With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, those clamoring to stuff kids’ holiday stockings with electronic gadgets would do well to consider a child’s safety and choose wisely advises Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a health advocacy group promoting safer technology use.
Thinking of getting your child a cellphone? A 2015 survey found that on average American children get their first cell phonewhen they’re 6 years old, and a new Common Sense Media reportdetails teens now spend more than six and a half hours per day on screens.
“What harm could a cell phone do to youngsters to have such a cool, hot gadget—especially if they can use it to learn to read and just stay connected with friends? The answer is: plenty,” advises Dr. Devra Davis, EHT’s President. “To start, few parents are aware that wireless electronic devices emit microwave radiation and research shows this radiation could pose a risk to our children’s health.”
The Gift of Safety
“The most important gift we can give our kids is safety. We all need to “#PracticeSafeTech,” advises Dr. Davis. EHT has developed Super-Smart and Safe Technology Tips for parents looking for common sense recommendations to navigate this holiday shopping season and ensure their children are safe and healthy.
Seven Super-Smart and Safe Technology Tips
Tip 1. Read the Fine Print
“Did you know an iPad has 4 or more microwave radiating antennas and that the iPad manual itself states these antennas should be aimed ‘away’ from the body?” asked Dr. Davis.
Before you buy Hello Barbie or any “toy” that has a screen or Wi-Fi capability, read the fine print safety regulations in the manual.For example, if you look in the user manual for the hottest new wireless laptop, it will state (as all computers do) that the device should be at least 20 cm (approximately 8 inches) away from the body to prevent “exceeding FCC radiation exposure limits.” For cell phones, the fine print instruction states a distance of under an inch, and each model is different so read your manual or find your phone on our ShowTheFinePrint.org website.
Why Does The Fine Print Matter?
If a child is using a wireless device at a closer distance, the child is exposed to untested radiation emissions that could exceed the radiation levels our government regulations presently allow. The kicker is this: All safety warnings for mobile phones (e.g., “keep 0.98 inches from the body”) were never designed with children in mind, but in order to protect a large adult man with a big head who talks on his phone for less than 30 minutes per day. “A child’s brain is cased in a thinner skull; that’s one reason they absorb more microwave radiation. It’s important to safeguard your children whenever they use these devices,” advises Dr. Davis.
Tip 2. Infants Need Cuddles and Laps(not iPads and Apps)
Shelves are filled with contraptions like iPad Potty Seat that force infants to look at screens at ages where they are not even developmentally capable of holding the iPad itself. Just say no to the Baby Seat with iPad Holder and the chewable toddler tablet holders. Just say yes to tried and true gifts like music CDs and picture books so that parents can sing and read to children.
Tip 3. Choose Imaginative Toys for Young Children
Choose toys for children that encourage a child’s imagination and hands-on creative play. Screen-free time with make-believe toys like a playhouse, dolls, cars, or building blocks can support your child in developing good self-control, attention skills, and a sense of accomplishment. When it comes to encouraging children’s play, less is more because the least decorated toys end up allowing the child to use their imagination more. A simple block can be transformed into a brick, a bed, or even a cell phone.
Tip 4. Cell Phones Are Not Toys.
Before you take the plunge and buy your child a real cell phone, ask yourself what your child needs it for. In the age of smart phones, tablets, TV, apps, and videos games, time away from screens is essential for children to connect with others and develop healthy social skills. Children often lack the psychological maturity to set appropriate boundaries for cell phone use. Studies have shown that excessive screen use and cell phone use can lead to attention, behavioral, memory, andsleep problems.Does buying a cell phone for your elementary aged child just because “everyone else has one” really make sense?
“We all need to “#PracticeSafeTech,” advises EHT’s President, Dr. Devra Davis. “What may be appropriate for adults may not be at all suitable for toddlers with their more rapidly growing brains and bodies. Would you give your child the keys to the car or a shot of whiskey just because she really wanted it?”
Research shows that children absorb the radiation from cell phones deeper into their brains than an adult. In 1996, Om Gandhi’s groundbreaking research showed how children’s smaller heads and thinner skulls resulted in higher amounts of radiation doses in younger brains. These findings were confirmed in 2002 and 2008 and when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph on Radio Frequency Fieldsclassified wireless radiation from any source, including cell phones, as a Class 2B Possible Human Carcinogen, and stated, “the average exposure from use of the same mobile phone is higher by a factor of 2 in a child’s brain and higher by a factor of 10 in the bone marrow of the skull.”
Most people are unaware that many countries’ health authorities officially recommend children reduce cell phone use. The United Kingdom recommends “that children only use mobile phones for essential purposes and keep all calls short as a precaution.” Belgium and France have banned cell phones for young children and companies are fined if they advertise cell phones to children. EHT maintains a database of the over 20 countries that have taken precautionary action.
Tip 5.Get Serious About Managing Screen Time For Yourself and For Your Family
Sit down and talk together as a family about how to set healthy boundaries with tech. “To start, we should not be sleeping with our cell phones,” advises Dr. Davis. Research shows that increasing numbers of children who sleep with cell phones by their beds suffer health consequences such as tiredness and headaches.
The media recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urge parents to ban electronic media during mealtimes and after bedtime as part of a comprehensive “family media use plan.” The AAP guidelines recognize the need to limit round-the-clock use of digital devices and electronic media. Research is showing cell phones, screens, and video games have an addictive quality and EHT supports parents in being proactive in setting healthy, strong screen limits. The key to success is that parents are role models themselves.
Tip 6. If Technology is a Must Have Then Buy Safer Tech
Consider these ideas for healthy tech choices.
- Choose Tech With Wired Capability
Choose technology devices that can connect with cords and wires (not only by wireless) to the Internet, base stations, and other networks. This way you can choose to use your device with non-radiating connections whenever possible.
- Ensure a Convenient Airplane/Flight Mode Switch
Ensure any wireless device you buy has a simple and easy way to turn off the wireless radiation, and make sure the user knows how to use this switch.
- Add in a Practice Safe Tech Accessory
Airtube cell phone earpieces, ethernet cables, and USB-to-ethernet adaptors make great gifts and help make reducing radiation simple and convenient.
Tip 7. Gift the Simple Steps To Practice Safe Tech
Tell your friends and family to “check out the fine print” or tuck one of EHT’s Safe Tech handouts in the gift bag. These detail easy steps every person can make at home and when they are out and about so they have the know-how to reduce cell phone radiation. Simple steps that can drastically cut your radiation exposure include using speakerphone or turning off the wireless when you are not using it. “This is life saving information,” says Dr. Davis. “Cell phones and wireless are everywhere, butevery time we take a safer tech step we reduce our risk greatly and increase our health.”
Environmental Health Trust (EHT) supports cutting-edge, high-impact research on environmental exposures and educates individuals, health professionals, and communities about controllable environmental health risks and policy changes needed to reduce those risks. Currently, EHT is raising awareness on the health concerns about cell phones and wireless and recommends reducing exposures to decrease risk. The Environmental Health Trust maintains a regularly updated database of worldwide precautionary policies on wireless and cell phones. Please visit EHtrust.org and on Facebook.
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