What is the Right Age to Give Children a Mobile Phone?
By Rong Wang, PhD | March 7, 2013 | Categories: General
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular in modern lives. Most teens — 85% of those aged 14 to 17 — have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14 year olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average age at which kids get their first phones has declined steadily during the past decade. For parents, it becomes an important, and sometimes difficult decision to make when to give their kids a mobile phone.
While there are many factors to consider when making the decision, this article focuses on the health aspect of mobile phones.
All wireless devices emit microwave radiation when in use. Growing scientific evidence shows that wireless radiation may cause a variety of adverse health effects including cancer (especially brain tumors), impaired sperm quality, reduced learning ability, cognitive performance, attention and memory, as well as hyperactivity disorders and other emotional and behavioral problems in children. Everyday symptoms that may be associated with wireless devices include sleeping problems, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and ear ringing. In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified wireless radiation as “possibly carcinogen to humans”.
Children are more vulnerable to wireless radiation than adults for three reasons:
1. Children experience deeper RF penetration and greater RF absorption due to their thinner skulls and skin, smaller head sizes and more conductive tissue. Studies show that children can absorb up to10 times more wireless radiation than adults (Christ et al. 2010). The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter to Congressman Dennis Kucinich in December 2012 states: “Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.”
2. Children potentially experience longer lifetime exposures because children are possibly exposed to wireless radiation as fetuses and early in their lives as a result of “second-hand” exposures and will likely to continue cell phone use in adulthood. Many studies show that the health effects of wireless radiation are cumulative. However, the long-term health consequences of exposure have not been studied.
3. Children’s developing nervous systems, increased levels of cell division and immature immune systems make them more vulnerable to environmental toxicants, including wireless radiation. Children’s central nervous systems and brains are not mature until in their early 20’s. There is evidence suggesting that many toxic exposures to the fetus and very young child have especially detrimental consequences when they occur during critical phases of growth and development. Such exposures may lay the seeds of health harm that develops even decades later.
Studies on wireless radiation and children are very limited. The existing evidence is worrisome and alarming. Research by Prof. Hardell in Sweden suggests that people who start cell phone use before the age of 20 are five times more likely to develop a brain tumor (Hardell et al, 2011). Other findings suggest that the earlier a person starts using a mobile phone, the higher the risk of developing a tumor. The National Cancer Institute also notes on its website that “in theory, children have the potential to be at greater risk than adults for developing brain cancer from cell phones.” Prenatal, postnatal and childhood exposure to mobile phones was shown to cause hyperactivity disorders, emotional issues and other behavioural problems in children at school age (Divan et al., 2008, 2010). Children’s exposure to wireless radiation was also shown to be associated with increased phonemic perception disorders, abatement of efficiency, reduced indicators for arbitrary and semantic memory and increased fatigue (Grigoriev et al., 2011).
There are concerns that the current safety standards do not sufficiently protect children. The current safety standards are outdated for over 15 years and do not use children models in the certification process. Many mobile phones may fail the safety certification if tested on children.
In summary, children are at higher risk from wireless radiation but are less studied and protected. There is no specific cut-off age at which the use of a mobile device is proven to be safe. It is a personal decision for parents to make at what age to give their children a mobile device. With a lack of scientific clarity, inadequate warning and notice to the public in the marketplace, and regulatory inaction, it is up to the parents to take responsibilities for their own children. Parents should be aware of the potential health risks of wireless devices and take precautionary actions to limit their children’s exposure to wireless radiation. It is recommended to restrict young children’s use of cell phone only for emergency situation. For non-emergency use, text rather than talk. For a peace of mind, parents can offer Pong cases to their children. Pong cases provide an effective, practical and proven way to protect users of all ages from unnecessary exposure to wireless radiation, while optimizing the mobile device’s performance. Pong works at all times, whether when talking, texting, or simply wearing the phones. More information about Pong cases is available at Pongresearch.com.