Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Cell Phones in Schools? France Says No, San Francisco Educators Urge Caution

Health + Wellness
Astrakan Images / Getty Images

By Olga Naidenko

As the school year begins, the movement to exercise caution in students' use of cell phones and other wireless devices is gaining international momentum.


The French Parliament voted last month to ban cell phones in nursery, elementary and middle schools. More than 5,000 miles away, San Francisco educators are urging the school district to make sure that students and teachers know about the state of California's guidelines for safer use of cell phones.

The French restriction on wireless devices in schools was a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron, who was swept into the office with a wave of popular support in 2017. It is primarily concerned with battling students' "screen addiction."

Meanwhile, the United Educators of San Francisco, which represents more than 6,000 employees of the San Francisco Unified School District, passed a resolution calling for safer wireless technology standards for all schools in the city. Three years ago, a small district in Ashland, Mass., instituted district-wide "best practices for mobile devices," but the San Francisco resolution is believed to be the first such action by a large U.S. school district.

"Peer-reviewed research has found that radiofrequency radiations emitted by cell phones and Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices can impact the brain and the reproductive system," said Sarahn Aminoff, a teacher in the San Francisco district. "We are concerned about the health of the city's educators and about the students whose growing bodies may be more susceptible to the effects of wireless radiation."

The latest research from the federal National Toxicology Program has linked long-term exposure to cellphone radiation with brain and heart cancer. And a recent study from Switzerland linked cellphone use with decreased memory performance in teenagers, joining a growing number of reports finding that wireless devices can affect brain function. Scientists, physicians and educators have called for caution given that most Americans, including children, use electronic devices like cellphones, tablets and smartwatches, for hours every day in a pattern that resembles addictive behavior.

Since 2016, the Maryland State Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council has recommended decreasing school wireless exposures "as much as feasibly practical, without negatively impacting education." The council's report included suggestions on ways to reduce exposure, such as sitting away from Wi-Fi routers, turning off Wi-Fi on smartphones and tablets when not surfing the web, and switching tablets to airplane mode to play games or watch videos stored on the device

The San Francisco resolution draws upon the California Department of Public Health cell phone guidelines released in December. When the state guidelines were made public, California Department of Public Health Director Karen Smith said:

Simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults… Children's brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use. Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night.

Barbara Sattler, a professor in the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions, expressed support for the resolution, stating, "The health science regarding cellular technologies suggests the need for caution. A very first step would be to apply the California State Health Department Cell Phone Guidelines, particularly in settings where there may be children or workers whose exposures last their whole work day."

Other jurisdictions in the United States have explored policy options for limiting cell phone use in schools. For example, for 10 years the New York City Department of Education maintained a ban on cell phones, a restriction that was lifted in 2015, in response to concerns from parents who wanted to be able to reach their children in school in case of an emergency. Yet, research conducted in Great Britain by the London School of Economics supports the notion that limiting cell phone use in schools decreases student distraction and improves academic results.

EWG scientists are continuing to study the issue of wireless radiation exposure closely, scrutinizing all new research on wireless safety, including the research on different RF-emitting devices and networks such as 5G. Now that electronic devices have become an essential tool in everyday life, it is important for parents and educators to teach children to use these devices safely and respect limits on their use.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less