Ho, Ho, No! Why iPads and iPhones are Not Kids’ Toys
Teton Village, WY – December 2, 2013 — Good news for parents: the annual tradition involving a mad rush on one hot toy is over. In its place, parents are scurrying to find the coolest electronic devices. Those clamoring to stuff their kids’ holiday stockings with the latest electronic gadgets would do well to ponder experts’ warnings first, advises Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a group promoting safer phone use.
“We all need to “#PracticeSafeTech,” advises Dr. Devra Davis, President of EHT.” What may be appropriate for adults may not be at all suitable for toddlers with their more rapidly growing brains and bodies.” Would you give your child the keys to the car or a shot of whiskey just because she really wanted it?
According to the newest survey from BDO, 69% of retailers say that consumer electronics will be the hottest spending category for the holidays. Back in 2009, just 24% pointed to electronics as the top hot gift category. In another survey, from the shopping site ebates.com, 88% of kids ages 12 to 17 said that they most wanted a gadget as a holiday gift, with the majority (69%) requesting some kind of Apple device.
Should you get your young child that chillin’ shiny tablet, or buy your teen her own mobile phone in her favorite color? After all, mobile phone prices have dropped, making them easier to gift. “What harm could it do to youngsters to have such a cool, hot gadget—especially if they can use it to learn to read, see movies, or just play Angry Birds? The answer is: plenty,” advises EHT founder Dr. Davis.
“Every parent needs to read the important messages offered by Raffi, the renowned children’s advocate, in his new book, LIGHTWEB DARKWEB: THREE REASONS TO REFORM SOCIAL MEDIA B4 IT RE-FORMS US,” Dr. Davis advises. “These devices can short circuit childhood and easily become tools for cyberbullying.”
Few people appreciate that all of these wireless electronic devices come with manufacturers’ fine print warnings to not hold them next to an adult body, or that controlled studies show that microwave radiation emitted by mobile phones weakens the brain’s protective barrier and male users produce fewer and more damaged offspring and sperm. The kicker is this: All safety warnings for mobile phones (e.g., “keep 0.98 inches from the body”) were never designed with children in mind, but in order to protect a large adult man with a big head who talks on his phone for less than 30 minutes per day. Even fewer realize that iPads contain 4 or more microwave radiating antennas that are never to be held directly on the body.
According to a published scientific report from EHT, children’s heads absorb twice as much microwave radiation from mobile phones as adults’ heads. Radiation emissions from mobile phones carried in shirts or pants pockets of adults are four to seven times higher than the guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. For the smaller bodies of children, of course, radiation exposure levels would be greater both because of relative size and keeping in mind that children are not simply small adults.
The reason for the discrepancy, EHT says, is that the process to determine radiation exposures from mobile phones is modeled on a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 220-pound man, with an 11-pound head. Because this large skull represents only about three percent of the population, the test cannot accurately predict the radiation exposure of the other 97 percent, including children, nor does it even try to estimate exposures from pocket use.
“The standard for mobile devices was developed based on old science, old models and old assumptions about how we use mobile phones, and that’s why standards must change to protect our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Davis.
Read the Fine Print:
EHT urges parents to make sure they read the phone/tablet/device safety manual to find the minimum distance that the device must be kept away whenever it is in use and also when it is in stand-by mode. Keeping it closer than the designated distance can result in a violation of the FCC Exposure Limit.
“Whenever you must give your child a device to play with, keep it on airplane mode. It’s important to safeguard your children whenever they use these devices. Aside from radiation exposure, keep in mind that child experts recommend no more than two hours of daily screen time. The goal is to protect our children’s growing brains and bodies from harm,” advises Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis also calls parents’ attention to another iPad fine print warning that states, “a small percentage of people may be susceptible to blackouts or seizures (even if they have never had one before) when exposed to flashing lights or light patterns such as when playing games or watching videos. Discontinue use of iPad and consult a physician if you experience headaches, blackouts, seizures, convulsion, eye or muscle twitching, loss of awareness, involuntary movement, or disorientation. To reduce risk of headaches, blackouts, seizures and eyestrain, avoid prolonged use, hold iPad some distance from your eyes, use iPad in a well-lit room, and take frequent breaks.”
Consumers can find this and more in the iPad safety pamphlet. “Whoever wrote this probably had in mind the adult who can fork over $400 to $500 for an iPad,” advises Dr. Davis. “Yet nowadays, even babies and toddlers are learning to read from wireless devices and falling asleep to white noise played from phones placed under their pillows. A child’s brain, healthy or otherwise, is cased in a thinner skull; that’s why they absorb more microwave radiation. The brains of children with learning problems, autism or other neurological disorders may be more vulnerable to damage than those of their healthy friends and family members.”
The iPad safety advice doesn’t consider these issues, but does include information about exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy. The pamphlet notes, “If you are…concerned about exposure to RF energy, you can further limit your exposure by limiting the amount of time using iPad Wi-Fi +3G in wireless mode…and by placing more distance between your body and iPad Wi-Fi +3G.” Children simply cannot keep “more distance” between themselves and these devices; their arms are too short.
Power Down in 2014 – Reduce WiFi Gadget Use in Children
If parents do decide to engage their children with electronic gadgets, the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urge parents to ban electronic media during mealtimes and after bedtime as part of a comprehensive “family media use plan.” The influential new guidelines recognize the need to protect the young brain from round-the-clock use of digital devices and electronic media, which includes everything from television to texting and other social and anti-social activities.
Under the AAP power down policy: children should limit screen time for entertainment to less than two hours per day; children younger than 2 should have no TV and no Internet exposure. Also, televisions and Internet-accessible devices should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms. According to Dr. Davis, along with gifts, parents should also set family rules covering the use of mobile phones and texting. “Many parents do not realize that tablets, mobile phones, laptops and other wireless gear send and receive microwave radiation, unless they are set on airplane mode or disconnected from the Internet or wifi systems. We protect our children’s brains when they ride in cars or on bikes. We also need to protect their rapidly growing brains from wireless radiation.”
“The best present a parent can give their child is the gift of safety,” says Dr. Davis. “That’s why I’m urging each and every parent on our list to access and share the potentially life-saving tips we offer on cell phone safety.” On its website, EHT provides information parents can print and distribute to their local schools, daycare centers, parent groups, stroller groups and Parent-Teacher Association meetings. For a free brochure, please visit EHT’s resource page. Parents can also access information on volunteering and donations at www.ehtrust.org.