.
or..."Bake-off Judge Takes A Break from Peddling Cakes on the Idiot Box to Say Bad Mums Fill Lunchboxes with 'Junk'"
Prue Leith, a judge from the Great British Bake-off TV show said home packed lunch boxes should be banned after detailing how she believes 'most mums' fill them with Junk food.
She argued that the habit of putting a treat in the lunchbox everyday should be curtailed and treats should not be a daily occurrence for kids. She believes the daily treat habit had directly contributed to the ongoing and very real obesity crisis the country’s young people are enduring right now.
Leith when speaking to Ben Shepard and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain said unfortunately a sandwich and a piece of fruit isn’t the average daily lunchbox and that schools should be
"Using lunch times to teach kids about healthy eating."
One comment on twitter agreed some stricter rules for parents might be a good idea but a country wide ban on lunchboxes made by parents is "ridiculous" another comment seemed pretty grounded in the real world read;
“Prue, who’s paying for these school dinners once you ban packed lunches? I couldn’t afford it for my children so packed lunches are our option. Ok for all you rich folk.”
As a parent who deals with packing multiple school lunches through the week I can say with absolute certainty that whilst there may be some parents who 'phone-it-in' that creating packed lunches with variability and healthy contents is a task on top of a million others that a reality TV judge has no place weighing in on. The obesity crisis is an issue however putting the fix firmly in the hands of the parents and not the corporations preying on children’s via online influencers and kid friendly mascots or fun house fast food environments is misdirected culpability.
Yes schools should educate children about healthy eating, I wonder if Leith knows that 2020's curriculum changes have been designed to do exactly that? Yes kids shouldn't necessarily have the added calories of a treat a day however the calorie issue could be being tackled not by depriving children of a simple snack based treat with their school lunches but by a cultural shift away from sedentary behaviour and towards creating active kids who would still have a calorie deficit even with a snack in their daily diets if their physical activity levels were anything like the recommended daily hour medical experts suggest they should be undertaking.
There is a certain irony of someone whose TV show illustrates high sugar food in the form of cakes spouting off about kid’s school dinners. Someone whose income is based off people couch potation in front of the TV engaging her content. A certain irony to the format she chooses to reel this information off i.e. once again whilst being on TV ...one of the big contributors to sedentary behaviour since we invented the settee.
How about we ban Televisions. Or cakes? The benefits would be huge compared to snack management in children’s school dinners. How about we include a standing desk in every classroom or better yet one for each child? The idea that this is on the parents or another responsibility to add to the schools to do list alongside delivering a new national curriculum, and educating children on the ever growing debacle that is understanding modern day sexual diversity. I believe schools probably have enough to do keeping up with the times and the majority of parents are overwhelmed enough already.
Changes need to be long-term, passive and easily maintained and remarks suggesting bad mums give kids snacks or schools need to add to their over exhausted workload are remiss when Leith operates in a predatory industry peddling sugar for a living.
But hey! maybe parents should take some note from this and maybe tone down the sugary snacks and drinks because yes in actual fact despite me playing devil’s advocate parents absolutely are involved in shaping their children’s attitudes towards sugary and fatty foods and in this day and age when every Instagrammer or big time YouTuber has your child’s ears we are all up against it anyway.
So dig deep and 'lest you be judged' by Leith perhaps help your child understand why they might start making healthy choices for themselves and maybe you can become the biggest influencer in their upbringing once again. Like the good old days before you needed a social account to be relevant to your kids.
This week sees several interesting news items surrounding kid’s health making the headlines. So rather than pick one out to write about we decided to bring you a news week breakdown focusing on kid’s health and education. So let’s get into it.
Dentists Call For Sugar Free Schools.
This week saw Dentists asking schools in England to go sugar-free after the launch of a new report which indicates the leading reason children are admitted into hospital between the age of five and nine is for tooth decay. The faculty of dental surgery has suggested supervised tooth brushing in schools. (These actually occur in Scotland and Wales already.)
They have put forward several suggested action points to combat the issues of tooth early onset tooth decay.
- Schools should become sugar free.
- Price increase sugary dairy drinks such as milkshakes.
- Reduce the amount of adverts for sugary food and drink.
- Lower the sugar content of baby food.
"It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring our children have healthy, happy teeth." - Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery
New Tool for Assessing Screen Time Addiction
A peer reviewed journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking found that more than 12% of kids aged nine to twelve are at risk of becoming addicted to digital devices.
The system for assessment borrows diagnostic criteria from the Digital Addiction Scale for Children (DASC) and measures the impact of screen time on the family unit, the likelihood the child is to lie about their use and the likelihood that problems arise from overuse such as sleep deprivation, academic slipping and more.
The addiction criteria were: preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, and relapse. Now this might not seem like a huge news item but we live in an age where screen time is having direct consequences on how children’s brains are structured. A study released in November shows that more screen time means lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain responsible for language, literacy and emotional regulation.
Young people are now being diagnosed with a recognised disorder of gaming addiction because they legitimately experience symptoms of withdrawal and are controlled by their desire to play. No surprise when you consider how gaming companies now employ addiction consultants to implement game mechanics to cultivate exactly this response.
Info on the brain study can be found here.
"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages, these findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits." - Dr. Hutton.
Ways to monitor screen time addiction seems like a necessary response to a problem which is quietly growing in impact. Teachers and parents, take note. Screen time isn't just another boogie man. Overuse has direct consequences on your children's brain functions, sleep patterns, mood regulation and cognitive ability. As we live in the tech age where kids are grabbing iPads instead of books please remember that doctors used to endorse smoking before the general consensus was that they kill you.
New study suggests brain differences may be linked to obesity.
So this piece is interesting in terms of how it links brain differences and obesity which should the thinking that they are heavily connected become mainstream this could directly influence how we equip education work-spaces.
The recent study doesn't suggest that intelligence dips alongside weight gain but it does show a reduction in executive brain function alongside increased BMI.
Some critics say that studies such as these are dangerous because poor interpretation of the results can lead to unfair stigma attached to overweight people but an editorial which was published alongside the results called it "an important addition to mounting evidence of a link between weight, brain structure and mental function."
We have release many articles in this blog which demonstrates the mounting evidence that physical movement and active lifestyles directly affect academic results and even raises test score results. There are Ted Talks to this affect for those interested in learning more.
In short: These findings suggest that body mass index is associated with cortical development and diminished executive functions, such as working memory and might directly impact how in the future we look to treat obesity by improving brain function and vice versa.
The study yielded an insightful comment from one Henry Skinner MD Family Psychiatry of Maine who explains that should the cause and effect be reversed that the results might make more sense. I.e. "People with executive function challenges have more difficulty negotiating the toxic capitalist nutrition environment."
Is it simply a case of lower functioning adolescents falling vulnerable to a hostile predatory marketing machine and making ill-advised choices. Well according to Skinner child and adolescent psychiatrists observe this in clinic frequently and he believes this is the more likely reasoning for the results given that it requires fewer assumptions. (Occam ’s razor)
So just some interesting titbit’s from the children’s health community. One thing is for sure is there is an ever growing notion that schools have the time and resources to fix every child’s health problems which is simply not the case but schools are well positioned to educate kids to make better choices and learning spaces which afford students the opportunity to include movement in their daily routines are certainly an effortless way schools can support their students mental and physical health.
We offer schools standing desk trials for this exact reason. If you want to try before you buy then visit this form and get In touch.
A film by Daniel Gordon has been released lauding one London Primary School for introducing a series of measures to combat the growing trend of poor mental health in children.
[You can watch the video here]
Highgate Primary School, has embraced several innovative measures to improve their pupils mental well-being, from dogs in the playground, sound proofed classrooms and the availability of talk therapy and psychotherapy for each student.
The school has normalised the process of attending therapy so each child feels no stigma should they wish to use the service.
The school is said to be delivering a 'well-being first’ approach. They offer on the premises drama therapy, and talk therapy which one in ten of the schools pupils attend. Most of the therapists are trainees or new graduates so with the combination of some charity funding and a small investment of £7000 per year from the school they are able to directly tackle the rise of mental health disorders in young people which is on the rise throughout the UK.
Watch the video and you can see the school has its own dog and also allows dogs to attend the school premises at drop off and pickup times.
Highgate has implemented 5 key measures to combat poor mental health.
1. Availability of Therapy
2. Dogs are allowed on site.
3. Soundproofed classrooms.
4. Lessons outside.
5. School is for parents too.
Every child has some lessons outside where they can engage with each other and climb trees. The classroom soundproofing allows teachers to command attention without raising their voices due to improved acoustics and the parents of pupils can also access the onsite therapists meaning the impact on the community doesn't just stop at the children but can resonate outwards to have a positive effect on the children’s households which can only help support a culture of well-being at home.
The amount of children attending Highgates onsite therapists is statistically mirrored by the data released from NHS digital last year that indicated one in nine children experience mental health disorders. That figure is for 5-15 year old's however if we broaden the scope to 5-19 year old's the figure becomes one in eight.
In the age group of 17-19 year olds one in four young women have a mental health disorder, emotional disorders such as anxiety ranking the highest. Over half of these reportedly have attempted suicide or self-harm.
Statistics like these are an important warning that the impacts of mental health disorders are very real and schools who go out of their way to combat the issues should be applauded and considered to delivering best practise.
Whilst many argue that schools already have a priority to educate and aren’t qualified to deliver therapy this school has shown how the introduction of several small but effective measures can shift the culture internally to become a learning space which caters for mental health well-being without costing a fortune or requiring massive change to be effective.
The mental health foundation has a 'Make It Count' Campaign which states that Mental Health is not extracurricular. You can find out more about the campaign here.
Mark Rowland Chief Exec of the Mental Health Foundation said
"The school environment has a significant impact on a young person’s emotional welfare. For children’s well being to thrive during school hours, teachers need the confidence and knowledge to nurture young people’s development. Equally, teachers need to be supported with their own mental health throughout their career.
By exploring the root causes that lead to distress, be it body image, relationships or exam stress, we can help build resilience and prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. "
You can sign the foundations petition to put mental health at the heart of school culture here.
The previous education secretary Damien Hinds said every single school in the country should have a school dog. Here's a video showcasing therapy dogs in schools on channel 5 news.
Now in the spirit of introducing small changes to impact mental health in schools we would be remiss if we didn’t point you towards our try before you buy student standing desk trials.
Hundreds of schools nationwide are becoming healthier and embracing movement and physical literacy to create more attentive learning spaces by introducing standing desks into the classroom.
Take a look at our product range and apply for a trial if your school could benefit from improved engagement, better mental health, happier, better behaved children and improved academic results.
A worrying annual report has surfaced on the BBC website this week detailing how one in five young people have been a victim of bullying.
Now three quarters of those bullied said it affected their mental health and they "nearly became depressed" as a result.
The figures mirror last year’s study. The Children's commissioner for England said "More needs to be done at home and in schools to help those who are the victims of bullying and also, crucially, to prevent children from bullying in the first place,”
Over 2000 people between 12 and 20 answered the survey which also assessed prejudice based views around racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism and transphobia.
The survey found;
The most common type of bullying was verbal, with cyberbullying the least common.
- Of those bullied, 33% said that they had suicidal thoughts, while 41% were left feeling anxious.
- Some 62% were bullied by a classmate and 37% by someone at school they did not know.
- Nearly two-thirds (59%) believed attitudes towards their appearance were the likely cause of bullying.
- In the majority of cases, male respondents were more likely to exhibit negative attitudes than females.
Young people’s mental health issues are on the rise in the UK, meanwhile the NHS cancelled 175,000 healthcare appointments focusing on mental health in the last year alone. According to Charity MIND this represents a 25% increase in cancelled appointments of this kind.
Now new proposals by Labour have indicated that they will prioritise children’s mental health and have pledged a qualified counsellor will be employed in every secondary school much akin to the American school system who often include school councillors amongst their staff base.
Now in 2017 one in eight 5 to 19 year old's had been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder.
The BBC site writes; "Announcing plans for "real change", Labour said it would spend £845m per year on its Healthy Young Minds plan."
Iwantastandingdesk.com work with schools to identify solutions for young people with diagnosis who might require a standing desk in their classroom.
This could be a child with ADHD or autism who benefits from the added freedom of movement or improved engagement levels the increased oxygenation and serotonin boost that standing affords them.
We receive countless anecdotal reports of general mood and mental well-being improving from standing desk users. The Bottom line is standing makes you feel good because your body responds better to small movements and physical activity than it does to sedentary behaviour.
Standing is proven to also increase academic performance and test results.
If you want a "try before you buy" trial at your school just fill in this short form and you can see how well your classrooms respond to standing desks.
A Cambridge University Study of 15,000 40 to 79 years olds found that people who increase their activity levels later in life half the risk of an early death.
The government recommended activity levels are to carry out 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days a week (or twenty mins each day) and following this can reduce the risk of death by almost a quarter compared to inactive people. However particularly active people who undertake 42 minutes of exercise a day cut the risk of early death by a whopping 42%.
Activity measured included walking, cycling and oddly enough, office work which is great news for you standing desk heroes out there.
Very importantly the study found that people who hadn’t done any previous activity could also reap "substantial" benefits meaning it’s never too late to start increasing your movement irrespective of your previous relationship with exercise. (Mine is turbulent to say the least)
The research was held between 1993 and 1997 and participants followed until 2016. The timeframe has allowed researchers to extrapolate that activity levels over time and higher activity levels are both linked to living a longer life.
Participants who were inactive at the start of the study but worked up toward accomplishing the daily recommended exercise figures of 20 mins a day were able to cut their mortality rates by a quarter and the group who were highly active (60 mins activity a day) halved their mortality rates.
"These results are encouraging, not least for middle-aged and older adults with existing cardiovascular disease and cancer, who can still gain substantial longevity benefits by becoming more active, lending further support to the broad public health benefits of physical activity," researchers said.
"In addition to shifting the population towards meeting the minimum physical activity recommendations, public health efforts should also focus on the maintenance of physical activity levels, specifically preventing declines over mid to late life."
Hew Edwards from UKActive explained how this new evidence should be used to push back against the notion that older people should do less and said "Only by reimagining ageing, can our society reduce the growing burden on our NHS and social care systems.”
Louise Ansari, from the Centre for Ageing Better said "It’s not just about aerobic exercise like running or cycling. All adults should also do activities that boost their strength and balance twice a week."
Standing desks encourage movement and help active people stay active. Whilst they are not a miracle cure they do encourage movement and fit excellently into a healthy lifestyle as part of the solution to today's sedentary culture.
Increasing your exercise levels reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, cardiac disease, cancer and depression. At an age where chance of dementia or Alzheimer’s increase older people who exercise have brains which are ten years younger so naturally staying active has mental health benefits too. So buff off those running shoes and get yourselves moving for the benefit of your body and your minds.
I remember watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child and most frightening image that has stayed with me throughout my years from that movie is that of the net wielding child catcher.
Well I hate to write it but ...he's back! ...and this time his lollipops and treacle tarts are facebook likes and fortnite loot crates. His net has grown bigger into a world wide web to snare you with and some of the largest corporations in the world are sponsoring him. How can he possibly lose?
Children are spending more time online than ever before. According to research, 86 per cent of school children now have their own phone, and that includes 28 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds.
Video game systems sit under the majority of kids televisions. Over 70% of US school kids have a TV in their room. The culture shift towards technology has happened and our children are growing up within this unchartered territory. The question is how we help them navigate it in the face of exploitative video game and social companies who opportunistically create persuasive technology to keep our children online even longer so their user data can be harnessed and sold or their habits reformed to become paid for loot box opening machines.
The field of creating inescapable technology is called “Captology” its right there in the name. Captives. Don't climb into the back of the cart kids. It's a trap.
The World Health Organisation now recognises “gaming disorder.” An addiction which has downsides like any other that left untreated can have legitimate negative impacts. Now in a climate where this is recognised albeit somewhat controversially as a real issue, should we really allow companies such as Bungie the creators of AAA video game "Destiny" an online looter shooter which crosses over the most addictive genres of video games (FPS and MMORPG) to employ the services of addiction consultants to integrate systems and processes into their games which will keep the player online with the promise of more powerful gear for repeated playing on a daily basis.
Some addiction experts have suggested that video gaming is more addictive than cocaine or heroin due to the reward systems they utilise. Meanwhile games such as Rocket League and Anthem give you additional rewards in the form of virtual currency or XP (Experience Points) for playing with your friends on a regular basis. Season passes are now geared towards developing the player into a repeat visitor to the game to reap the greatest rewards and they're not shy about using social pressure to do it. "Come on Joe! If you complete this mission with me the clan bonus should give me enough XP to buy the new gun that’s only on sale until midnight"
Gamers and social media users are often finding themselves demonstrating compulsive behaviours. A need to get back online, mental health and social relationships deteriorating due to obsessive behaviours. Children afflicted by gaming addiction can now seek treatment on the NHS. Children are being hospitalised as a result of this newly identified disorder meanwhile the company behind Fortnite in one month alone last year made $296 million across all their platforms as a result of micro transactions and downloadable content provision. Starkly contrasted outcomes from provider to user. Uncanny that a term often thrown around when discussing substance abuse is what game designers often call the gamer.
Social media companies have gone to town including push notifications to mobile devices. The universally understood like systems in their platforms giving users the constant approval and validation that their every thought has been well received by their peers.
In the UK Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies has warned social media companies to reduce addictive technology or face new laws to ensure they do so with costly fines for failing to meet the targets. The Financial Times says they expect legislature to come into play as early as this year to force companies such as Facebook to stop using the Like system to nudge people back onto their platform over and over again throughout the day.
In the US the government is working towards minimising "Dark Patterns" of app and website user interfaces designed to trick users into to doing things they dont want to do. This could be giving up their data, disallow users to leave a service by creating a roach motel which makes it impossible to find an exit to a service or a subscribed marketing email or tricking you into subscribing to a paid service or giving up your friends contact information. Check out this excellent video to better understand dark patterns.
Also under fire are advertisers who intentionally target vulnerable groups such as children with their marketing. In the UK We recently reported that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood has called for stricter rules in place for junk food companies to tame their child focused marketing including the banning of friendly characters to advertise junk food and pushing back junk food advertising after a 9pm watershed.
Well, the government is trying to play catch up with the changing face of the internet and the negative impact on child mental health this entails. 1 in 10 children now have mental health problems. Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Centre for Humane Technology says “A system wide rethinking of technology policy and design is in order”
In the UK the Chief Medical Officers say we need to ban screens at meal and sleep times. Understandable advice when you consider that the light emit from screens proactively stops the body from falling asleep.
Critics of the new laws cite issues around 'state control' and governmental intervention being a quick road to internet censorship. One Financial Times reader commented "I see little evidence that parents are equipped or able to exert positive influence on their children's habits. The evidence is that the parents are as addicted, as unaware and as unconscious when it comes to use of Internet connected media."
Videogames and social media platforms are at their most addictive. They have been designed that way. Snapchat offer streaks for using unique emoji’s day after day, games such as Fortnite are now considered to be topping the lists of most addictive games according to experts yet it's designed to target children with comical graphics and easy to replicate dances and poses. Numerous young children play the game obsessively.
There are now Fortnite dance classes popping up to get kids moving by teaching them all the in game moves. (Fun idea right!) I overheard two kids quizzing each other on what level they had achieved only yesterday. Why do they care? Because that’s how success is measured in online games now.
Games used to be a case of if you completed it then you had done the most successful thing you could do within the game. However this is a long obliterated concept now as games have been intentionally created and having no finish line. The finish line is perpetually pushed back in order to keep the player on the hamster wheel a little longer.
This is known as "The Grind". Video games want you to play them all year, every day. Social media platforms reach out to you and nudge you incessantly if you let them. (Change your notification settings to stop the nagging!)
If Facebook were a person you'd have ghosted them long ago for being way too clingy and giving you no space. Now we carry around this virtual assistant we call a phone and it taps us up over and over again and many of us happily allow it because the gratification we get from a like is inexplicably addictive.
Kids are less disciplined than us adults. The new legislation may be regarded as too little too late but it is this writer’s opinion that is essential for the future state of this generation’s mental health.
According to research by Common Sense an advocacy group for reducing online time 98% of kids under the age of 8 have access to a mobile phone. Other studies show us that 66% of people are addicted to their device and get anxious without it. The notion of unplugging is filling today’s adults with dread. I can only imagine the impact on the next generation if we allow the furtherance of the captive technology to run wild throughout our digital playgrounds. Parents can check out these helpful resources to combat captive technology and keep the child catcher at bay.
ASK ABOUT GAMES
Should 2 Year Olds Be Measured To Red Flag Childhood Obesity?
The Mail online seems to think so. Following conversations with Manchester Uni researchers who have determined that you may be able to see early warning signs of childhood and possible future adult obesity from as early as two years old.
Research has shown us that if children are overweight at primary age they are more likely to be overweight adults. As part of the National Child Measurement Programme, children are weighed and measured at school in reception and year 6. The information is used by the NHS to plan and provide better health services for children.
New independent research undertaken at the University of Manchester and published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine Reports explains there is a connection with early growth patterns and the likelihood of later life obesity. Following an interview with the researchers the Mail Online has produced an article stating that children should be weighed from age 2 in order to try and predict those with possible future obesity risk. The researchers stating that only collecting the data twice during schooling allows for at risk children to be missed.
The researchers harnessed results from over 1000 other studies from all around the world and collated the results to extrapolate their findings. The sheer breadth of the subject studies means it's difficult to specific how applicable the results are just for the UK school kids however the study does seem to illustrate clearly that early growth patterns can be used as a clear red flag for later life obesity and this information should potentially be built into our early assessment and preventative NHS model being touted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
( We wrote about this here NHS To Embrace Preventative Innovations to Prevent Illness and here Prevention is better than Cure - New Report Published by NHS )
“Right now, the obesity epidemic is probably the worst it’s ever been,” says Daniel Ganjian, MD, paediatric obesity specialist.
Public Health England has produced slides to illustrate the childhood obesity data updated in June 2017.
Research has shown that integrating standing desks into classrooms reduce the students BMI in just a year. With the childhood obesity crisis hitting record breaking highs, is it time to start asking your school what they are doing to combat the issue? If your a conscientious head teacher / teacher and want to start making moves to improving physical literacy in your classroom by including standing desk stations you can utilise your sports premium to access funds.
Schools wishing to try before you buy can trial standing desks for students by visiting this short form and getting in touch.
To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.
The Telegraphs Max Lowery Author of the 2 Meal Day provided his audience this week with a video illustrating 6 super stretches designed to combat the inactivity and strain one can feel from extensive sitting in the workplace.
As many of our blogs are designed to show you, there are innumerate ill health conditions associated with sitting for 7 to 12 hours a day and Max's stretches and workplace tips are just one way you can aim to counteract that.
As I have explained in previous blogs, the act of standing at a desk itself does very little more to keep your body healthy, than the act of sitting all day if the said standing is fixed and equally immobile. Our standing desks do however help the owner build a culture of movement into their lives whilst battling several posture and alertness problems at the same time. They help users to integrate more movement and benefit from being upright whilst feeling generally healthier and happier. Standing encourages you to take small walking breaks and small stretching breaks all can help fight the demon in the room. Inactivity.
Here's Max's video and his website in which he explains his strategy to combat the sedentary lifestyle and offers constructive tips such as taking your trainers to work so you can throw some running into your commute home.
Max writes for the Telegraph, is the author of 2mealday which promotes intermittent fasting and has social links here:
Max writes on his website; "Following these simple steps over time can have a profound effect on your overall flexibility, mobility and quality of life. Small changes over time reap long lasting benefits."
You may also want to read: 70,000 Deaths A Year Caused by Sitting
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health claimed their figures were conservative when they put a figure of £700,000 a year cost to the NHS attributed to the impacts of a sedentary lifestyle. The new research explains 70,000 deaths a year are linked to negative impacts of sedentary behaviour. In short; sitting is killing you.
The researchers recommended measures be taken to reduce inactivity in order to reduce the strain on the NHS resources and improve population health.
Sitting for long periods does contribute to the likelihood that you will become obese (which itself reportedly costs the NHS 6 Billion and causes 30K deaths every year ) but importantly they report the act of sitting has an impact on the body at a physiological level.
When we sit for long periods our body's response to insulin becomes less effective. Insulin mops up excess sugar in the blood and failure of this to work leads to risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sitting increases our risk of heart disease as the ratio of of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol tips towards the negative with extensive sitting.
A study published last year showed a shocking 70% increase in risk of colorectal cancer for people who sit for two hours a day watching TV.
Dr Mike Brannan, national lead for physical activity at Public Health England says: ‘Even if you are physically active, sitting for long periods of time damages your health and greatly increases your risks of a broad range of health conditions.’
The reality is that if sitting were a product it would come with dire health warnings and be subject to punitive fines. The negative impact is far reaching and can't be countered by bouts of exercise alone. Instead regular breaks from sitting are essential and getting in the the habit of movement can be helped by embracing the standing desk culture.
In fact schools have started trialling standing desks and have found an increase in productivity and increased engagement. An 8 school trial at primary level found ‘Teachers reported the standing desks improved the children’s concentration and improved behaviour,’ says Dr Clemes. ‘But the biggest promising effect was the improvement it had on reading scores.’
‘We know from studies that children who sit a lot are likely to become adults who sit a lot and our thinking is if we can get in early and change their mindset these children will be less likely to be so sedentary’
If your school wants to trial standing desks for kids you can visit our trial page and sign up in just 60 seconds.
You may also want to read: Sitting Is Deadly For Students & Guidance from the NHS: Health matters: obesity and the food environment
It seems the government is backing up its claims that preventative medicine and mental health are now a priority. Following pressure to vastly improve our country’s safeguarding of vulnerable groups now by September 2020 school children as young as 4 years old will be taught compulsory lessons about the importance of sleep, looking after their own mental health, relationships and going outside. The new lessons will be part of the broader revised curriculum which will also cover for secondary school pupils, the dangers of sexting, spotting anxiety amongst their friends and the importance of staying safe on the internet.
They will be taught about nutrition, staying active and the link between mental and physical health. And that online time shouldn’t replace playing outside.
"So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate...Almost 20 years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on."
"It will help children learn how to look after themselves, physically and mentally.”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds
The is a notable rise in sleep disorders often attributed to night time screen time which has recently been advised against by the UK’s chief medical officers to be curtailed.
Researchers announced in a British Medical Journal study that sleep deprivation is a serious issue likely to cause more impact on a child’s well-being than bullying, physical activity and screen time. You can read about the study here.
In the meantime for teachers who want to get ahead of the game, in January the PSHE published sleep factor lesson plans which are available to download here: The free to download lesson plans teach children to;
• recognise what good quality sleep is and why it is important
• identify habits and routines that promote good quality sleep
• understand how sleep patterns change during adolescence
The new plans for sex and lifestyle based education has however received some criticism and after a 106,000 signatures have been gathered the issue of parents wanting the right to opt out their children will now be debated in parliament next Monday. It is worth noting that Parents will still have the right to withdraw their child up to age 15 although headteachers will be encouraged to discuss with parents the potential negatives of withdrawing their child, so it seems there will be pressure imposed to include your child.
“We believe that these changes are absolutely essential in creating an educated and self-aware generation next. In schools the teaching of physical literacy is malnourished and needs improvement …this is certainly a welcome step in letting children take some ownership through understanding their own health and it's importance.
"I know that Education Secretary Hinds said £6 million would be made available to cover training and resources, hopefully the initiative and the funding allowance will be built upon if the government genuinely expects any sweeping changes in outcomes.
"We work with over a hundred schools on improving their flexible seating options to enhance their pupils development from this we know first hand that even small changes can have a tremendous impact.”
Nick White, Eiger Standing Desks / iwantastandingdesk.com
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JAMA Paediatrics has published a study which explains that half the population of USA children have a mental health disorder and only half of those get treatment.
In 2016 a US wide survey was given to parents of children and teens of 46.6 million children aged 6 to 18, 7.7 million had at least one mental condition such as depression, anxiety or ADHD and only half of these were receiving treatment within the last 12 months.
Interestingly the numbers from state to state across the broad US varied wildly suggesting external factors have an influence over mental health in young people. The children of Hawaii for example only 7.6% had one of the conditions compared to Maine where over a quarter of the kids had one or more.
The Author of the study Mark Peterson professor at University of Michigan Medicine said the high numbers of mental illness and how many go untreated was unexpected.
The low treatment numbers are attributed to a lack of mental health services, poor insurance coverage and a stigma attached to mental health conditions meaning that parents were averse to putting their children into support services.
"Untreated mental illness in children pose grave consequences to our communities, including high rates of suicide, academic decline and unemployment" - Dr. Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
Our Take on This…
Physical literacy is a malnourished area of our children’s care. More needs to be done to ensure that our children are in the best possible state with their mental health as we wrote earlier in the week, getting exercise and vitamin D is a hugely important aspect to that.
The UK is just starting to raise how we tackle mental health in children. 9 local authorities in the UK have this week each received a share of £650,000 to pilot a program designed to improve the way children and young people’s mental health needs are met as they enter care.
Cllr Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service, said: "We listened to young people when they asked us to help support their mental health needs. Being part of this project is a great opportunity to ensure each child gets help that is right for them, at the right time. As we roll out this pilot, we will continue to listen to young people every step of the way.”
This week UK doctors have also urged parents to reduce the amount of screen time we allow our children as this is directly linked to the growth of adverse mental health conditions noted in the survey.
More screens mean less movement. Our children lifespans are 5 years shorter than our own because we have allowed a landscape of inactivity to develop and this needs to be countered at the earliest ages. It has been proven that active children become active adults and physical activity leads to better educational results and children with less mental and physical health disorders. We work with schools to implement flexible seating plans integrating standing desks into schools and the feedback we receive reinforces our belief that standing desks in schools are an essential part of an overall solution.
If your school wishes to trial standing desks then you can request a trial here.
The Telegraph are campaigning to create a 'duty of care' campaign which suggests that government enforce a rule-set for social media and gaming / internet companies to ensure the web is a safe place for our children in the face of the booming tech landscape they are growing up within.
They reported on Thursday that all four medical officers in the UK have made recommendations that screen time be monitored and reduced following a study that links screen time with depression in young people. The study has failed to prove a causal link however it shows a doubling in depressive symptoms for heavy social media users.
Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies has warned social media companies to reduce addictive technology or face new laws to ensure they do so with costly fines for failing to meet the targets. Davies spoke as she made the first official announcement of proposed guidelines for parents to ensure their children don't overuse tech in a harmful way. She suggests tracking features within devices should be used by parents to ensure there are limits set on screen time.
Dame Sally said: “Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care. They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”
Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary has met with leaders from Facebook, Instagram and Google to urge them to remove harmful images which might glorify self-harm or bullying.
“We are masters of our own fate as a nation and we can and must legislate to make sure this amazing technology is used for good if social media companies won’t work with us,” wrote Hancock.
Guidance suggests limiting children’s screen time to 2 hours, screen free mealtimes and bedtimes. The last point being reinforced by the fact that the light from screens stops the production of the hormone melatonin, which is vital for getting to sleep.
The advice suggests these 7 pointers;
- Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
- Talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents and carers should never assume that children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone - when in doubt, don’t upload.
- Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by, their school’s policy on screen time.
- Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen. It’s good to get up and move about a bit.
- Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention.
- Talk with your children about using screens and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed - make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
- Screen-free meal times are a good idea - you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
What's Our Take On This?
It seems obvious to me as a parent that we shouldn't let our children spend their lives with their heads inside phone iPad and computer screens however it’s a habit we can all easily allow our family’s to slip into. The digital babysitter has rescued my sanity on more than one occasion and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
But the facts about depressive symptoms genuinely worry me as a parent. The telegraph wrote quite a moving account of a young girl who took her own life and the last thing she did was log into Instagram. Whatever was the last straw for her was on social media and this alone is enough to make me start to consider the content my kids are engaging with (and for how long) and more importantly to get off their bottoms and move more instead of sitting down and playing video games or with phones and devices.
There’s no getting away from the fact that we are rarely moving when we are on social media which might be a contributing factor to the high depressive symptoms with heavy social media users as their bodies aren’t getting the natural positive chemicals associated with exercise and sunlight such as serotonin, oxygen and vitamin D known as 'the sunshine vitamin'. I’ve said it before and I'll say it again. We are designed to move. Standing desks whilst they will rarely get us outside they do allow us to get busy with what we want to orientate on but also encourage us to move and stay physical...and the thing about moving is it's habit forming. Get used to moving and you wont want to sit down which will lead to a more active, happier lifestyle overall.
The guidelines above suggest regular breaks from sitting but many people say it feels more natural to get up and get moving than slouching all day which only makes us feel tired and lethargic.
Our standing desks are designed to work for all age groups and can be with you through your life with different desks in our range being for different age groups. We have Eiger Pro Desks for adults and Classroom Standing Desks such as the Eiger Student for kids as young as primary school age.
If you want to talk to us about the best solution for your school or home then get in touch through the site or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter but don't stay on there for too long ...obviously.
The Last Word
The new guidelines seem like a a long overdue measure. Tech companies proactively hire addiction consultants to make their games and experiences more addictive and our children are growing up with phones glued to their hands and are now being officially diagnosed as addicts. The personal gadget landscape could well have damaging long term affects and its important that we combat this now. Its essential that corporate's are held accountable for the long term affects of their nefarious tactics and that our government finally demonstrate they consider our children's mental health a priority.
You may also want to read: Health Report Links Children's Screen-Time To 12 Major Cancers
SUMMARY: MacDonalds are being delivered to schools despite the anti-obesity ban amid the backdrop of a Birmingham Child Type 2 Diabetes epidemic undermining headmasters efforts to inject healthy culture into schools. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Three Doctors have been quoted in the media this week. Here's why.
Do you own a standing desk ? Do you run? if you answered yes to both of these questions then using time at your desk practising balancing on one leg is just what the doctor ordered.
Dr Mark Cucuzzella is a running expert and a professor of family medicine in West Virginia. Amongst the myriad of "new year, new you" articles hitting the internet this January sits a nice little tip from the good doctor. He suggests runners should concern themselves with establishing and improving their balance and if you run and use a standing desk, you can use specific times in the day as a prompt for you to stand on one foot to develop and improve your centre of balance. This could be when you answer your emails or some other habitual moment that’s memorable and suitable for you.
Now why does this matter? well balance plays a huge role in running and — “because running is a series of jumps where you have to land on one foot, stick that landing and get off the ground,” Cucuzzella says it’s all about staying safe and injury free on the road or track. His article has a series of tips for runners to get active and stay healthy in world where technology is increasingly designed to keep us in chairs.
“Just spend as much time as you can on one foot trying to master that balance and never lose it,”
The act of balancing on one foot takes stress off each leg and initiates a degree of movement as anyone who follows this blog already knows we actively encourage this in order to get benefit from your standing desk. We feel this tip can work for all you standing desk users to keep those micro movements up which will help maintain good circulation and better calorie burning benefits from standing. Remember standing still all day is almost as bad for you as sitting still all day.
Secondly a well written article on the Independent also includes another UK medical practitioner, TV Doctor Mark Rowe providing a series of life changing tips including investing in a standing desk as part of a new year healthy regime to keep movement up and vary your working position - read their piece on getting active in 2019 here on their Life Health and Well-being blog.
Lastly Dr Vegar Rangu a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has had some disconcerting results to their study of cancer rates among 38,000 adults over a 16 year period, and found that those who reported sitting for long periods each day were 20% more likely to develop prostate cancer than those who spend more of the day on their feet. You read more about their research here on the Metro.
Studies have previously linked long sitting periods with increased rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer and premature death but this one specifically shows a link to an increase in prostate cancer.
‘The main findings were that prolonged sitting time is independently associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer while moderate to high leisure-time physical activity may reduce the risk of specific cancer types, particularly colorectal and lung cancer,’ says Dr Rangul.
‘we noted that moderate physical activity significantly decreased the risk – the findings emphasising the importance of reducing sitting time and increasing physical activity.’