Dangers of Mobile Phones for Children

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Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute found "no indication of higher brain tumour risk among persons who had used hand-held cell phones compared with those who had not used them." There is currently no available data on cancer risk for children from using mobile phones.

However, the Institute explains that children's mobile phone use is increasing rapidly to the point that children are "likely to accumulate many years of exposure during their lives." According to the NCI, the developmental stage of children's nervous systems makes them particularly vulnerable to dangers from using mobile phones .

Physical Health Risks

According to Professor Lawrie Challis, who led British Government research into mobile phone safety, there are reasons children might be more vulnerable than adults to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones. In an article for the Times Online in 2009, Challis refers to evidence that the risk of skin cancer increases among adults who experienced greater sun exposure as children. From this evidence, Challis reasons that "children react differently to ionising radiation, radioactivity and gamma rays" and are therefore at greater risk than adults of developing cancerous tumours of the brain from mobile phone use. Researchers at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden found evidence that using mobile phones could produce a fivefold increase in children's risk of brain cancer.

Mental Health Risks

Other experts are concerned that children respond to peer-group pressure to stay up late at night using mobile phones to send texts to their friends. Paediatrician Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg of the University of Melbourne explains that mobile phone use overstimulates children's brains, which can also lead to sleep-deprivation. Lack of sleep affects children's mental health, causing problems such as inattentiveness and depression. In addition, mobile phone use is a constant distraction for children, and may prevent them from completing important homework assignments because they are unable to concentrate. It is also possible that children experience abuse or bullying from others via their mobile phone, with consequences of anxiety and depression for the victims.

Minimising Risks

Parents can minimise the risks of mobile phone use by encouraging their children to be aware of mobile phone safety. Challis advises parents to wait until children attend high school before giving them mobile phones. He also recommends that children send texts rather than make calls to reduce the risk of harm from electromagnetic radiation. The Childnet International website provides advice to parents on how to help children understand the potential dangers of mobile phone use: "It is very important to encourage your children not to give out their mobile numbers to strangers or people they cannot trust completely." Although excessive prying into their children's social networking is inadvisable, parents should remain vigilant towards the types of calls and texts that children give and receive.