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02 May 2018

Save Money and Improve Student Behavior by Reducing Screen Times

Catherine Kleiber: Save money and improve student behavior by reducing screen time
by Catherine Kleiber | guest columnist,
host.madison.com, 12 April 2018

Student behavior problems have become rampant in schools. When I attended school, now over 25 years ago, serious behavior problems were virtually nonexistent.

Michelle Illiatovitch, a former teacher at Browndale, a residential treatment center and school in Ontario, Canada, was appalled by recent news stories detailing the physical violence teachers face in public schools now. She says, “I cared for and taught very disturbed children for six years and I only experienced one episode where I was harmed physically — and that was minor compared with what public school teachers describe experiencing on a daily basis now. Something is seriously wrong!”

In her book "Reset Your Child’s Brain" (www.ResetYourChildsBrain.com), Dr. Victoria Dunckley, an integrative psychiatrist, discusses the four-week program she uses with many of her patients to help calm their nervous systems and improve behavior control. It is highly successful, inexpensive, and virtually side-effect free. It involves eliminating electronic screen use for four weeks.

Mounting research evidence shows that screens overstimulate our nervous systems, inducing hyper-arousal, aka, the fight-or-flight response. When this happens continuously, over time it leads to a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress diverts blood flow away from the frontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for good decision-making and behavior control, and whose function is absolutely necessary for academic success. This causes the frontal lobe to develop poorly. The effects can mimic or exacerbate serious mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and even schizophrenia. Research shows that it is screen use itself that causes dysregulation of the nervous system.

Studies show that screen use, far from improving educational outcomes, causes learning performance to suffer at all levels, including in college. Studies show writing notes by hand and reading from books improve educational performance compared to typing notes and reading on screens.

There is evidence suggesting that screen use may increase vulnerability to addiction by setting up addictive reward pathways in the brain. This is due in part to the screens themselves, and in part due to deliberately addictive design of wireless devices, apps, and games.

The radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by screens, both deliberately in order to communicate wirelessly and inadvertently due to their operation, also causes serious biological effects that overlap and exacerbate screen effects. These effects, like the carcinogenic effects which were confirmed by recently completed studies at the U.S. National Toxicology Program and the Ramazzini Institute, have been downplayed by telecom industry disinformation campaigns.

Ron Perry, retired superintendent of the Melrose-Mindoro School District in western Wisconsin, reported the significant health and behavioral benefits that occurred after the district cleaned up “dirty” electricity, a potent and unnecessary source of RF exposure in schools, as did both the school nurse, Char Sbraggia, and the building principal, Angela Olstad.

France has banned the use of WiFi in nursery schools and day care facilities caring for children under 3 to protect them the RF radiation it emits and only allows WiFi in elementary schools to be turned on while in use for lessons for similar reasons.

France is also implementing a ban on cell phones in schools for children up to age 14 to promote learning and protect cognitive health. Cellphone use, already banned during classes, is now being banned in hallways, between classes, and on playgrounds as well. Israel banned cellphone use during the school day in 2016 and WiFi has been banned in Haifa.

Many schools in the U.S. are also banning cell phones from classrooms to improve learning and social interaction. However, the fallacy that screen technology enhances learning is still being embraced.

In her book, Dunckley states an important truth that school boards everywhere ought to consider while deciding whether to include computer use in the school curriculum: “Computer skills are relatively easy to learn, but poor attention and dysregulation from a poorly developed frontal lobe make it hard to learn or accomplish anything.”

In fact, all school boards, school administrators, teachers, and parents ought to read Dunckley’s detailed presentation of the evidence about the harm screens do to cognition and behavior control before decisions are made regarding budget and curriculum for the next school year.

Catherine Kleiber, of Waterloo, is an independent researcher and author and webmaster of www.electricalpollution.com.

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