Children and mobile phones: What every parent needs to know.

The number of our children using mobile phones is growing at an astonishing rate. In June 2011, less than a quarter of our teens used a smartphone. Four years later that number jumped to over 80%. These days it is not uncommon to see children as young as two years old using smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, this could be putting our kids at serious risk.

Radiation in the brain can have devastating results. Each year, the equivalent of a classroom of children lose their lives to brain cancer, with about 30 children dying per year on average. Percentage growth in mobile phone usage among teenager.

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the radiation emitted by mobile phones is harmful to our health. In a 2011 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the radiation emitted by mobile phones as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans,’ based on an increased risk of malignant brain tumours.

The amount of radiation that mobile phones are allowed to emit is regulated, but it is done so in a flawed way which puts us all- children especially- at tremendous risk, because the testing takes no account of the differences (size being just one) between adult and children's heads. The amount of radio frequency radiation that any biological tissue can take in depends on a number of factors, one being the amount of fluid or fat that makes up the specific tissue.

Children are at higher risk than adults because:

Young skulls are thinner and smaller than those of adults, allowing higher radiation penetration.

  • Young skulls are thinner and smaller than those of adults, allowing higher radiation penetration.
  • The process of myelination, which is the forming of a protective sheath around each nerve cell, is incomplete.
  • Children's brains have a higher water content which makes them more conductive than those of adults. (This is why shaking young children is so dangerous- their brain tissue can be sloshed around.) As a result, radiation is transmitted more extensively and efficiently.

All these factors make children much more vulnerable to mobile phone radiation. The same 2011 report by the World Health Organisation states "When used by children, the average RF Energy deposition is two times higher in the brain and up to ten times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile phone use by adults."

Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease, Yet only 1 in 10 cases of cancer in children is inherited, or caused by a defect in their genes. The majority of health problems are not inherited; they are environmental. The silver lining in this tragic statistic is that we can take measures to try and make our kids safer: be that by feeding them a cleaner, more nutritional diet, encouraging them to exercise, or yes, educating them on how to most safely use the two way microwaves they are glued to for hours each day.

The Federal Government's Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has made some small recommendations regarding mobile phone safety, including releasing a fact sheet stating "Due to the lack of scientific evidence on mobile and cordless phone use by children, ARPANSA recommends that parents encourage their children to limit their exposure.’'  The agency also advocates that schools "give some priority to locating Wi-Fi access points so they are not unnecessarily close to some children'' - although it did not specify a distance.

While commendable, Australia’s response pales in comparison to other world beating nations who have treated the risk to children’s health more seriously. Just like cigarettes, advertising of devices that emit 'possibly carcinogenic’ radio-frequency radiation to children under 12 is banned in France, where it is also compulsory to sell handsets with earphones. Elsewhere,Toronto's Department of Public Health has advised that children under eight should only use mobiles in emergencies and teens should keep calls under 10 minutes, the Russian National Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection has stated publicly that children’s health is at risk because of their use of mobile phones and the Russian Ministry of Health states that young people under 18 should not use mobile phones. Israel's Health Ministry has also advised caution and it is now illegal for mobile phone advertising with children in that country. Israel also has a government website devoted to providing information about non-ionising radiation from mobile phones and other devices.

Without a concerted national effort to protect the children of Australia, parents must take responsibility for their children’s safety. Here is Skim Guard’s list of measures that you can take today to make your children less vulnerable to mobile phone radiation:

  • Where possible, delay giving your child their first mobile phone.
  • Do not allow young children to play with your mobile phone or tablet unless it is on airplane mode.
  • Educate your children on safer mobile phone use, encouraging them to keep the device away from their head and instead using the inbuilt speakerphone or earphones. Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said that while the health risks were low, it was best that children did not hold mobile phones directly to their ears. "With children's growing brains, you do want to reduce exposure,'' he said."Even putting your thumb between your ear and the phone can reduce radiation.''
  • Teach your kids to keep their mobile phones in their school bags rather than their pockets when possible.
  • Make sure that your child does not sleep with their mobile phone on or near their pillow or body.
  • Store mobile phones in a Cool Case which is constructed with cutting edge anti-radiation fabric that includes a heat absorbing and reflecting metal membrane, blocking radiation with 99.99% shielding effectiveness. In this way, Cool Case minimises exposure to heat and radiation, shielding your child’s brain when making a call, and their body and reproductive organs when kept in their pocket.

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