How safe are mobile phones for kids?
We give our kids mobile phones to keep them safe – but how “healthy” is their use?
"Children should be encouraged to limit exposure from mobile phones to their heads by reducing call time, by making calls where reception is good, by using hands-free devices or speaker options, or by texting", say The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPNSA).
Children needed to take precautions to protect themselves from exposure to radiation because health risks from their long-term mobile phone use were still unknown, the agency says.
The Federal Government’s radiation safety watchdog has advised parents to encourage their kids to text rather than talk on their phones, following a decade-long study into the health effects of using mobile phones.
The ARPNSA’s warning follows the release of results from Interphone, the world’s largest study to date on mobile phone use and cancer risk.
But is there a health risk?
Overall results of the study, conducted over 12 years in 13 countries, show no definite link between mobile phones and brain cancer. But there is still some vagueness which has prompted even the Cancer Council of Australia to say:
“The study involves phone usage for 12 years at most, so it tells us little about risk associated with mobile phone use over decades. In particular, insufficient time has passed since mobile phones were introduced to determine whether or not there is a risk to children. This study will continue to assess use beyond 12 years.
“Until this area has been fully investigated, Cancer Council recommends that if parents remain concerned about possible effects on children, they should minimise their use of mobile phones and encourage hands-free/speaker options, or texting.”
An Australian academic who led the Australian part of the Interphone study has said that mobile phone radiation was more harmful to children because their bodies were less developed.
Professor Bruce Armstrong, of Sydney University's School of Public Health, told news.com.au that a child’s skull is thinner and so more of the radiation produced will be absorbed into their brain than an adult.
How can parents keep kids safe with mobile phones?
In a nutshell, encourage your kids to use their phones only when essential and to:
- reduce call times
- make calls where reception is good
- use hands-free devices or speaker function wherever possible
- whenever possible, text
Meanwhile, here’s some random research on mobile phone use and kids. A 2008 study of 13,159 Danish children showed that young children who use mobile phones and whose mothers also used mobile phones during pregnancy are 80% more likely to suffer emotional and hyperactivity problems.
Based on this study, and considering the role mobile phones play in our lives, this doesn’t look good for classrooms, dinner times and play groups…
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This article was created by Fiona Baker for Kidspot, New Zealand's best family health resource. Sources include Cancer Council Australia.
Last revised: Sunday, 1 August 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.