Instead of enjoying the great outdoors, feeling nature’s cool breeze and the soft earth beneath their feet, children nowadays have been spending a great amount of time staring at electronic screens, which experts warn may trigger severe health effects, including cancer.
While it’s no secret that more and more children are getting cell phones at a younger age, nothing could have prepared us for the results of a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics about mobile device use among children.
After surveying the parents of 350 children aged six months to 4 years old during October and November of last year, researchers learned that 75 percent of 4-year-olds have smartphones.
About 97 percent of kids under age four have used a mobile device and 50 percent of children the same age had their own television.
Nearly 100 percent of kids started using smartphones before their first birthday
Shockingly, nearly all (97 percent) children used mobile devices before their first birthday. In the survey, the majority of parents admitted to using electronic devices to distract or entertain their children.
About 70 percent of parents gave devices to children while doing chores, 65 percent used devices to keep kids calm and just fewer than 30 percent said they give their kids devices at bedtime to help them fall asleep.
By age two, most toddlers have used some sort of electronic device every day, researchers discovered.
The results are pretty concerning, for a number of reasons. Not only do cell phones pose serious risks to physical health, but their impacts on emotional and mental health are also of great concern.
The manner in which our youth learn social skills today differs vastly from the pre-cell phone era. Now, socializing largely takes place online, often replacing face-to-face communication with virtual interactions, which reduces individuals’ ability to develop important communication techniques and attitudes, such as making eye contact, listening, being attentive and relating to others.
Is cell phone radiation damaging kids’ DNA?
Even more concerning than the behavioral impacts are the potential neurological side effects of mobile device use.
Some experts say radiation emitted from cell phones isn’t strong enough to break apart DNA, but admit the health effects of growing up with a cell phone are largely unknown; similar to the way smoking cigarettes was believed to be safe, but is now proven to be deadly.
Dr. Devra Davis, an epidemiologist, toxicologist and an expert on the environmental causes of cancer, warns that radio-frequency radiation emitted from cell phones can damage DNA and may cause brain tumors.
After reviewing decades-old research, Dr. Davis found evidence that cell phones indeed have biological effects, according to a report by TIME magazine, and should be discouraged for use in young children; a recommendation given in countries like France and Israel.
Experts warn children’s cell phone use should be limited
Davis said she’s observed an increase in certain types of brain tumors among young cell phone users, but says the health impacts are largely covered up or ignored by the technology industry. Close to five billion people use cell phones across the globe, highlighting the motive to downplay any harm they cause.
Davis isn’t the only expert concerned with the health impacts caused by cell phones. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group published “a lengthy review of past research linking long-term or frequent cell phone use with increased rates of brain tumors, migraines and kids’ behavioral problems,” reported TIME.
Others warn the impacts are worse on children.
“The structure of a child’s skull is just different than an adult, skulls are thinner and so if there is any radiation that comes through your cell phone that could be harmful, the concern is it can get through the brain and the skull and the neural tissue a little bit easier than it might an adult,” said Austin-based neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Burnett.
“You’re talking about something that we all use every day, and now our kids are using every day over many, many years and so it’s sort of like smoking. We know smoking is bad, but many years ago we didn’t know that it was exactly harmful for us and we just don’t want to find out down the road, somehow, that we’ve been doing something now that caused a future ill health effect for our kids.”