Last Christmas, a close friend of mine gave her 9-year-old daughter a cell phone. She carefully debated the pros and cons of giving her child such an expensive piece of technology, but finally decided it was a matter of safety. At 9 years old, her child is often over at friends' houses for play dates or staying after school for extra-curricular activities. It gave her peace of mind, my friend reasoned, to know that her daughter could easily call home when needed.
But it turns out that this extra peace of mind may come at a price and one that my friend may not have considered. New studies show that children's brains are more affected than once thought by the radiation emitted from cell phones.
The amount of radio frequency that can be emitted by a cell phone is based on models of a man's head — not a child's. And few parents realize that radio-frequency signals reach much more deeply into children's thinner and smaller heads.
Still, my friend is not alone in her decision to give her daughter a cell phone. According to the Campaign for Safer Cell Phones, 4 billion people today are using cell phones and many of them are under the age of 20.
It seems reasonable to assume that frequent exposure to radiation could significantly affect a child's developing brain. But until more studies are completed, it will be difficult to know for sure about the possible long-term health effects that could be caused when children use cell phones.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce this potential for risk. If your child has a cell phone, make sure she knows how to use it safely (oh, and you might want to try these tricks yourself):
Text it: Here's some good news for kids: when it comes to communicating, texting is the healthy way to go! Radiation from cell phones is only a concern when the phones are held closely to the head, so texting is fair game.
Speaker phone: When you need to make a call, try using the speakerphone function and hold the phone away from your body instead of talking directly into the phone.
Give it some space: Need more privacy? Hold the phone to your ear, but hold it at a distance. Even just two inches will diminish the cell phone's radiation by 75 percent.
Get gadgets: A wired headset (not a Bluetooth) will allow your child to talk hands-free while reducing the amount of radiation that his brain is exposed to.
Tease photo: apdk/Flickr