Think cellphones make kids safe? Think again

Think cellphones make kids safe? Think again
The London Free Press

BYLINE: Lydia Lovric

Well-meaning parents may have the best of intentions, but arming kids with cellphones in the name of safety might be the equivalent of giving chubby children cigarettes to help them lose weight.

Potential risks associated with cellphones may outweigh any perceived benefits and parents should know the full facts before putting their kids in harm’s way.

A leading radiation expert is urging parents not to give cellphones to children under the age of nine and that cellphone use should be strictly limited for kids aged nine to 14.

The chairperson of England’s Health Protection Agency and the National Radiation Protection Board, Sir William Stewart, says scientists are still unable to ascertain the safety of cellphones. His advice to parents: Be cautious.

“When it comes to suggesting that mobile phones should be available to three- to eight-year-olds, I can’t believe for a moment that can be justified,” Stewart says. “It seems to me ludicrous. If you have a nine- to 14-year-old and you feel they can benefit in terms of security, then that is a personal judgment parents have to make.”

However, cellphone use among tweens should be brief and reserved for essential calls, according to Stewart. Text-messaging should be used in lieu of regular calling whenever possible and the phone should be a low-emission model to help reduce possible health risks.

He has cautioned his own grandsons, aged six and eight, against the use of cellphones.

“My advice is that they should not have them because children’s skulls are not fully thickened, their nervous systems are not fully developed and the radiation penetrates further into their brains.”

Studies done by the Food and Drug Administration in collaboration with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association have found that patients with brain tumours were more likely to develop the tumour on the side of the head where the cellphone was used most often.

As a twenty-something self-proclaimed geek (my idea of a fun night is playing strategy games while listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack), I am not opposed to new technology. I’ve embraced computers and the Internet. I love e-mail and online banking.

But I absolutely loathe cellphones.

Health concerns aside, I choose not to carry around a cellphone because I see no need to be that connected. And frankly, I’m not that important.

Perhaps if I were a transplant doctor who was constantly on call, I would succumb to the pressure and get a cellphone.

But the average Canadian really doesn’t need to be available every waking moment.

I believe most people have cellphones because it makes them feel important. It’s a status symbol for some. For others, it’s a power trip. The rest are just plain addicts.

Why children need cellphones is beyond me. Really young kids should never be left unsupervised in the first place. Older kids should know how to seek assistance or use a pay phone.

In Canada, there are 13.5 million wireless subscribers and that number continues to rise. In Australia, a third of nine- and 10-year-olds own cellphones. Among 11- and 12-year-olds, 73 per cent own mobile phones and a staggering 87 per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds carry cellphones. Canada probably has similar numbers.

I’ve seen groups of tweens huddled together at the local park or mall, chatting away on their cellphones. They ignore the friends that they’re with so they can talk with someone else. Or they chat away on the cellphone while being chauffeured by Mom or Dad, barely saying two words to the people in the car.

It would be interesting to see a study outlining the number of times cellphones have in fact saved a child’s life versus how often it actually endangers a child — kids who cross the street without paying attention because they’re on the cellphone or new drivers who think they can dial and steer at the same time.

Before you push little Madison out the front door with a cellphone for “safety,” ask yourself if you’ve just given her a double-edged sword.


1 Comment

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