Childhood Obesity Epidemic Calls for Cutting Screen Time in Schools

As the American Academy of Pediatrics issues new guidelines recommending the radical solutions of weight-loss drugs and even surgery for curbing childhood obesity, it’s worth revisiting an obvious but largely ignored treatment for poor health: turning off the screens.

Screen time skyrocketed for children during the COVID-19 pandemic —by 52% according to some studies and closer to 100% for adolescents in particular. Over the same period, children doubled their rate of body mass index increase, accelerating an already steep rise in the rate of childhood obesity, which was over 20% before the pandemic.

The AAP in fact does dedicate a small subsection of their extensive report to the association between screen time duration and unhealthy weight gain. More than just two hours of screen time a day is associated with a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, the report notes. That limit is far surpassed by the average child, who now spends more than four hours a day in front of a screen.

The AAP guidelines attribute this increased risk of obesity to two factors. Firstly, screen time is by and large sedentary, leaving less time for physical activity. Secondly, the longer children spend in front of a screen, the likelier they are to encounter unhealthy food and beverage depictions that influence their own dietary choices.

These are good but modest warnings. If the only health risks incurred by sitting before a screen come from misleading advertisements and reduced bodily movement, parents might combat these simply by monitoring content and mandating exercise. A deeper dive into the AAP’s decades of research on children and media use, however, reveals more complex and intractable dangers.

In 1999, the academy issued a policy statement urging parents to “avoid television viewing for children under the age of two years,” a recommendation the academy has since reaffirmed. As infants’ brains develop and begin to perceive shapes and colors, they need tactile experience and face-to-face interaction to grasp the existence of other objects and, most importantly, people.

When infants encounter the mere images of objects and people on a screen, “their brains are incapable of making sense or meaning out of all those bizarre pictures,” a leading AAP pediatrician explains . Even worse, they stop trying to do so, in a sense becoming passive before the screen’s constantly changing overstimulation.

The effects can be lasting, “training [developing brains] in effect to expect intense input and making reality underwhelming or even boring by comparison,” to quote another specialist.

Is it any surprise that a child who has come to expect audio-visual overstimulation would also overeat? Or that a child for whom reality has become underwhelming may develop other diseases of despair ?

Once we consider the associations between early childhood screen time and attention problems, psychological problems, and memory problems (including increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in adulthood), obesity seems to be one strand in a larger web of maladies . Tackling screen time may get us closer to the root ill.

Yet, from a government policy standpoint, reducing screen time can be as elusive of a goal as reducing obesity. Is there anything one can do, other than raise one’s own children differently and encourage other parents to do the same? America (thankfully) is not China , after all. The law can’t dictate how children spend their time at home.

Given America’s wise constitutional limits, schools often take center stage in conversations about children’s health and safety, and with good reason. As the AAP’s new clinical guidelines emphasize, schools play a significant role in shaping choices and habits since children spend so much of their time there. If schools can use their influence to improve students’ nutritional diets, how much more might they influence their digital diets?

Educators could start by rethinking 1-to-1 computing, the practice of providing each student with a personal laptop or tablet that he or she uses all day at school and then takes home for further work and study (or entertainment) at night.

Introduced in the 1990s as personal computers became more affordable, 1-to-1 computing programs in schools had become commonplace by the beginning of 2020. The pandemic made them nearly universal . By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, 90% of school districts were providing PCs to every middle and high school student, and 84% were doing so at the elementary level.

Among the shrinking minority of schools that don’t employ 1-to-1 computing are, ironically, some of the most selective schools in Silicon Valley. The tech-free private schools popular among Big Tech executives have garnered media attention for years for their prohibition of screens in favor of cultivating familiarity with nature through gardening and taking care of farm animals as well as teaching handwork skills like knitting, cursive writing, and woodworking.

Other outliers include private and charter classical schools, marked by their commitment to primary documents over sweeping summaries, enduring texts over this week’s New York Times bestsellers, and the written and spoken word over screens.

Classical education advocates share the conviction that “the single most important technology continues to be the book,” as the chief academic officer of the charter school network Great Hearts recently quipped .

For school administrators and teachers who find ditching PCs too radical, however, implementing stricter cellphone policies might be a less daunting way to reduce student screen time. This fall, an elite boarding school in Massachusetts made headlines for banning smartphones on campus, permitting only flip phones or Light Phones that allow calling and texting but no email, internet, or social media.

After just a few months, both teachers and students reported improved well-being, citing better friendships and stronger classroom engagement—findings echoed by parents of North American yeshivas , where rabbis have enforced similar smartphone prohibitions.

Still, many parents balk at attempts to restrict student cellphone access, voicing concerns over safety and transparency. In the face of such pushback, it can be easy to forget how new and experimental 24/7 wireless connectivity still is.

As Henry Kissinger notes in his latest book , we are “in the midst of a transformation in human consciousness so pervasive as to be nearly unnoticeable,” embracing it “largely without understanding of its long-term effects.”

Before we embark on still newer experiments in treating recognized social ills like childhood obesity, it might be wise to reevaluate the experiments that are already underway.

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BREAKING: Indiana Teacher ‘No Longer Employed’ After Sexually Charged Messages Unearthed

Following an exposé from The Daily Signal about sexually charged text messages sent to a high school student, Indiana teacher Ben Yoder is no longer employed by Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate School, according to the Hamilton Southeastern Schools district.

Yoder, a 37-year-old teacher and LGBTQ+ advocate, taught at the school in Fishers, Indiana, for 11 years before being scrubbed from all websites connected to the school district after the screenshot of his alleged conversation was published by The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal was unable to independently confirm the accuracy of the screenshot.)

Following an inquiry from The Daily Signal on Yoder’s employment status, communications director Emily Abbotts responded, “Ben Yoder is no longer employed by Hamilton Southeastern Schools.”

“We understand the community will seek more information about the situation,” Abbotts added. “However, federal privacy laws prohibit the school district from publicly releasing additional details about this matter.”

The Fishers Police Department told The Daily Signal that the investigation is still open, but they do not believe Yoder has committed a crime at this time. 

Two teachers and one principal at Hamilton Southeastern Schools who wish to remain anonymous report that Yoder resigned this week before the school’s investigation could be completed.

The Daily Signal was unable to reach Yoder to request comment. The Daily Signal had previously attempted to reach Yoder via his school email and alleged Instagram account. 

The Hamilton Southeastern School Board is expected to confirm staff changes that include Yoder’s possible resignation or termination on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m., which will be livestreamed. The Daily Signal plans to attend and report the board’s decision and comments from superintendent Yvonne Stokes as they are given.

A concerned parent sent The Daily Signal a screenshot last week that he claims shows an Instagram private message conversation between a Hamilton Southeastern Schools student and Yoder. The Daily Signal is not naming the student to respect his privacy.

The Daily Signal has been unable to independently confirm the accuracy of the screenshots or that the Instagram account belongs to Yoder and is not an impersonation.

In the messages, Yoder asked the student if he was “out” of school yet.

The student responded that he had one year left, to which Yoder replied, “Well good to know. I guess it’s not time to invite you to get in trouble quite yet lol,” following up with: “I’ll do my best to wait haha.” 

The student asked Yoder to describe what “trouble” meant.

Yoder responded, “Hahaha I’m not sure about that. Let your imagination run wild I guess lol,” followed by: “Trouble is pretty much whatever you want to make it lol.”

Yoder is believed to have operated this Instagram account, “@bennyboobooboo,” openly for over seven years but has not responded to The Daily Signal’s request for confirmation. The account has since been locked. 

This private messaging session marks one of many concerns that parents have had with Yoder over the last several years. Tweets unearthed during Yoder’s bid for the vice presidency of the Indiana State Teachers Association from an account believed to be his show an aggressively sexual social media presence, including soliciting gay sex in traffic jams and describing male strippers he was watching at strip clubs.

These tweets, under the same handle as the Instagram account believed to be Yoder’s, and a host of racist and problematic posts were sent while Yoder was employed at the school. (The Daily Signal has been unable to independently confirm that Yoder ran the alleged Twitter account.) 

At least one parent has claimed to have reported concerns over this content to staff at Hamilton Southeastern with no success. 

Following my first report on Yoder’s alleged social media behavior in January 2022, Yoder stepped down from his position at the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Twitter account @bennyboobooboo was deleted.

Now a similar fate has befallen the @bennyboobooboo Instagram account. Before this account was locked, pictures were posted almost weekly that showed Yoder in drag with students promoting his work in LGBTQ+ activism and promoting the Indiana State Teachers Association.

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Rep. James Comer Slams Biden Family Over Millions of Dollars From China

The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability investigating President Joe Biden and his family says “there’s a pattern” of the family receiving millions of dollars from China and that he wonders what the country got in return, saying he doesn’t think “China would do that out of the goodness of their heart.”

“Well, we know the Biden family’s received millions and millions of dollars from communist China. We don’t know exactly what communist China got in return for that,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., told The Daily Signal .

“But what we’ve learned with the document, not just the fact that Joe Biden had mishandled classified documents, but also that the Biden Penn Center, where the documents were stored, received millions and millions of dollars from China through the University of Pennsylvania,” Comer said.

Comer added:

So, there’s a pattern here of millions and millions of dollars coming from China to Biden family interests. I find that suspicious because I don’t think China would do that out of the goodness of their heart.

So that’s why we’re investigating this family. We want to determine exactly what all of Joe Biden’s involvement was, why China has paid this family so much money, and if in fact this administration is compromised because of the millions of dollars it’s taken from China.

The U.S. Department of Justice searched Biden ’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, last Wednesday amid the news that he kept classified documents from his time as vice president to President Barack Obama, according to a statement from Biden’s personal attorney.

His attorneys found classified documents  at his office in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and at his residence in Wilmington, Delaware. Classified documents dating from Biden’s time in the U.S. Senate have also been discovered. 

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos similarly mentioned Chinese funding of the Penn Biden Center while discussing the potential risks of the Biden administration and the Department of Education not enforcing Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Section 117 requires colleges and universities to report “contracts with and gifts from a foreign source that, alone or combined, are valued at $250,000 or more in a calendar year,” according to the Education Department website

“I think we know that there continues to be billions and billions of dollars that are going into these research universities. And at the Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, more than $50 million in Chinese funding came into that institution in a very short period of time,” DeVos told The Daily Signal.

DeVos noted that after he served as vice president, Biden kept many records at the Penn Biden Center, which gained renewed scrutiny following news of the discovery of classified documents  at Biden’s office there last November.

“In fact, it was generally while we [the Trump administration] were in office, and as has been pointed out in other places, this is where all of his foreign policy staff was housed in waiting for his administration. It raises a lot of questions,” she said. 

DeVos added: 

I think that this is not something we can just sort of look the other way and say it’s an innocuous situation. These are very important research institutions that have a lot of American IP [intellectual property] and lots of secretive things that should not be in the hands of others.

And so, the way that colleges and universities have continued to simply act as though this is a nothing, it’s just simply wrong. 

Rep. Jim Banks , R-Ind., told The Daily Signal in an email, “Joe Biden didn’t just fail to crack down on illicit Chinese influence  at our universities, he’s undoing President [Donald] Trump’s efforts to hold the Communist Party accountable.”

“The Penn Biden Center  has drawn $14 million in anonymous Chinese donations since Biden took office. If the White House actually enforced prohibitions on malign Chinese influence, they’d end up investigating the president of the United States,” Banks added. 

The Penn Biden Center, the White House, and Biden’s attorney, Bob Bauer, did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

Tyler O’Neil contributed to this report.

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EXCLUSIVE: Over 60% of Women Who Got Abortions Reported High Level of Pressure, Study Finds

FIRST IN DAILY SIGNAL: Over 60% of women who aborted their unborn baby reported high levels of pressure from other sources, a new peer-reviewed study from the Charlotte Lozier Institute found. And that same group of women also reported higher levels of mental health struggles and quality of life issues following the abortion.

The study, published in the Cureus medical journal , is one in a series of “Unwanted Abortion Studies” from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

“We surveyed women between 41 and 45 years of age, so they had had most of their reproductive life, and we asked about their experiences with pregnancy and abortion ,” David Reardon, Ph.D., a Lozier Institute associate scholar and lead author of the new study, shared with The Daily Signal. “And of those women, we had 226 who reported a history of abortion.”

“Over 60% reported that they felt very much pressured to abort by either their male partner, family members, other people, circumstances,” he added. “The feeling of pressure to abort was strongly correlated with more negative feelings after the abortion and more mental health problems that they attributed to the abortion specifically.”

Women who said that they were pressured into an abortion also said that they experienced significant levels of negative emotions related to the abortion; intrusive thoughts, including flashbacks to their abortion; frequent feelings of loss, grief, and sadness; and increased levels of stress answering questions about their abortion.

“Abortion clinics cannot claim to be pro-woman while at the same time allowing the majority of their clients to be pressured into unwanted abortions,” Reardon said in a statement.

“In a country torn by political debate over abortion, surely these findings underscore one point on which we should all be able to agree,” he added. “No woman should ever feel pressured into accepting an unwanted abortion. Clearly, abortion clinics need to provide better pre-abortion screening and counseling in order to prevent unsafe and unwanted abortions.”

The study was conducted using online survey tools surveying 1,000 women between the ages of 41 and 45 with a 96% completion rate. The Lozier Institute notes that those women who said they had an abortion were four times more likely to drop out of the survey once they had to answer more questions about their abortion experience—compared to the women who did not say they had an abortion and had to answer more questions about their pregnancy experiences.

“Even with our high participation rate, women with a history of abortion reported higher levels of stress completing the survey than other women, which is most likely why they were most likely to drop out before completing the survey,” Reardon said. “This is why surveys about abortion will always underreport negative outcomes. It is precisely the women feeling the most negative emotions who are most likely to not want to talk about it.” 

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Pro-life Dad Targeted by Biden DOJ Will Attend State of the Union

Catholic pro-life activist and former Biden Department of Justice target Mark Houck will attend the State of the Union as Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry’s guest on Tuesday night, Houck shared with The Daily Signal on Monday.

“Mark Houck and his family are innocent victims of the radical Left’s reprehensible abuse of power, which systematically seeks to destroy the lives of hard-working Americans whose only ‘crimes’ are using their God-given constitutional rights to protect their families, faith, and way of life,” Perry told The Daily Signal on Tuesday.

“President Biden has weaponized the power of the federal government against anyone who thwarts his radical, Leftist agenda,” the congressman continued. “He should see the faces of some of those Americans who have been relentlessly and unjustifiably persecuted by the same government sworn to protect their freedoms.”

Houck’s family awoke on Friday, September 23, 2022, to FBI agents banging on the door, guns drawn, to arrest him.

The Houck children shared with The Daily Signal that they were terrified and uncertain when they would see their father again. Houck and his attorneys believe that President Joe Biden’s DOJ sought to make an example of him for his pro-life activism as a response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“My wife and I are honored to be asked by the Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry to attend The State of The Union as his guests,” Houck said Tuesday after Catholic Vote reported the news . “We hope our presence with members of Congress will continue to raise awareness about the injustice that was rendered against my family and others in recent months.”

“We pray for the opportunity to meet with those who need to hear our story and for the eventual opportunity to testify before the Judiciary Committee about our reckless experience with the Department of Justice,” he added.

A jury cleared the father of seven was cleared of the DOJ charges last week, finding him not guilty on two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act when, outside a Pennsylvania abortion clinic, Houck pushed a pro-abortion activist  who was antagonizing his son (local authorities had already dismissed the incident).

“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation, said in a statement Monday. “Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration  threw upon them.”

“We took on Goliath—the full might of the United States government—and won,” Breen added. “The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from Day One. This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”

Breen previously told The Daily Signal that the Justice Department sent “20-plus heavily armed federal agents with shields and long guns” to arrest Houck in late September as his children watched “to intimidate pro-life people and people of faith.”

Houck refused to take a government plea deal and pled not guilty to the federal charges. His legal team argued that the Justice Department was violating the Constitution by engaging in “viewpoint discrimination ” and “selective prosecution” against Houck, violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s protection for the free exercise of religion. 

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