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What is the right age to give your kids cell phones?


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What is the right age to give your kids cell phones?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sent a letter to the Federal Communications
Commission asking it to reassess its radiation standards for children. Kids “are not little adults
and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone
radiation,” wrote AAP President Dr. Robert Block, noting that the average radiofrequency energy
deposition is two times higher in kids’ brains and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of their
skulls, compared with adults.
Partly, the question revolves around concerns about radiation.
Pediatricians Say Cell Phone Radiation Standards Need Another Look
Concerns persist over the health effects of radiation from cell phones, especially for kids. Now
the nation's largest pediatricians group is asking the government to review emission standards
It’s been 18 years since the U.S. government assessed the standards for cell phone radiation. That
was back in 1996, long before the practice of giving your big kid a cell phone became as
common as giving your little kid a bath. Both cell-phone technology and cell-phone use have
changed in the interim, which is why last week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider its radiation standards.
Current guidelines specify that the specific absorption rate (SAR) — the amount of
radiofrequency (RF) energy absorbed by the body when using a cell phone — can’t exceed 1.6
watts per kilogram. The standard tells cell-phone makers how much radiation their products are
allowed to emit. This all sounds pretty technical; why, you may wonder, is the AAP getting
involved in deliberations over RF and SARs? It comes down to children’s health and well-being,
writes AAP President Dr. Robert Block, who notes that standards are based on the impact of
exposure on an adult male, not on women or kids:
Children, however, are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental
exposures, including cell phone radiation. In fact, according to [the International Agency for
Research on Cancer], when used by children, the average RF energy deposition is two times
higher in the brain and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile
phone use by adults.
Nothing like talk of compromising baby brains to make you reach for the nearest hands-free
device. It’s best to proceed with caution even as we continue to learn more about how cell
phones affect us. There’s been some concern that the nighttime glow from digital screens devices
may cause depression, for example. But as far as worries about eye strain go, pediatric
ophthalmologist James Ruben, chair of the AAP’s section on ophthalmology, says it’s “probably
much ado about nothing.” He’s seen no uptick in vision problems related to cell phone use in his
practice in Roseville, Calif.

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As for the impact of radiation, studies have been inconclusive, though the National Cancer
Institute notes on its website that “in theory, children have the potential to be at greater risk than
adults for developing brain cancer from cell phones.” Spanish researchers are currently
evaluating that risk. The good news? One of the best things kids can do to avoid radiation
zapping their developing brains is something they’re already embraced en masse: texting.
Tapping out cell-phone missives keeps the phone away from their heads.
Alas, too much texting isn’t so great either, says Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the
UCLA School of Medicine and co-author of iBrain. “Our brains evolved to communicate face-
to-face,” he says. “A lot of this is lost with texting.” Empathy and the ability to home in on social
cues can also take a hit, says Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor and author of Alone Together,
about the drawbacks of social media use. “There’s a difference between an apologies and typing,
I’m sorry, and ‘send,’” says Turkle. “Texting takes the messiness out of human relationships. It’s
not our job as parents to tidy up the world and deliver it in little sound bites.”
Study Finds No Link Between Cell Phones and Childhood Cancer, but Hold the Phone
A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found no link between cell
phone use and cancer in children, ages 7 to 19.
Swiss researchers surveyed cell phone use of 352 children and teens throughout Norway,
Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland who were diagnosed with brain cancer to 646 similar
youngsters who did not have tumors. About 55% of the children with brain cancer reported using
cell phones regularly before their illness, compared to a similar percentage of 51% of the cancer-
free kids.
Yet despite the lack of association between cell phone use and presence of a tumor in this first
study to look at the link in young children, experts caution against a false sense of safety when it
comes to kids and phones. For one thing, the study was partially funded by mobile phone
Parents share their opinions:
Michelle, a mom of three (New Zealand)
The best age to give children a cell phone is at age of 12. I don’t think kids below 12 it is
necessary for them to have cell phones. I gave cell phone to my Eldest daughter when she turns
13 years old. I think that is the appropriate age. My 8 year old son asked a cell phone gift on his
birthday and I said ‘no, it is not the right time for you to have a cell phone. Because there are

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some games on cell phone that are not good for kids. I let him borrow my cell phone to play
games but there is a time limit for that and I choose and checked what games that he plays.
Gen, a single mother of four children (Australia)
There really is no “right” age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond, but if we pay
attention to the issues, we’ll be able to decide what makes sense for our kids without getting in
the way of a process that will occur whether we like it or not.
At the same time, there is no rush. We can keep the pace reasonable and developmentally
appropriate and allow our kids to use technologies that make sense without granting them access
to technologies that don’t make sense for their age.
Every family has different needs when it comes to cell phones and frankly not all children need
them at any given time. It is absolutely a requirement for them to have one once they are driving
on their own so that we are in touch if something happens. Outside of that the "need" is
determined by the child and any communication issues that may arise if they do not have a cell
I personally find that younger teens may not need a cell phone on a regular basis if they aren't in
after school activities year round .That said, we may at least allow them to have but we have to
make sure that it’s clear that we will watch what they use the phone for and will not hesitate to
take it away if they choose to abuse it. Overwhelming them with rules isn't the goal here, but
keeping a realistic handle on what they phone is to be used for is, so they know up front that
there is to be no use during school hours or when they are driving.
My Eldest son who is 8 year old, I provided him a cell phone that can access wifi and everything,
this is for personal and emergency purposes but I limited him to use his cell phone. I am a single
mom, while at work; from time to time I call to check them.
Jeff, a father of two sons (Thailand)
As a father of two kids, are both in primary level. I would say it is too early to give and provide
them a cell phone. I am secure that when I send them in school, they are safe. And I’ll just make
sure to pick them up early to avoid worries. If they are in their teenage life, that’s the time I will
let them have it.
Raymond, a father of two (one daughter and a son) (Canada)
My daughter 9 year old doesn’t have a cell phone. Since I assigned to work abroad, my
communication with my family is through internet and phone calls. My daughter tried to ask her
mother to have an iPod of her own instead of borrowing her mom’s phone to play games, talk to
her friends and easy way to talk to me through chat as my daughter suggested. But my wife and I
explained to her that we think it is not yet the right time to have her own cell phone. We
explained to her the risk and our own reasons why she can’t have her own cell phones at this
early age. I’m glad that my daughter listens to us.
Ann, a mom of two (son and daughter) (Thailand)

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