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'Digital schoolbag' program may impair learning: researchers

2010/05/28 20:49:49

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Over 3 million Taiwanese students are nowusing "digital schoolbags, " but researchers warned Friday thatextended exposure to the "bags'" radio frequency fields may causeanxiety and headaches and impair students' ability to learn.

The "digital schoolbag" program, launched by the Ministry ofEducation in 2002, basically consists of giving students a notebookcomputer to replace the heavy books they would otherwise have tocarry home. But those computers may come with a risk.

"Using digital schoolbags with wireless Internet may create radiofrequency radiation of 1,000 to 60,000 microwatts per square meter, "said Chen Jiau-hua, chairwoman of the Taiwan ElectromagneticRadiation Hazard Protection and Control Association (TEPCA).

Exposure to such high levels of electromagnetic radiation hasbeen shown to lead children to become anxious and fidgety, makinglearning more difficult, Chen said at a news conference.

Taiwan has not set a standard for the radiation, but the TEPCAhas recommended a safety-based limit of 1 microwatt per square meter,based on the standard of the German Sustainable Building Council(DGNB), Chen said.

According to the association head, cell phones and microwaveovens also emit high volumes of electromagnetic radiation, but theyare less of a threat because they are not used for as long ascomputers.

"Even adults can get cancer from these radiation fields, sochildren are particularly vulnerable," she said.

A mother of two children also showed her concern after the newsconference, saying the "digital schoolbags" may have contributed toher children's nearsightedness and left them unwilling to eatproperly.

"Digital schoolbags are not good for kids," she said.

The program was adopted in 2002 by the Ministry of Educationafter it received a litany of complaints about the heavy schoolbagsstudents carried on their backs every day and the adverse effects itwas having on their posture.

The program to distribute notebook computers began withTaipei-based Nanhu Elementary School and has since reached 3 millionstudents in elementary, junior high and high schools.

(By James Lee)