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Kids and Cell Phones

Children and teenagers are five times more likely than adults to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones, according to a recent study done in Sweden. Five times. Why are kids so much more susceptible? "The skull of a child is thinner than that of an adult," pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson explains. "This theoretically allows for easier penetration of electromagnetic waves from a cell phone held up to the ear. And because a child's brain is developing (as opposed to an adult brain, which is much more static by comparison), many believe that the cells in a child's brain are more susceptible to damage."

Top 5 Interesting Facts about Kids and Cell Phones

  1. Currently, a third of the 8- to 12-year-old population in the United States carries cell phones -- a number that is expected to rise to over half of the tween population by the end of 2009.
  2. Kids who talk on cell phones are more likely to step into traffic, according to a new study published in Pediatrics magazine. In the study, researchers watched as 77 tweens navigated a virtual reality street-crossing. The children were allowed to first familiarize themselves with the virtual area. Then they went through the simulation 12 times, six while talking on the phone and six without distractions.
  3. According to AAA, more than 46 percent of teenagers admit to texting while behind the wheel of a car. What's worse is that a whopping 97% know it's dangerous -- and do it anyway.
  4. Soon toddlers will have a toy available to teach them how to use cell phones and BlackBerry devices. Unveiled at a toy fair in England, the Text & Learn by LeapFrog lands in the United States in the summer of 2009. The gadget, recommended for ages 3 and up, is designed to teach spelling and computer skills. It doesn't connect to the Internet but allows kids to text, play games, and navigate with arrow keys.
  5. A 13-year-old girl sent out 14,528 text messages in one month -- her father studied the AT&T bill and figured out she sent around 484 texts per day. Had she not had an unlimited texting plan for $30/month, the cost would have been $2,905.60.

Dr. Natterson says the FDA, the American Cancer Society, and a series of researchers in the U.S. contend that there is no data proving that cell phones cause cancer. But most of these studies are only three years in duration, with a few lasting up to 10. "Most neurosurgeons and brain tumor experts agree that brain cancer develops over a much longer time frame, up to 20 or 25 years," she says. "Unfortunately, the studies are too short."


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What Moms Can Do about Kids and Cell Phones

Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson weighs in on the risks involved for children using cell phones:

The bottom line here is that no one knows for sure whether cell phones -- when held up to the ear -- generate enough (and enough of a specific type of) radiation to cause tumors over time. But no one knows that they don't.

And because there are simple things you can do to minimize your exposure, it is silly not to do them. Almost every neurosurgeon I have ever asked recommends wearing a wired earpiece rather than holding the phone to your head. Most caution against a wireless Bluetooth ear piece, as these place an antenna in your ear.

As for your children, this is yet another reason to keep them off the cell phone. They don't need to text and call each other (or you) to the extent that they do these days. In an effort to (potentially) spare a developing brain, cell phones should be used for emergencies, not for minute-to-minute chatting. Don't let toddlers or babies play with cell phones either.

For those who think this is overkill, I offer the following: In this country, in order to prove something as fact, data must be collected and then replicated over and over. It is not enough to show an association once; the relationship must be documented several times. This is good basic science -- it allows us to prove rather than speculate. However, when it comes to slowly evolving diseases (like cancer), proving causation is an onerous task that takes many, many years. Think about how long it took to prove that smoking caused lung cancer. So if a relationship is suspected, and if it is easy to do a few things to reduce your risk, then what is the problem?

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Related Momlogic Stories on Kids and Cell Phones

  1. Do Cell Phones Give Kids Cancer?
  2. Kids Talking on Cell Phones More Likely to Walk Into Traffic
  3. Kids High on Tech

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