The SCAMP study follows several thousand secondary school pupils across London from Year 7 through to Year 9, to investigate whether their use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies might affect their neurocognitive or behavioural development. SCAMP is the largest study in the world to address this important research question.
In the UK, the majority of 11-12 year olds (70%) own a mobile phone and approximately 80% of secondary schools make use of WiFi. Scientists remain uncertain as to whether children’s developing brains might be more vulnerable than adults to radio wave exposures. SCAMP will be focusing on the ongoing development of cognitive functions in the brain during adolescence. Cognition is essentially how we think; how we make decisions; and how we process and recall information. It is linked to intelligence and educational achievement and forms the building blocks of the innovative and creative potential of every individual and therefore society as a whole. Current UK health guidelines advise children under 16 to limit their mobile phone calls, but this policy has not been updated for over a decade. This advice is based on the precautionary principle, given in the absence of available evidence. The SCAMP study will provide the evidence base with which to inform policy and through which parents and their children can make informed life choices.
This research is led by Imperial College London in collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London and the Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute.
This study is commissioned by the Department of Health & Social Care via the Research Initiative on Health and Mobile Telecommunications (RIHMT), an independent programme of research that is jointly funded by government and industry, and is managed through the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme.
All research conducted has: insurance and indemnity cover from Imperial College London; ethical approval from an independent NHS Research Ethics Committee; and oversight from an independent scientific Steering Committee.
All pupils who will started Year 7 in September 2014 are eligible to take part in this study (so for follow-up, all pupils who started year 9 in 2016 are eligible). It does not matter how often or how little the pupil uses a mobile phone, it is important that all types of mobile phone users join the study.
In Year 7, pupils undertook an online computerised assessment (including simple cognitive tasks to assess attention and memory, and questions on mobile phone use and lifestyle).
We are now undertaking follow-up, where pupils will again undertake the online computerised assessment during school hours, normally during their ICT lessons. We are currently arranging these visits. Once the date is arranged, we will need to have contact with your ICT department in order to exchange the software on which the assessment takes place.
We also send out an information pack to parents before the visit, and also send out a reminder after the visit. We can either drop this off to you at the school for you to send to parents (costs will be reimbursed) or you can provide a list of addresses to a third party mailing service to send out the packs.
Some schools are involved in an additional assessment called Biozone Biozone sessions take place in a sports hall or similar facility. We take anthropometric measurements and non-invasive samples (urine and saliva) from the children during the Biozone session.
We will collect data on the pupil’s cognitive functioning (e.g. memory, attention, language understanding), behavioural symptoms (e.g. anxiety and hyperactivity), use of mobile phones and wireless technologies, and lifestyle. We might ask schools for information from the pupil’s educational record. Imperial College will ensure the research complies fully with the Data Protection Act 1998. All individually identifiable data will be dealt with in the strictest confidence. Data will be stored long-term on a secure computer network at Imperial College. Study results will be published following independent scientific peer review but no data individually identifying pupils or their schools will ever be published.
Study findings will be published in peer reviewed scientific journals. Key findings will also be shared with pupils, parents, and schools via newsletters and the study website. At the end of the study we will hold a presentation evening of study findings for all head teachers of participating schools and stakeholders, with live video feed via the study website for parents and pupils.