Ten reasons why children under the age of 12 should not play violent video games.

Video games are a ubiquitous form of entertainment in today’s children and youth, and while fun and exciting, video games have a dark side that parents, teachers and clinicians can no longer afford to ignore. The recent rise in mass killings by gun, knife and moving vehicles, has wrongly focused on gangs and gun control as a primary intervention. Society would be wise to shift attention toward understanding the underlying components of a mass killer. While there are likely multiple factors contributing to the origins of mass killers, we do know that all shooters are gamers, and that gangs use video games to practice the art of shooting. Immersion in a virtual reality of violence has profound impact on developing brains, highlighting the urgency in looking at what type and how much violent media our children are exposed to, and at what age. Regarding brain and body development, what children do determines who they become. Children who excessively engage in mindless, fast paced, violent media content, will have a much different brain and body than a child who plays outside in nature. The new generation video games contain substantial amounts of increasingly realistic representations of physical and sexualized violence. The mature nature of such games is not suitable for children under the age of eighteen, yet many children I work with are playing violent, mature content as young as age 3. Managing video game use by children is not easy, but well worth considering with reference to the negative ramifications of gaming overuse on child health and wellness. Three parameters are important to consider in video game management: duration, content, and age of first exposure. Children who start gaming later in childhood, and who follow expert guidelines for game duration and content (see below), will demonstrate less negative effects. Whereas children who play fast paced, violent video games for long periods, and who start gaming as a young child, will exhibit a greater number of below noted negative effects. It is advised that children who experience 3 or more of the following escalating conditions should work with their parents, physician and/or therapist to reduce video game duration, change to non-violent content, and quit violent gaming altogether if < 12 years of age. This is a hard step for most parents to take, and an even harder step for parents with children exhibiting adverse effects of video games. Parents cannot continue to look away from these potential or real problems in their children. What we resists, persists; what we look at, disappears.

  1. Physical Harm

When children are gaming their bodies are sedentary and their hearts and brains overstimulated, causing significant physical harm. Developing bodies crave movement, yet video games entrance and hypnotize the brain into telling the body to sit still, often for very long periods. Psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Dunckley author of “Reset your child’s brain” reports that when children play video games, their sympathetic nervous system responds with a hyperarousal state of “flight or fight” characterized by adrenalin release from adrenal glands and dopamine production in the brain. We know that sustained high blood pressure and increased heart rate from prolonged gaming, increases risk for heart attack and stroke in later years. A child who plays video games who is also taking stimulant medication for adhd, or a gaming child who is physically unfit, increases their risk for eventual heart attack and stroke. In over 30 years as a pediatric occupational therapist, I have observed rapid escalation in prescription of stimulant medications to incredibly unfit children who refuse to participate in PE or outdoor activities. Causal factors for video game induced hyperarousal are fast paced and violent content, bright lights, rewards, multitasking, and interactivity. Long term high adrenalin stress states can result in chronic adrenal fatigue, implicated in a number of physical illnesses including cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Question: Is your child physically healthy?

To Do: More green time, less screen time. Only allow screens if homework finished and kids have played outside for at least one hour after school. Get out the bikes; do more family-based activities.

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  1. Brain Damage

To achieve functional efficiency during brain development, the brain prunes or cuts away neuronal tracks to areas of the brain that are not being used. The frontal lobes of the brain are known for executive functions such as attention, memory, and impulse control which are critical for academic success. Because brains develop in conjunction with stimuli in the surrounding environment, media content in high screen users is key regarding brain pruning. Exposure to mindful or educational content results in active or constructive learning, which maintains and strengthens neuronal tracks to frontal lobes. Whereas exposure to mindless or entertainment content such as fast paced and violent video games, constitutes passive or destructive learning which research shows rarely requires use of frontal lobes, resulting in frontal lobe pruning. Again, ‘what you do determines who you become’. Numerous research studies have documented frontal lobe atrophy in children who game over 4-5 hours per day. While brain development has a degree of plasticity or ability to repair damage, over half of the brain is hard wired at age 12, and the majority of the brain is hard wired at age 20 years. Children have the right to a childhood free from violence. Encouraging outdoor play in nature can heal the neurological damage created by overexposure of violent media content.

Question: Is your child impulsive or has difficulty paying attention?

To Do: Talk with your child’s teacher to see how they are doing academically, and ensure your child is not allowed to game at school.

  1. Sleep Deprivation

The National Sleep Foundation reports that over 60% of children and youth are chronically sleep deprived. While we know that sleep is essential for brain repair and body health, what the general public doesn’t know is that sleep deprivations increases incidence of obesity, diabetes, poor academic performance, risk taking, heart problems (stroke and heart attack) and even cancer. During my classroom-based Tech Talks, 75% of students report they are allowed screens in their bedrooms and 50% report they use screens when they should be sleeping.

Question: Is your child using screens late or in the middle of the night?

To Do: Prohibit all screen usage one hour prior to bed; book, bath, bed. Do not allow screens in bedrooms, or any other area where you can’t monitor content e.g. back seat of car, bathroom, when you’re not home.

  1. Violence

With rise in video gaming, prolific research is documenting concomitant rise in violence and aggression. In 2009 the American Academy of Pediatrics profiled extensive studies showing media violence is causally linked to child aggression, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed. Early exposure to violent media content has been shown to increase risk of violent behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement Virtual Violence in July 2016 advising  pediatricians, parents, industry and policy makers regarding current video game research and recommendations. Regarding research findings, Virtual Violence policy states: “Summarizing the results of > 400 studies including violent media of all types, researchers found there was a significant association between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and physiologic arousal. Another study performed a similar analysis focusing only on video games. The results, based on 140 such studies, found slightly larger negative effect sizes. Some contend, rightly, that these correlations are in the small to moderate range, but they are stronger than the associations between passive smoking and lung cancer, and many municipalities have banned smoking because of that risk”. APA goes on to recommend that children under the age of 6 years have no exposure to media violence, and first-person shooter games should be restricted from children under the age of 12 years.

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Question: Has your child threatened to harm you or themselves if video games are restricted?

To Do: Get your family physician on board to talk with your child about video games and if needed, get a referral for a family counsellor or therapist immediately. This is an urgent situation and requires assistance from trained professionals. Check out Common Sense Media’s list of non-violent video games!

  1. Game Transfer Phenomena

Media imagery affects behavior, a fact capitalized on by the advertising industry. Video game imagery is increasingly realistic and highly immersive, even more so with the onset of large screens and virtual reality headsets. Research is now documenting Game Transfer Phenomena, where gamers retain visual imagery and violent behaviors endemic in the game and transfer these to real life. A study of adult gamers showed 71% visualized video game imagery with eyes closed after gaming; 31% visualized imagery with eyes open. This raises the question of what children experience following video game immersion. The problem with younger children is that they are more impressionable, and what they see on TV or video games, they act out in real life. Gamer brain is becoming increasingly problematic in schools where children act out scenes from violent mature video games resulting in acts of sexualized and physical violence toward other students. One 9-year-old boy I assessed who spoke incessantly about playing Halo Zombies, threw a rock at a passing truck breaking the window stating “I thought I saw zombies in it”. Matthew de Grood, a noted ‘chronic video gamer’, killed five college students stating “I thought they were zombies”. Dr. Andrew Haag testifying psychiatrist in the trial proceedings, stated that de Grood “was having delusional symptoms which had a profound impact on how he perceived reality”. The recent mass shooting in a Saskatchewan school killing 4 students was by a noted ‘loner and video gamer’. Serial killer Dillan Millard reported he played Halo 4 hours per day using Zombie bullets which explode upon entry. ISIS recently created the ARMA III video game to train ISIS recruits. The recent mass shooting in Florida killing 49 people was by an ISIS militant.

Question: Does your child “see or hear” video games when not playing, or act out behaviors endemic in the video game?

To Do: In addressing the recent rise in mass killings, a prevention protocol should include restriction of violent media content for developing brains. Banning video games for children < 12 years is an excellent start toward protecting civilians from those intent on mass killings.

  1. Mental Illness

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports 1 in 7 children and youth have a diagnosed mental illness.  Douglas Gentile’s 2009 study indicated 1 out of 10 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology, with Common Sense Media reporting 50% of youth self-report screen addiction. Never in the history of humankind have there been child addictions. Difficult and expensive to treat, very soon this will become the job of every health and education professional…treating child and youth screen addictions. Schools wouldn’t give children cocaine or crack, yet they readily hand out equally as damaging and addictive devices to students on a daily basis, unmonitored. I routinely walk behind students in the hallways, playground, and classrooms and observe social networking, video games, and even pornography. A 14-year old youth I was assessing for aggression toward other children told me he played violent video games “almost all the time”. When asked why he hurts other children stated “I get a rush when I hurt others”. While this boy reported he understood there could be a link between violent video game use and aggression, he did not believe that playing video games had any impact on his liking to hurt other children. When asked if he could do the “Unplug Challenge” and not use any screens for 24 hours, he immediately responded with “No way”. With increasing research showing harmful effects of screens on child and youth mental health, prohibiting violent media content in children under the age of 12 years is urgently needed. Prohibiting personal device usage in school settings makes a strong statement to children and their parents of the need to limit screen usage.

Question: Do you think your child is happy?

To Do: Children want to play with their parents and friends. Put the phone down, pick up your kids, and go do something fun outside…now.

  1. Poor Social Relationships

Children learn social skills from watching and interacting with their parents. If parents rarely communicate with each other or their children, these children fail to learn social skills, and go onto a life strife with communication and behavioral issues. There is a critical period at 6-18 mo. of age for attaining social ability. Infants who spend too much time in front of screens, and too little time interacting with their parents, have increased risk of developing autism and oppositional defiance disorder. Parents model functional (or dysfunctional) relationships, which dictate to a large degree how their child will relate to others. Parents who have good relationships with each other, generally understand how to relate to and meet the needs of their children, who in turn pass these social skills onto their siblings and friends. Children who live in a virtual world for long periods, have great difficulty dealing with problems and demands in the real world. Children who’s parents overuse screens feel neglected, and consequently find solace in screens. Hilarie Cash, director of reSTART internet addiction recovery center, states in this video that youth and young adults in her program tell her that there are a number of steps parents can take to prevent gaming addiction including:

  • Help your child develop alternate interests to video games;
  • Repair your own relationship;
  • Do not expect perfection in your child;
  • Be attune to your child’s needs;
  • Set rules and guidelines for internet usage;
  • Model those rules yourselves.

As social skills are key in establishing primary relationship with partners, as well as securing jobs upon graduation, children and youth who have social anxiety or are socially phobic will have much greater difficulty experiencing meaningful relationships and finding work.

Question: Does your child have real (not screen-based) friends?

To Do: Prepare and eat dinner together screen-free every night and invite conversation and dialogue with your children, spend at least half a day once per week in screen free outdoor activity, spend your family holiday screen free. One hour per day, one day per week, one week per year screen free.

  1. Poor Academic Performance

Regarding early exposure to violent media content, Dimitri Christakis study on fast paced, violent cartoons in 2011 exposed 4-year-old children to 9 min. of SpongeBobs, and found significant decreases in memory, concentration and attention…after only 9 minutes! Research by Jay Hull in 2015 found that moderate gamers who use less than 4 hours per day of video games show increased risky behaviors (sex, reckless driving, drugs/alcohol, smoking), increased defiance, and decreased executive function (attention, concentration, memory). Heavy gamers who use > 4 hours per day of video games,  have 4-5 times increased incidence of previously noted effects. While high school drop out rates have steadily declined over the past decade, gamers are at much higher risk than non-gamers for dropping out of high school and university. Increasing incidence of absenteeism and tardiness of children and youth in schools always has me asking students what they were doing at home, and not surprising to hear they were gaming late into the night. Students who are good at gaming often tell me that school is “boring” or “too hard”, and that they don’t get rewarded for trying to do their work. Many students I work with outright refuse to do school work, and many teachers are turning to using video games as a reward for produced work at school. We are all aware that high school dropouts have much greater difficulty finding and sustaining jobs, as do video game addicts who again are looking for rewards and achievement in their work that they find favorable in video games. One alarming Canadian statistic is that 42% of 20-29-year-old men are living at home, neither working nor attending school; up from 27% in 1981 and 32% in 1991. What is this potential work force doing at home, and why are parents allowing it to happen?

Question: Is your child struggling at school?

To Do: Talk with your child’s teacher to see how they are doing academically, and ensure your child is not allowed to game as a reward at school.

  1. Sexual Perversions

42% of children have viewed pornography by age ten. Early exposure to porn is linked to hypersexualized behaviors including early entry into sex, sexting (sending sexualized messages and photo’s), high risk sex, and sexual violence. What studies fail to include in their data is that all video games rated Mature contain graphic sexual content and sexualized violence. One of the major “enhancements” in Grand Theft Auto 5 is that the player can not only rape and kill women, but they’ve now added torture scenes. It is imperative that parents investigate and continuously monitor what their child is watching/playing on their device. Children are curious about sex, and while it’s natural to ask questions and want to know more about sex, there is nothing natural about what children are readily viewing on the internet. The dark web is now easily accessible and contains slasher videos and extremely violent porn. In 2017 the UK reported a rise of 71% of sexual assaults by children on children over the past 4 years which they attributed to internet porn.  Utah was the first state to declare pornography is a public health crisis. Again, what children watch is who they become.

Question: Have you asked your child if they are using porn?

 To Do: Watch what video games your child is using or ask them and look up rating on Common Sense Media; remove access to all sexualized content. 

  1. Mass Killings

Some (but not many) parents I talk to who have children with problematic gaming issues, tell me their child has threatened the parent or themselves with harm should they proceed with video game restrictions. When a child threatens harm to self or others, they are clearly in trouble and not in control of themselves or their actions. If a parent feels threatened when trying to implement video game restrictions, then it is imperative they seek assistance from a medical professional e.g. physician, psychiatrist or psychologist. While most shooters are gamers (14 mass murders are linked to violent video games), this does not mean most gamers will become shooters. What parents, teachers, clinicians, and government can do to prevent mass killers is stop letting children under the age of 12 be exposed to violent media content. Student education regarding impact of violent media content by trained teachers in schools is paramount, as is parent education by counsellors and clinicians (RN’s, Dr.’s, therapists, psychologists). Government should legislate video game industry to include clear warnings on all video games referencing harmful effects of video games on children. Parents spending more time with their children and less time on screens will improve child mental health and lessen problematic behaviors and acts of violence.

Question: Are you scared of your child?

To Do: Have your child urgently assessed by a medical professional e.g. physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Engage in more healthy activities as a family. Listen to your child’s concerns and stories, don’t talk and lecture.

This article was written by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, international speaker, and advocate for children. Cris can be reached at info@zonein.ca. 

Additional Information 

Zone’in Website profiles programs, workshops/webinars, training, and consultation services.
Zone’in Research Fact Sheet 300 research references on detrimental impact of technology on children.
Technology Impact Educational Videos on physical, mental, social, and cognitive domains.
Cris Rowan Videos on EdTech, Critical Factors for Growth/Success, Balanced Technology Management.
Child Development Series Newsletter monthly free newsletter with collated research and news.
Moving to Learn Blog research referenced articles by Cris Rowan with over 1000 hits per day.
Virtual Child Book available on Amazon in English, Chinese and Spanish versions.
Ten reasons to ban handheld devices for children under 12 years of age Huffington Post 2.6 million likes.
Suffer the Children – 4 min. slideshow profiles problems associated with tech overuse by children.
Balanced Technology Management – 7 min. slideshow profiles solutions in six sectors: parents, educators, health professionals, government, researchers, and technology corporations.

Support Programs

Tech Tool Kit manual of tools and strategies for families to balance technology with healthy activity.
Unplug’in Game board game to build skills and confidence in activities alternate to technology.
Tech Talks for Families webinar series; 10 sessions/10 weeks/10 hours. Includes Tech Tool Kit.
Tech Talks for Therapists and Teachers webinar series; 5 sessions/5 hours. Includes Tech Tool Kit.
Consultation Services for parents, teachers, health professionals, government, researchers, and technology production corporations.

Screens, Sleep and Play – Guidelines for Healthy Living

Children are overusing screens 4-5 times what Doctors recommend. Three out of four children are sleep deprived, adversely affecting their health, mood, and school performance. Time spent sedentary and indoors, prevents engagement in critical factors for growth and success. Playing outside in nature builds physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills, ensuring optimal development, behavior, and learning. Why not unplug your family this summer, and make a commitment to building bodies and brains for success! If unplugging your family is too much for you, follow below expert guidelines for screens, sleep and play.

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Try one of the following strategies to better manage balance between technology use and healthy activity, for your whole family!

  1. Disconnect to reconnect by creating sacred times without screens:

✓ an hour a day (dinner), day a week (Saturday), and week a year (family holiday) screen free.

✓ while driving in the car, an hour before bed, and when eating dinner or at restaurants.

  1. Balance screens with healthy outdoor play; encourage children to ‘play first, screens later’.
  1. Don’t let your child take screens to bed; may need to lock screens in a drawer or put up out of reach to ensure kids don’t sneak screens at night.

Instead of screens, ride bikes, walk in the forest, chop and pack wood, go fishing, go swimming, visit family and friends, build a fort, prepare and eat dinner as a family, paint, color, make crafts, dance, play wrestle, listen to music, play cards or a board game, invent your own game, make up silly stories or rhymes, garden, play tag or hide and seek, read books, play a sport, make cookies, do chores…and do it with friends or as a family!

This article was written by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapists, biologist, author and international speaker on the impact of technology on children. Cris’s website is www.zonein.ca, blog is www.movingtolearn.ca, and book is www.virtualchild.ca. Cris can be reached at info@zonein.ca.

© Zone’in Programs Inc. 2018

Ramifications of Early Screen Use – Content, duration, and age of first exposure are critical.

Research regarding screen use in the early years is revealing significant changes to brain and body development, necessitating immediate public health education interventions. Understanding how the brain and body develop in relation to a child’s environment is key in understand the profound causal and associative relationship between screens and child health. This article will profile three critical components to consider when evaluating screen impact including content, duration, and early exposure. Proposed initiatives follow Balanced Technology Management (BTM) frame of reference where parents and teachers strive to manage balance between critical factors for optimal child development and growth, with screen use. BTM interventions will be triaged based on child developmental age, and will focus on 3 target areas: home, schools (including daycares and preschools), and community.

Brain and Body Development

Animals require significantly less time with their parents than humans do, to learn sufficient skills to function independently in the world. It takes humans 18 years to fully prepare a child to achieve adequate physical, social, mental and cognitive skills to attain optimal growth and success. The first two years are critical as brain development is rapid and much of the brain modelling is irreversible. There are two processes that shape and wire the brain: neuronal pruning and proliferation; both essential brain development processes to understand when considering the impact of screen use. Pruning is the cutting and subsequent death of neurons that are not being used; proliferation is the expansion and growth of neurons that are repeatedly fired. Pruning and proliferation occur most rapidly in the early years, and are relative and reactive to stimuli from the surrounding environment.

When a baby is born, all the neuronal tracks are in place. Think of a road map; all the major highways are formed by birth connecting all areas of the brain for diverse and potent growth. To achieve functional efficiency, the brain prunes or cuts away neuronal tracks to areas of the brain that are rarely used, and limits proliferation or growth of synaptic connections to these high use areas. By old age, 2/3 of neurons to areas of low use will be pruned, and areas of high use will receive loads of synaptic proliferation. The environment surrounding the child, directly effects how the brain is wired. If the environment is rich in four critical factors for development including movement, touch, human connection, and nature, neuronal pruning saves tracks to diverse areas of the brain. If the environment contains predominantly screens, which limit engagement to movement, touch, human connection and nature activities, then tracks to low use areas are pruned, including frontal lobe.

Content

Content is key regarding brain pruning and proliferation. Exposure to mindful or educational content maintains and strengthens neuronal tracks to frontal lobe, because you need frontal lobe to understand, interpret, and remember mindful content. Exposure to mindless or entertainment content does not require use of frontal lobes, resulting in pruning, with profound consequences. Mindful content includes any content that results in “active thinking” and constructive learning, which enhances function. Whereas mindless content constitutes “passive entertainment” and destructive learning, which impairs function in daily life. Examples of mindful content include impartial news, nature shows, documentaries, and instructive videos. Examples of mindless content include video games, cartoons, movies, social media (texting/chatting, Facebook), pornography and TV.

Duration

Duration is also key. While everyone needs “down time”, screen usage rates have reached levels which are drastically harming children and adults alike, physically, mentally, cognitively and socially. Since 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics has limited screen usage to nothing for 0-2 years, 1 hour per day for 3-5 years, and 2 hours per day for 6-18 years…yet, children today use 4-5 times that amount with devastating consequences. Developmental delay, mental illness, obesity/diabetes, sleep deprivation, and learning disabilities have reached epidemic status. Our children have never been sicker indicating the ways in which we are raising and educating children with technology are no longer sustainable.

Early Use

Early usage of screens is incredibly damaging to both body and brain development due to the pruning and proliferation process of the developing brain is so rapid, and hence the destruction more permanent. Between age 0-2 years, the brain triples in size and by age 12, half of the brain is ‘hard wired’, and by age 20 years, pruning/proliferation is complete. Device restrictions are critical for this young and vulnerable population. Not only should parents be concerned regarding frontal lobe pruning, but also should be aware of the harmful effects of radiation on young children. Infants, toddlers and young children have higher cell turnover, thinner skulls, and more aqueous bodies, and consequently are more seriously and permanently harmed from wireless radiation. Prevention and intervention initiatives to protect young children are crucial and required immediately if we are to create sustainable futures.

Balanced Technology Management Interventions

Every child has the right to a childhood free of harm and full of playful and fun experiences. Every child has the right to be loved, respected, and attended to by warm and attentive parents and teachers, free from distracting devices. Every child has a right to a future where developmental milestones are met and literacy is ensured. Achieving sustainable futures for all children include the following interventions:

  • Go wired; cable all wireless devices.
  • Ban use of handheld devices for all pregnant mothers and children ages 0-12 years.
  • Ensure literacy prior to use of device.
  • Use low levels of entertainment and high levels of educational content.
  • Keep screen durations within pediatric expert guidelines.
  • Ensure adequate outside, rough and tumble play to meet developmental milestones.

This article was written by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, international speaker and author of “Virtual Child”. Cris is passionate about changing the ways in which children use technology. Additional information and research Fact Sheet can be located at crowan@zonein.ca. website www.zonein.ca, blog www.movingtolearn.ca, and book www.virtualchild.ca.

Wireless Radiation is NOT SAFE for Children – National Toxicology Program findings indicate “Go Wired” campaign urgently required to protect children.

In the dark recesses of every parent’s mind lives a niggling question “Are wireless devices safe”? While oncology and epidemiology researchers have expressed concerns regarding wireless radiation safety to various levels of health and education governments, the public continues to be reassured that wireless devices are safe. But are they PROVEN to be safe, and if so, what levels of wireless usage are okay for children? This article presents recent research by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP) implicating wireless devices as a causal factor in two types of cancer, heart Schwannoma and brain glioma. Compiling this recent NIEHS/NTP data conducted on animals, with already existing human epidemiological research, and rising incidence of the same two types of cancer, raises serious concerns about wireless radiation and human safety. France is banning all wireless devices including cell phones from all public schools starting September 2018, and California Public Health is actively educating their public regarding risk of harm from wireless radiation. Children are more vulnerable to wireless radiation than adults due to thinner skulls, more aqueous bodies/brains, and higher rate of cell turn over.  Until research proves wireless devices are safe, and adequately defines what levels of radiation are safe for different ages, immediate steps must be taken to remove wireless radiation from all areas where children reside. “Go Wired” is a global campaign advocating for replacing wireless with wired internet, and relocating cell phone towers away from facilities which serve children. These life sustaining initiatives will ensure immediate safety for children (including unborn fetuses) from dangerous effects of wireless radiation in their home, school, clinic, and other community settings.

 What is wireless radiation?

All devices which operate using electricity emit radiation. Wired or corded devices have insulated cables, preventing leakage of radiation into the surrounding environment. Wireless devices such as routers, cell phones, and tablets, as well as emissions from cell phone towers, are NOT insulated. To effectively transmit and receive signals, wireless devices emit a type of radiation termed radiofrequency radiation (RFR) measured in hertz. Wireless cell phones and tablets emit high levels of RFR due to multiple antennae are seeking a wireless signal ~ 900 times per minute. There is no way to shield children from wireless radiation, as the shield would prevent normal operation of the device.

Wireless radiation penetration to the user is highest when closest to the device, and increases with duration of device use e.g. distance and duration. Other factors which increase radiation exposure are multiple device use and/or closeness to other device users, distance from wireless radiation transmitting tower e.g. device “works harder” to find source, and areas of higher concentration of wireless radiation e.g. multiple cell phone towers. As wireless radiation is now likely to be reclassified as a ‘probable’ 2A carcinogen, accumulated changes to cellular structure and function not only across the life span, but also genetic DNA damage passed onto children from mothers exposed to wireless radiation, require immediate research attention and consideration.

 Why was the public not warned?

Wireless radiation is electromagnetic in nature, disrupting bioelectric charges found in human cell walls and structure which would in turn negatively impact cellular DNA and mitochondria. Despite knowledge regarding biological effects to cellular structure and function from wireless radiation, 20 years ago the International Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) set guidelines that only apply to heating effect from microwave radiation, guidelines which are still referenced by today’s governments to prove safety of wireless radiation. Subsequent research only investigated the thermal effects of RFR and determined in 1998 that ‘heat’ from RFR was not harmful to humans, resulting in Health Canada’s widely referenced Safety Code 6 which to this day, states that wireless radiation is safe. Health Canada and the Federal Communications Commission created a measure termed Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) which is defined as the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation during cell phone use. Maximum SAR levels for adults were determined by measuring thermal, not biological effect for wireless devices, and was set at a SAR level of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. There are no known safe levels for wireless radiation based on measurements of biological changes to cellular structure and function. Despite increased vulnerability of children to wireless radiation, maximum SAR levels for children are the same as adults.

 When should the public have been warned by government?

As cancer incidence increased, and epidemiological research accumulated showing cancer was associated to wireless radiation from cell phones and laptops, in 2011 the World Health Organization – International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO-IARC) classified radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B ‘possible’ human carcinogen. In 2016, preliminary findings from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science – National Toxicology Program (NIEHS-NTP) long-term bioassays on RFR which measured biological effects of RFR in rats, indicated adverse effects of RFR on rat cellular structure and function, ultimately resulting in two types of cancer: malignant glial tumors of the brain and heart Schwannoma. The NIDHS-NTP study exposed rats to 2G and 3G radiation from a cell phone ‘placed in their cage’ (not on their body) 9 hours per day for a 2-year duration. Final results from the NIEHS-NTP  study released in January 2018 were subjected to expert panel review which concluded on March 29, 2018 “clear evidence” for heart Schwannoma and “some evidence” for brain glioma. Most importantly, the type of cells that became cancerous were the same type of cells found to cause tumors in human studies of cell phone radiation exposure, also showing an increase in Acoustic Neuromas (tumors of the ear) found in earlier human studies.  The Ramazzini Institute recently released the largest rat study of its kind which focused on exposures from cell towers with levels of wireless RF radiation exposures 60-1000 times lower than the levels tested in the NTP study, and found the tumors observed in the NTP study are of the type similar to the ones observed in some epidemiological studies of cell phone users.

Who did try to warn the public?

Christopher Portier, Ph.D., retired head of the NTP who was involved in the launch of the NIEHS-NTP study, insisted the findings showed clear causation. “I would call it a causative study, absolutely,” he told Scientific American. “They controlled everything in the study. It’s because of the exposure”, (referencing detected cancer). In November 2016, David McCormick, Ph.D., director of the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute where the study was conducted, was equally clear, telling reporters, “What we are saying here is that based on the animal studies, there is a possible risk cellphone RF is potentially carcinogenic in humans. These are uncommon lesions in rodents, so it is our conclusion that they are exposure related.” Despite large scale, government-run studies showing biological harm from wireless radiation on animals, neither Health Canada nor National Institute of Health have acted to warn the public regarding these risks.

Why aren’t wireless device manufacturers warning users of wireless risk?

 Product warnings by wireless device manufacturers advise users to hold wireless devices 1” away from head and body to reduce thermal (not biological) effects, which is where SAR levels are measured during product design and manufacturing. This paltry initiative is further diluted by the fact that few wireless device users are even aware of this safety warning, as manufacturers routinely bury it in small print on product monographs, and many users habitually place device either right next to their head, in pockets,  or on their lap. While SAR levels have stayed under the 1.6 maximum allowable watts, Apple iPhone SAR levels have DOUBLED since the Apple 3 was introduced (see below). Again – SAR levels are in regard to thermal effects from wireless radiation; presently there is no research data indicating safe levels of wireless radiation regarding biological effects. Additional harm (which is not referred to by either government nor wireless manufacturers) accrues when wireless device users log high durations of exposure, use multiple devices at the same time, are exposed to second hand radiation from users close by, are young with more vulnerable bodies and brains, and are using devices in an area with highly concentrated radiation such as is found in many intercity locations where multiple towers co-exist.

Apple iPhone Xnot yet available

Apple iPhone 8 Plus: SAR 1.19
Apple iPhone 8: 1.20
Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 1.19
Apple iPhone 7: 1.20
Apple iPhone SE: 1.19
Apple iPhone 6s Plus: 1.14
Apple iPhone 6s: 1.14
Apple iPhone 6 Plus: 1.19
Apple iPhone 6: 1.18
Apple iPhone 5: 1.18
Apple iPhone 5c: 1.19
Apple iPhone 4S: 1.19
Apple iPhone 4 (GSM): 1.11
Apple iPhone 4 (CDMA): 0.87
Apple iPhone 3GS: 0.67

What actions are required to create safe and sustainable environments for children?

Recommendations from NIEHS-NTP study should include reclassification of wireless radiation from Group 2B ‘possible’ to Group 2A ‘probable’ carcinogen (same level as cigarettes and asbestos). As reclassification of wireless radiation and protective recommendations by health governments could take years, as did regulations to use protective lead shields with pregnant women, suggestion is to “Go Wired” e.g. use only ‘wired’ devices. Following are steps toward creating sustainable future for all children.

  1. Go Wired – disconnect routers from modems and plug all wireless devices directly into modem. This effectively means banning all wireless devices (including cell phones and non-convertible laptops and tablets) from all homes and facilities that service children and pregnant mothers e.g. daycares, preschools, schools, child development centres, medical clinics, hospitals, restaurants, stores, airports, parks, recreation centres etc.
  1. Off or Airplane Mode – adults carrying cell phones (and other wireless devices) must either turn off device or convert device to ‘airplane mode’ when servicing or interacting with children and pregnant mothers.
  1. Removal of Cell Phone Towers – from aforementioned areas which provide services to children and pregnant mothers.
  1. Precautionary measures for adults include increasing the distance, duration and frequency of wireless device use, reduce multiple device use, and reduce exposure to high wireless radiation areas. Every 1” increased distance away from wireless device, equates to 10 times reduction in radiation e.g. 10” distance reduces radiation 100-fold.

This article was written by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapists, biologist, author and international speaker on the impact of technology on children. Cris’s website is www.zonein.ca, blog is www.movingtolearn.ca, and book is www.virtualchild.ca. Cris can be reached at info@zonein.ca.

Join the “Go Wired” movement today by sharing this article with members of your School Board, and advocating for banning wireless radiation from areas where children frequent. Start by asking “Show me documentation proving wireless radiation is safe”? Based on data presented in this article, it is not acceptable for School Boards to default to Health Canada’s Safety Code 6.

Stop School Mass Shootings? Go after the video game and pharmaceutical industries.

Includes the School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory!

The recent rise in mass school shootings has resulted in a singular focus on the implement of destruction…guns. While gun control requires attention, as well as eventual legislation and regulation, gun control alone will not stop the escalating incidence of mass school shootings. Careful analysis of multiple factors contributing to mass shootings is urgent and long overdue. This article intends to review data showing four commonalities of recent mass shooters, and review research which identifies video games and psychotropic medication as salient determinants in compiling the profile of a mass shooter. This article includes the School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory to provide important data for educators, health professionals and social service personal to quantify risk indicators for school mass shooters. The School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory should be considered as a prevention and intervention tool to improve school safety for staff and students. Only when government assigns responsibility and liability to the video gaming and pharmaceutical industries for school mass shootings, will the incidence of these horrific events begin to abate.

The U.S. has one mass shooting on average every 16 days, with a total of 271 incidents between 2006 and 2017, killing 1358 victims. The following four components are found in all school mass shooters: long term exposure to violent media content, medicated with prescription psychotropics, lonely, and access to guns.

  1. Long term exposure to violent media content with probable addiction.

With the escalating rise in video gaming, extensive research documents concurrent rise in aggression and violence. News reports indicate that all mass shooters are gamers. Extensive research dating back to the 1990’s has clearly documented the causal effect of violent media content on aggression, with the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2009 declaring media violence as a public health risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports media violence is causally linked to child aggression stating “Although shootings in schools around the world periodically prompt politicians and the general public to focus their attention on the influence of media violence, the medical community has been concerned with this issue since the 1950s. A 2010 meta-analysis of over 1000 studies on the effects of media violence by Craig Anderson and colleagues, reports statistically significant effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, empathy/desensitization, and antisocial behavior.

A 2016 study by Ohio State researchers concluded that “People who have a steady diet of playing these violent video games may come to see the world as a hostile and violent place.” Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at OSU, continues, “These results suggest there could be a cumulative effect” in making video game players more aggressive and violent over the long term as well as over the short term.

Research literature explains the underlying mechanism linking media violence to aggression, which is termed Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), defined as a physiological state where gamers retain perceptions and act out behaviours endemic in the game. A 2015 study of 2362 gamers between the ages of 18-22 years by Angelica B Ortiz de Gortari and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University reported the five areas of ‘real life’ human function that were altered following video game play (excerpted from linked research).

  • Altered visual perception: 77% retained video game imagery with eyes closed; 31% with eyes open.
  • Altered auditory perception: 65% misinterpreted real-life sounds as those coming from a video game.
  • Altered body perception: 29% reported sensation of mind being disconnected from their body.
  • Automatic mental processes: 63% still in mind set of video game following play.
  • Actions and behaviors: 40% acted out behavior and activities influenced by the video game.

90% of video games contain violent content, and 8% of children and youth currently demonstrate an addiction to video games. R. Stickgold et al demonstrated that 7-hour exposure to the video game “Tetras” induced 3 days of visual imagery of falling cubes, even in subjects who had frontal lobe damage and no memory. This fact is striking in not only the permanence of visual imagery, but also the recalling of the visual imagery in the absence of conscious memory. Dr. Andrew Doan, Ophthalmologist and author of “Hooked on Games” reports that the brain is similar to a camera in that it stores visual images, sometimes for years, so parents need to understand that what their children watch will be with them forever.

Aggression acted out as a result of video game immersion is not only of the physical type, but sexual violence as well due to graphic sexual imagery imbedded in gaming. While Statistics Canada reported in June 2017 that overall Canada’s crime rate has decreased by 3%, it’s important to note that violation in child pornography has increased by 41%, sexual violation against children increased by 6%, and youth accused of attempted murder increased by 37%. The viewing of video game pornography by very young children, has born witness to concurrent rise in sexual violence of children against children.

  1. Medicated with prescription psychotropics.

SSRI Stories reports 80% of mass shooters were either taking prescribed psychotropic medication, or withdrawing from same at the time of assault. SSRI Stories is a website dedicated to chronical adverse effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (anti-depressants). Constitutional Attorney Jonathan Emord has called for a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and school shootings. In Canada, one in six children between the ages of 8 and 18 have a diagnosed mental illness, with many on dangerous psychotropic medication (stimulant, sedatives, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotics). Toxicity psychosis from prescription psychotropic medication is evidenced by suicide and/or violence. Despite the fact that the FDA and Health Canada concur that to date, there are no known biochemical, structural, or genetic cause for mental illness, North America is consumed with what has been termed a “diagnosis and medication mania”. Children aren’t “born sick”, we make them that way through neglect, abuse and trauma. Additionally, lack of movement, touch, human connection, and nature, the four critical elements for healthy development and learning, have resulted in a rise in child obesity, developmental delay, depression, anxiety, aggression, learning disorders, behavior disorders, and hyperactivity. Children are sicker than they have ever been in the history of humankind. Sedentary, isolated, neglected, overstimulated, and medicated, the new millennium child is truly struggling to survive.

On January 22, 2016, a 17-year old boy from La Loche, Saskatchewan in Canada shot 11 people killing four, including two brothers in the shooter’s home, and 7 students and teachers at his school.  The boy was described as a ‘loner and chronic gamer’.  Katherine S. Newman, author of “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings” reports that the profile of recent mass shooters was not necessarily one of a loner, but rather of a young man who felt ostracized by a group in which he desperately wanted to fit in. The shooters all made attempts to tell their coveted group what they had planned, but were ignored and not taken seriously, escalating their desire to act.

  1. Access to guns.

A popular quote is “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”, yet people without guns, or people with hunting rifles, don’t become mass shooters. That said, presently there is one gun per person in the U.S. and rapid-fire assault rifles are legal in most states. The 21st century is known for its pervasive fear mentality and gun obsessed culture, both of which have proven extremely deadly. While access to guns alone is unlikely to produce a shooter, combine guns with desensitization resulting from excessive exposure to violent media content, a cocktail of psychotropic medications from an early age, along with isolation and decreased socialization, and we are getting closer to the target of a shooter.

The video game and pharmaceutical industries are strong and formidable forces, which explains some of the dilemma and delay in legislation regarding restriction of video games and psychotropic medications with by children. The problem of mass shooters is complex, and will not be resolved quickly or easily with gun control measures alone. All systems including government, law enforcement, education, health care, and social services industries need to work together in enacting preventative measures to reduce previously mentioned risk indicators for school mass shooters, as well as intervene immediately to identify who is at risk for becoming a mass school shooter to provide necessary assistance and therapy.

Improving student and staff safety in schools requires a preventative approach be enacted immediately. Effectively analyzing potential shooter risk through assessing the following who, what, when, where, why and how risk indicators on the School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory, could act as a first step toward preventing future school mass shootings.  The School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory was designed by Cris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist and biologist and expert on the impact of technology on children. Cris works daily with children and youth who overuse technology, and has compiled a comprehensive research referenced Fact Sheet available on her website www.zonein.ca. Cris speaks internationally on the subject of impact of technology on children, and authored “Virtual Child – The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children” book.

Click here to download and Print School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory (SMSRI)

Click here to download and Print School Mass Shooter Risk Inventory (SMSRI)