The Big Brother School System...
Since December 2017 the Chinese education system has been subject to an experiment ripped straight out of the pages of a sci-fi novel. Artificial Intelligence surveillance on students. The image conjured by website Sixthtone.com weaves a disturbing glimpse into the future of education technology as it describes a boys realisation his classroom was being monitored and his facial data captured without his consent.
A pupil in Beijing who for the purposes of the article is known as 'Jason' was surfing the web one day only to stumble upon a social media thread entitled #ThankGodIGraduatedAlready and upon clicking it he was presented with an top down photograph of a typical Chinese classroom setting, the backs of rows of students facing a teacher had been captured by an overhead camera. The image upon inspection had several students heads boxed of with subtitles describing the subject’s level of attention, from focussed, distracted to engaged if they were answering questions. Upon even closer inspection 'Jason' realised the uniforms of the students pictured were that of his own school. This sci-fi drama had quickly become a sci-fi horror as Jason recalled he had never been invited to consent to this surveillance.
In July 2017, China’s highest governmental body, the State Council, released an ambitious policy initiative called the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (NGAIDP). This new plan was designed to help turn China into the world’s leading A.I. Power by integrating artificial intelligence into all aspects of life ; Medicine, law, transport, environment and 'intelligent education'
Upon interview the man at the helm of the surveillance systems development explains the culture of Chinese parents is immensely hands on. He's describes in interview how teachers are usually bombarded by parent’s questions requesting information on their child’s progress. “Did my son fall asleep during English class again?” he says, mimicking the questions parents might ask. “Did my daughter and her desk mate talk too much during class? Should we separate them?”
He explains how the devs feel the tech allows schools to send the data to parents and the school through a mobile app and demonstrates an example of a report “For example, this student’s report shows that he rarely volunteers to answer the teacher’s questions in class. So his participation in English class is marked as low. Number of questions answered: one,” Zhang reads from the AI-generated report. “This week, the student spent 94.08 percent of class time focusing. His grade average is 84.64 percent. He spent 4.65 percent of the time writing, which was 10.57 percent lower than the grade average.”
The system is named the "Class Care System" and the developer head Zhang believes it means no child will left behind as the children who receive the most attention in a classroom setting are the naughtiest and the cleverest ones. The average child isn’t getting the same attention and Zhang says the Class Care System will remedy this.
Here is Sixthtones visual breakdown of the system which is quite enlightening and their full article here: https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1003759/camera-above-the-classroom
Zhang says the Children must consent to the surveillance and when asked what the children think of the tech he replied. "They hate it." Some schools within the trial even had students revolting against the monitoring by unplugging the system just before final exams.
Whatever your take on the implementation of tech in the classroom. It's important to ensure that we move forward into this modern era with a mindfulness to considering the potential mental health impacts of going home and be berated by your parents for not answering enough questions in maths that day.
The terms intelligent education and Class Care System are carefully developed terms of propaganda masking a possibly darker reality. Schools in Shenzhen have been collecting biometric data by fingerprinting their students and three and half thousand facial recognition patents were acquired in China alone. A concerning future is barrelling down on us, Whilst we might not quite be on the precipice of a 1984 style Big Brother dystopia one thing is increasingly clear. Tech is integrating into our daily lives inextricably and we have to ensure we remember the importance of going outside, reading from paper not screens and retaining a semblance of individualism and privacy.
“Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free.”
A unprecedented global survey of 14,000 women by researchers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham has shown that British and Irish school girls lose interest in sport when they hit puberty which can be attributed to body changes, low confidence, unflattering sports kit and a feeling that sport was “not cool” or fun.
The figures show two out of five of them shun sport during puberty often using sick notes citing their periods as the reason not to participate. One P.E. teacher described how often this occurred as “ridiculous”.
The falloff stats are far more severe than anywhere else in the world which can be linked to English and Irish attitudes towards the sometimes sensitive subject and shines a light on a dire need to de-stigmatise periods whilst motivating our young people to embrace active lifestyles given the obesity epidemic reportedly straining the NHS to the tune of 6 Billion a year.
One of the researchers and international cross country runner Dr Georgie Bruinvels has written account of her own experiences as a young runner dreading having her period on a race day. ( Scroll down to the case study here.) She explained she has used her own experiences as a motivator for the research and in her capacity as a co-creator of the FitrWomen App which helps women individualise their training regimes around their menstrual cycles.
“One side effect of that is the bleed but a whole other aspect of it is about what is going on with the body all the time. Athletes are suppressing their bodies by taking the birth control pill to stop this natural and normal process which we should be embracing.” Said Bruinvels
Mims Davies, the sports minister, said the findings highlighted the need for the Government to address participation levels among teenage girls. “This is further concerning evidence of the challenge we must address” They have previously rolled out the “This Girl Can” campaign which inspired 3.9 million women and girls to get active however it seems that young people are moving away from sport in droves during the transitional time in their adolescence.
“I am working with the sector to make sport and physical activity both enjoyable and engaging for young people of all abilities and backgrounds.
The survey also illustrated that women found exercise to offer great relief to the pain and other side effects of menstruation and according to Bruinvels women actually show increased ability to exercise when menstruating.
A Sports England survey showed that 2.3 million children do less than 30 minutes of activity each day. If you want to help young people to embrace movement and push back against the growing trend to abandon physical activity during puberty you can consider fostering a culture of movement with a standing desk trial in your school just fill out this 60 second form to get started.
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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
A new report by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has described the Scottish paediatric workforce as on the verge of a crisis, putting children's health 'At Risk'.
Scotland are lagging behind England in the recruitment of Paediatric consultants and would need a 25% increase to meet required standards.
Kids doctor shortfall puts NHS on brink of crisis
A Scottish government spokesperson said Brexit has caused uncertainty and the knock-on effect is difficulty in recruitment for the NHS.
"Work is under way to develop a comprehensive plan to help address some of the recruitment and retention challenges faced by our health and care sector.
"We have already published workforce plans covering the NHS, Primary Care and Social Care, and an integrated health and social care workforce plan will be published shortly.
Prof Steve Turner, officer for Scotland at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that tackling the shortage of paediatric doctors needs to be a "priority".
"Failing to take the necessary steps now will be to the detriment of our children both today and in the future."
This news hits off the back of a recent announcement that 25% of Primary one school kids in Scotland are starting school obese or overweight.
Obesity related illness is costing the NHS over 6 billion every year, initiatives to reduce obesity in children would in turn ensure that long term obesity related illness causes less stress to the public sector service and should be prioritised as an investment in the next generation who are reportedly going to live 5 years less than our generation.
We recently wrote about the UK government tackling fast food companies with a watershed on junk food adverts and encouraging kids to eat healthy with the Vegetable Power campaign that offers free resources for schools to motivate kids to eat vegetables.
One in ten children are thought to have mental health problems. There are now 5.7 million children diagnosed with ADHD and the use of pyscho-stimulants such as Ritalin is up by 700%
70% of children with Mental Health problems get no interventions at an appropriate age.
New legislation is being called for in a new charter by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood who want to government to legislate a 2019 Mental Health Bill based on 6 key principles.
- Focus on the needs of children
- Protect children by registering all individuals who work therapeutically with them through an independent government-approved agency such as the Professional Authority’s Accredited Register programme or the Health and Care Professions Council
- Invest in a properly qualified workforce, with Level 7 postgraduate training essential and all professionals who work with children, including teachers, to be trained in mental health awareness, regardless of their own financial resources
- Ensure that policy is informed by the best available and appropriate evidence and is properly funded
- Focus on the needs of parents and carers
- Make policies succeed via ‘joined up working’ between all agencies concerned with child welfare
"The UK Government must deliver on its commitment to ensure that new mental health legislation protects all children who live with mental illness. The effects of our childhoods may indeed 'last a lifetime' but time is precious for children in the here and now." - Helen Clark, Lead Author of the APPG's numerous child health and well-being reports.
The charter is available to read and sign here. and is designed to urge the government to introduce a new Mental Health Bill focusing on children in 2019.
Mental Health & Standing Desks.
The benefits of freedom of movement and exercise generally are universally acknowledged. Our standing desks for kids perpetuate movement and encourage good mental health. The student standing desk encourages participation and it's clear that engaged students are happier students. If you want to trial standing desks in your school you can request a trial here.
For further reading on Mental Health visit the Mental Health Foundation here. They have helpful publications such as talking to your children about healthy internet use.
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According to a new Telegraph article by Professor Dame Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer for England obesity related sickness is costing the NHS more than 6 billion a year. With the exponential rate at which the childhood obesity crisis is growing the stress on the NHS and the impact on our children's health is undeniable.
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 polling now indicates that 70% of people agree with the water shedding of junk food ads and the government has come out this week stating they will be clamping down.
We reported recently that McDonalds were being delivered to schools
"Adverts for foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt are more prolific than any other category of food promotion. In fact, only 1 per cent of adverts are for vegetables!" Professor Davies explains that actually being exposed to the adverts actively changes our children’s taste buds making the battle to glamorise vegetables we wrote about recently in the Vegetable Power campaign an even harder sell.
Public health experts also warn about the growing influence of social media stars and online advertising in manipulating our children into engaging in games produced by advertisers and of course eating unhealthily. Professor Dame Sally Davies says online advertising methods are a growing consideration for the government and new rules will be devised to reflect the government’s pledge to bring in policy to combat the junk food advertisers grasp on our children’s eating habits.
Standing Desks for kids help educate our children in the language of physical literacy. It's a known fact that active children become active adults and it is our duty of care to expose our kids to a culture of movement. Sitting all day in a chair to learn is counterproductive to this aim and we have helped over a hundred schools in the UK to integrate standing desks to combat the sedentary problem.
Your school can request a student standing desk trial by filling in the form here.
You may want to read:
The telegraph article.
Our article on rising childhood obesity.
The new veg power campaign.
How the government will combat the online problem
An American public school district has spent over $30,000 on flexible seating in the process of revising their campus facilities. School board records show that Illinois based David Jakes Designs has been paid that much as a consultant plus the cost of the furniture itself to provide expertise and design advice to schools such as Union High School on implementing flexible seating options.
One reporter for The Columbian wrote about her experience visiting the school. She describes the classrooms as being akin to a tech company start-up with students on couches, leaning over small circular tables and using standing desks. This is yet another example of how creative seating options are gradually becoming commonplace in American education facilities. We recently wrote about how one Californian elementary school has become entirely standing.
Recent research demonstrates that standing students engage more, are more productive and stay on-task for longer in the learning space.
“It gives students much more choice to say ‘I need to do this for my learning today” Jakes said
Woodland Intermediate School embraced flexible seating back in 2016 They integrated talks to students from occupational therapists who educated students on the "alert program" and to be "self-aware of their bodies" allowing them to try alternate seating options before choosing what they like the most at the beginning of classes. Results were overwhelmingly positive. Students were excited to go to class, they found their learning spaces fun, exciting and they were more relaxed.
“This isn’t some sort of magic pill, but activity and movement in the classroom during schoolwork can have a big impact,”
Mark Benden, Texas A&M University
Bendan is published in the American Journal of Public Health with a study that illustrates standing desks can slow the increase in elementary school children’s B.M.I. by 5% - Body Mass Index is an early indicator of obesity.
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the U.K. More than 24,000 children in England are now considered severely obese whilst 116,000 children are deemed obese. UK public health officials and government initiatives have put preventative methods at the top of the NHS agenda to counteract general ill health and the obesity problem.
UK schools can now access sports premium funding in order to facilitate the purchase of standing desks for their classrooms.
Over a hundred UK schools have introduced standing desks as a result of successful Eiger Standing Desk trials. Your school can try student standing desks for negligible cost by filling in this form. you may also wish to ask us about financial support options to implement creative seating.
A new report by Natural England has revealed a 13th of our young population don’t venture outside to play. Nearly 5,400 children were surveyed and only 17% had visited a beach. We have written about the ever growing popularity of beach schools who actively combat this figure but it’s clear that physical literacy and going outside is becoming obsolete in the face of increasing sedentary behaviour and screen time which has been linked to increased rates of depression in young people.
Active students perform better according to research.
This news hits amidst the backdrop of quickly escalating childhood obesity numbers and notable 5 year reductions in our children’s expected lifespans.
Unsurprisingly 67% of children believe “being in nature makes me happy”
It has also come to light from the report that whilst these figures are depressingly low they are higher than the amount of outdoor time spent by our nation’s adults. Economic factors also effect the results with 10% less poorer family’s getting outdoor time compared to more affluent families.
UK Active this week published a news report detailing that university students who engage in physical activity experience improved mental health and feel they are more employable and perform better. Physically active children were monitored and they experience a 16% improvement in productivity against inactive children. So the stats all point to better physical health aiding better mental health and clear cut improvement in academic results.
Not surprising really when you consider that the same part of the brain which manages movement also manages executive function and learning. There has been a bidirectional study in adults which shows a robust connection between activity and improved executive function.
In longitudinal multilevel models low levels of physical activity led to subsequent declines in executive function.
Now let put this in basic English;
- Adults who are active demonstrate sharper thinking. When you stop moving your thought processes slow down.
- University students who exercise believe they are more employable, happier and perform better.
- Children at school level are less productive and becoming depressed due to an increase in screen time and decrease in exercise and outdoor time.
Schools can combat the tide of sedentary culture in their classrooms and give their students an edge by building physical literacy into the classroom and integrating standing desks to normalise movement for our young people. Other standing schools are reaping the benefit of students with flexible seating. Their pupils are proven to participate more and become more productive in the process.
Physically literate children become active adults, perhaps the more active ones will get those 5 years back from their expected lifespans and retain their sharp thinking. This writer believes it’s our duty of care to help them achieve this.
A new measure to help tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity has been implemented in London as of February 25th. The London transport network can now no longer carry advertising for food which is deemed to be overly fatty or high in sugar. The impact of this cannot be underestimated and should be rolled out nationwide according to Dr Stuart Flint, of Leeds Beckett University who contributed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity. He said;
“This policy is needed across the UK, not just in London. Local authorities should be considering this policy and the potential impact that it could on child and adult health nationally.”
The ban also extends to roundabouts, bus stops, taxis and trams and is designed to reduce the glamorisation of junk food to kids. London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe with almost 40% of 10-11 year old's being obese.
A spokesperson for the mayor said:
"The mayor is confident these changes will not only reduce children's exposure to junk food advertising, but also empower Londoners to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families."
This is however only shining a light on a more national problem. Obesity rates are sky rocketing as are rates of diabetes type 2 according to new figures from Diabetes UK over 7000 young people in the UK now have it. Physical literacy is also at an all-time low due to our children’s overuse of devices and increased screen time.
There was a study on the influence of social media influencers who actively showed themselves engaging in eating unhealthy products and this demonstrated that children who watched influencers who ate unhealthy products on air measured an increase in unhealthy food within their diets. The same test was done with healthy food and this had very little effect. From this we can extrapolate that kids don’t need much of a nudge to eat poorly and marketing has a significant effect on their eating habits and their perceptions of food.
It will be much more of an uphill battle to glamourize eating healthy but as a nation we have a responsibility to ensure our children’s attitudes towards fruit and veg stays on course. The study data is here.
80% of British kids don’t eat enough veg. There is however a very cool new ITV backed campaign called Veg Power which takes the fight to veg and positions them as the bad guys with the only way to defeat them being to eat them. Veg Power is supported by a host of familiar names in the fight against childhood obesity some of which include Jamie Oliver, ITV, Ella’s Kitchen, Oxford University, Iceland, Birdseye, Morrison’s and Tesco’s
Schools in the UK can do their part to combat childhood obesity. They can request sticker and poster packs here; give your location and number of KS2 pupils to ask for a support pack. Or alternatively download Veg Power posters charts and more to promote the "Eat Them To Defeat Them" message on the following link.
Iwantastandingdesk.com proactively support over a hundred UK schools to implement standing desks into their classrooms keeping movement and active lifestyles a priority in their learning spaces. They see the benefits of this not just in more alert and engaged students but also statistics prove that their children are out-performing inactive students by 16%. Movement is imperative to good mental and physical health. It combats obesity which is linked to cancer and early death.
UK schools can request student standing desk trials here by filling in this very short form.
With new advertising bans alongside campaigns to demonstrate the importance of healthy eating to kids set to a backdrop of a changing curriculum to include health messages it seems that our government is finally waking up to the dire issues arising in our young people and their lifestyles.
Disturbingly children's expected lifespans are now 5 years shorter than our own for the first time in history. We desperately need more initiatives to empower children to make the right choices for themselves and encourage them to get outside and get active so they grow up to become healthy well rounded adults in this ever changing tech led world we have created for them.
Veg Power, School Standing Desks and The Daily Mile are all ways in which schools can help to combat the growing childhood obesity problem. Some schools are proactive in supporting healthy messaging...Is your school contributing to the problem of sedentary behaviour and its negative impacts or providing solutions to tackle childhood obesity? There are certainly lots of ways to have a positive impact. Time to start getting stuck in.
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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Brad Johnson, Author of Learning on Your Feet: Incorporating Physical Activity into the K-8 Classroom has produced an article in Principle, published by the National Association of Elementary School Principles describing the practise of sitting in schools as "Inhumane"
Johnson makes links to rising rates of obesity, ADHD and diabetes as a result of the old fashioned sitting culture in modern day schooling.
He has the stats to back up his claims and says that if these figures were related to an infectious disease that we'd be declaring an epidemic however as this is resultant from education it’s simply the status quo.
Obesity rates in children have doubled since the 1980's
Type 2 Diabetes is up 30% in children between 2000-2009
There are now 5.7 million children diagnosed with ADHD and the use of pyscho-stimulants such as Ritalin is up by 700%
Johnson reflects on a longitudinal study by Howard Gardner which found that a group of children who all tested at a genius level up to age 4 only ten percent continued to test at such levels by age 20. Johnson attributes this to the public education systems imposed uniformity and sedentary behaviours.
Johnson offers tips on helping kids to burn off their excess energy and focus on learning - these include regular breaks for stretching and standing, two minute exercise breaks for sit-ups to refocus and dancing and games designed to work off pent up energy.
Johnson states that there are many connections between the brain and movement and our ability to learn, one of which is that the same part of the brain that controls movement controls also learning so Johnson believes that sitting actively hinders the learning process.
Basically exercise and movement stimulates the executive function part of the brain which aids cognition, organisation, focus, emotional regulation and multi-tasking all essential elements of a well-rounded learner.
"The part of the brain that processes movement also processes learning. So when students are sitting still, the learning process is actually hindered rather than enhanced.” - Johnson
Johnson’s article is available here.
...and his book is available here.
Apples push into the education sector has hit the headlines again as Metro has written a rather glowing account of their education tech designed to bolster creativity and coding skills with free classroom apps and a 9.7inch iPad designed for school pupils. It seems Apple is aiming to make the iPad as essential as the calculator once was in schools.
Apple has combined these Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create iPad focused curriculum apps with a classroom app that allows teachers to keep an eye on their students iPad use and track them effectively whilst providing feedback and guidance.
Simon Pile, the Assistant Head teacher at Anson Primary School in London explained ‘iPad allows me to create a curriculum that is engaging and relevant, to give every student a voice…It gives students the opportunity to have a personalised learning journey that is packed with creative opportunities.’
Remember this? It was essential until the calculator came along.
Now apples push into education could be seen as a cynical attempt to get our children hooked on iPad tech from an early age – almost positioning the iPad as an essential learning aid. Their efforts to romance schools isn't without its critics however Apple claims their motivations are entirely altruistic and not at all focused on reaping a return on investment by turning our children into future brand consumers by exposing them to Apple tech as early as possible.
Here at IWASD we would suggest that children are already hooked on technology and amidst the NHS guidelines that screen time should be reduced its hard to see a case for implementing more tech and screen time into the children’s school day however at the same time we actively encourage schools who seek to find new creative ways to get their pupils using real world experiences and getting off the bums and away from their desks to learn lessons.
It seems nobody has asked the question of apple as to whether they believe they are compacting the problems associated with greater screen time in our children. For example we recently reported that excessive screen time is now linked to 12 deadly cancers in children. So whilst the short term desire to have our kids embrace tablets to get out and about might in fact have a detrimental effect on them culturally if they grow up plugged into the matrix one has to wonder how will they ever leave it?
Amid a landscape where childhood obesity is soaring and MacDonald's being delivered to schools in the UK, instead of sycophantic articles sucking up to multi billion pound brands heralding their tech as having a positive influence on our children's development without regard for reporting on any downside instead it would be nice to for once acknowledge that we live in a world where our teachers can come up with methods for students to get interested and get active without the aid of a screen based devices luring them to do it. They've been doing this for years. Apple didn't invent going outside.
Lets make time to promote our teachers who aren't using tech as a crutch and who's own creativity and diversity of their lesson planning lets them come up with a reason to get outside other than an app. Lets's promote physical literacy alongside technological literacy and importantly lets start listening to the expert advice to reduce screen time for our children instead of embedding it into our children's daily lives so inextricably as building it into the curriculum.
Apples push into schools makes our children early adopters exposed to the Apple brand and be more likely to become future consumers. Apple want the language of computing to have iPads in the scope and it's not beyond this writers imagination that their education programs are designed to familiarise the next generation with their tech for cynical reasons. Whilst their big brand sway has media outlets clamouring to flatter them in the process it's hard to see how they will fail. Brands are the new idols and bloggers are the new evangelists so just keep an eye open for objectivity amongst the sea of honeyed words.
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