What are we doing to our kids?

Cancer doesn’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  The dollars invested in the edtech industry don’t care if your child is Democrat or Republican either.  Why  then do we let this broken two party system divide us when it comes to education and doing what is best for our children?  Put children’s health and safety first.  Always.

A is for always protect kids and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

We know, despite campaigns from the tobacco industry that said otherwise, smoking cigarettes does have a direct link to causing cancer.  The sugar industry certainly has helped to prove the point recently, that data can be manipulated and studies and media can be bought.  So now, ask yourself this, remember those warnings from pediatricians about too much  TV and limited screen time? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),  2015, kids were astonishingly spending 7 hours a day on “entertainment” media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released these guidelines for children and adolescents using media, recommending no more than two hours per day of any type of entertainment screen time for kids ages 3 to 18 and none for children 2 or younger. The guidelines cover media such as Internet and texting as well as TV, movies and video games.- Reported March 2014, Washington Post


How come we aren’t limiting screen time in school?

Instead, the federal government and the broadband industry are teaming up to bring Wi-Fi connectivity (via the FCC’s Lifeline) to all communities and schools.  The White House is also promoting classroom connectivity,  1:1 computers, chromebooks, or ipads for each child. ESSA has freed up Billions of dollars to spend on expanding technology use in the classroom. That’s MILLIONS of classrooms full of screens, Wi-Fi, online curriculum, online assessments and student data all bundled together for and by the industry. The federal government is actually giving grants for every textbook you replace with their “free” online curriculum. The US Department of Ed has been promoting the use of student data badges, since at least 2011.  (Data badges are personal and predictive data about the student, that will be shared across agencies and with future employers, colleges etc., starting from pre-school.)  Additionally,  see President Clinton’s 2013 announcement and commitment to student data badges here

glow kids

B  is for Billions of dollars.

Interestingly, there is now research proving that screen time is addictive, showing dopamine receptors in our brains react to screens equally as strong as receptors react to cocaine addiction.   Glow Kids author explains in TIME Magazine that screens in schools, edtech is a $60 Billion Hoax that is harming children.  We don’t see that posted on the US Dept of Ed or State Dept of Ed websites.   Nor do we see the studies posted that show poor memory retention on screenslower scores on tests, academic performance are actually worse on screens. But we do see the federal government investing millions more into technology and data collection and edtech hungry to gobble up the Billion dollar education market.


C  is for Cancer.

The Big (C).

Radiofrequency radiation (exposure coming from cell phones, cell towers, WI-FI, wireless laptops and devices)  is labeled a class 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  Researchers found that cell phone use, exposure to cell phone radiation, increases risks of certain cancers.  Remember this study that seemingly got buried after one day?  Children are especially susceptible.  Increased use of screens and Wi-Fi exposure has also been linked to depression, ADHD, anxiety and obesity in children. Wi-Fi exposure has also been associated with changes in glucose metabolism,  cognitive impairment, heart arrhythmia, DNA damage and more.

[Update 9/26/16:  The American Academy of Pediatrics Issued New Recommendations to “Reduce Exposure to Cell Phones

In response to the U.S. National Toxicology Program study results finding exposure to wireless radiation significantly increased the prevalence of highly malignant heart and brain cancers in rodents, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued specific recommendations to reduce wireless cell phone exposure and updated their online resources for parents concerning cell phones and wireless devices.

“The findings of brain tumors (gliomas) and malignant schwann cell tumors of the heart in the NTP study, as well as DNA damage in brain cells, present a major public health concern because these occurred in the same types of cells that have been reported to develop into tumors in epidemiological studies of adult cell phone users,” stated Ronald L. Melnick, PhD, the National Institutes of Health toxicologist who lead the NTP study design and senior advisor to the Environmental Health Trust. “For children the cancer risks may be greater than that for adults because of greater penetration and absorption of cell phone radiation in the brains of children and because the developing nervous system of children is more susceptible to tissue-damaging agents. Based on this new information, regulatory agencies need to make strong recommendations for consumers to take precautionary measures and avoid close contact with their cell phones, and especially limit or avoid use of cell phones by children.”  For full  press release and safety tips to reduce exposure to wireless radiation, see the American Academy of Pediatrics press release here.


D is for Digital and Dementia and Data


Digital Dementia

According to this report, “South Korean doctors have used the term ‘digital dementia’ to describe a deterioration in cognitive abilities that they believe is caused by the overuse of smartphones and games devices. South Korea is one of the most digitally connected countries in the world, where more than 67% of the population had a smartphone in 2013 – including 64% of teenagers; internet addiction has been recognised as a problem there since the late 1990s.” 

If other countries and comprehensive, scientific studies realize that screen use and exposure is harmful, addictive and say childhood internet addiction must be addressed, why aren’t US schools also acting on this? 


Some, like Norm Alster,  say that the FCC, that oversees the broadband internet companies and online tech industry is a Captured Agency and controlled by the big and powerful industries it is meant to regulate.  Also interesting that in 1996, President Clinton signed the Telecom Act; we suggest you specifically look at Section 704 of that act as it pertains to the wireless communications industry  and health.

Section 704 of the TCA states that no health or environmental concern can interfere with the placement of telecom equipment such as cell towers and antenna.

E & F …Follow the Money, Every time.

In 2005 after years of continued research and formation of non-profits with acronyms like SIF, IMS, SCORM, ADL, Pearson, Lumina, iNACOL etc,  the Gates Funded Data Quality Campaign formed with 10 different organizations who  share the goal of commonly tagged data standards, SLDS databases in every state that would collect, track and share personal data outside of school and across state lines, starting in kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade and into career or college.  In 2011, the Federal law FERPA meant to protect students’ personal data was changed, to now allow collection and sharing of student data without parent permission, outside of school and across state lines.

Ask yourself, which Presidential candidate would fix FERPA with one signature, and return the FERPA law to pre-2011 to prevent sharing of children’s data outside of the school? 




And, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation asks, Who is spying on students?


Don’t just Opt Out, Do more.

When you are opting out of the end of year state mandated test,  that we all know will be replaced by embedded and hidden daily online curriculum/ assessment, don’t think that is where it ends. These new online, formative  “personalized”  and adaptive tests are known as competency based education (CBE).  See this excellent overview of the dangers of “personalized” learning, algorithms,  and CBE that will be used to predict and track your child’s behavior and online activity.  The edtech industry and government hopes these embedded assessments will be difficult if not impossible to opt out of.  Don’t give in.  Refuse the online embedded tests. Stand your ground.  Ask for paper pencil. Keep textbooks and teachers.   Don’t settle for the switch to everything online and cyber-taught.


In a digital environment, everything your child does online can be captured, connected and cataloguedThe LearnSphere project funded by the National Science Foundation and handled by Carnegie Mellon, explains this plan:

“There are several important initiatives designed to address these data access challenges, for individual researchers as well as institutions and states. LearnSphere, a cross-institutional community infrastructure project, aims to develop a large-scale open repository of rich education data by integrating data from its four components.[17] For instance, DataShop stores data from student interactions with online course materials, intelligent tutoring systems, virtual labs, and simulations, and DataStage stores data derived from online courses offered by Stanford University. Click-stream data stored in these repositories include thousands and even millions of data points per student, much of which is made publicly available to registered users who meet data privacy assurance criteria. On the other hand, MOOCdb and DiscourseDB, also components of LearnSphere, offer platforms for the extraction and representation of student MOOC data and textual data, respectively, surrounding student online learning interactions that are otherwise difficult to access or are highly fragmented. By integrating data held or processed through these different components, LearnSphere will create a large set of interconnected data that reflects most of a student’s experience in online learning.” http://www.sr.ithaka.org/publications/student-data-in-the-digital-era/


What you can do:

Ask your school what online vendors (like Knewton) they use. Ask to see data contracts, the data collected and shared. Ask why your child is exposed to more and more screen time, and industrial strength Wi-Fi at school. Ask to have the radiation levels measured, and ask to follow these best practices when using Wi-Fi.  Ask to have amount of screen time documented and limited to pediatrician recommended limits.  Remember your child’s  classroom, your child,  is being subjected to much more than just one end of the year test.


When you think Opt Out, think big.  Think more. Think Protect the Child….all year.




Cheri Kiesecker

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