AAP Recommends Putting Cellphone Use on Hold for Children's Health

Nov 30, 2016

Parents are advised to limit the time children spend on cellphones because radiation could affect a developing brain.
Credit Public News Service

Evidence is growing that cellphones may not be as safe as some people assume.

The National Toxicology Program has found exposure to wireless radiation significantly increased the prevalence of malignant heart and brain cancers in rodents.

CTIA, the wireless industry association, says it's reviewing the study, but notes previous studies showed no established health effects from radio frequency signals used in cellphones.

Regardless, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this fall issued new recommendations for parents.

Ronald Melnick, a scientific adviser for the Environmental Health Trust, says cellphones emit radiation, and the more it can be kept away from the body, the safer people will be, especially children.

"The penetration of the cellphone radiation into the brain of a child is deeper and greater,” he explains. “Also, the developing nervous system of a child is potentially more susceptible to a damaging agent."

The AAP recommends very limited use of cellphones by children, and says texting is preferable. If children do make calls, they're advised to keep the device an inch or more away from their heads.

Melnick says cellphone manufacturers can't guarantee that the amount of radiation being absorbed is at a safe level.

Theodora Scarato is the Environmental Health Trust’s director of public policy and educational affairs and a mother. She says she used to believe that what you buy from the store is safe and has been tested for safety, but she says that isn't necessarily the case.

"If it were a drug it would be banned, or at least there would be a list of, 'These side effects have been reported,' or 'We don't really know what the long term effect is,'” she points out. “But we're not really given any information, and little babies are given these phones."

Scarato says it's hard as a parent to tell children they can't have a cellphone, or to strictly limit the use of other electronics, but her family has made that choice.

"It has not been easy making some of the changes we've made, but once we've done it, we're doing fine,” she relates. “And actually, I'm really thankful that we don't have devices beeping and interrupting things all the time, because there is nothing more important than my children's health."