It’s hard to meet a child today that does not have a cell phone. In fact, they are creating and marketing phones just for young school-aged kids that are easy to use. But is cell phone usage even safe for children (or adults)?
There is quite a bit of controversy on the subject. Sir William Stewart, Chairman of Britain’s National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) announced in a 2005 study that parents should not give mobile phones to children age eight or younger as a precaution against the potential harm of radiation from the devices. Although there is no conclusive evidence showing a clear danger, Stewart suggests that a growing amount of research shows that mobile phone use may have health implications, making it wise to adopt a “precautionary approach,” particularly with children. The report recommends that children under eight don’t use cell phones at all and that nine- to fourteen-year-olds only make short, essential calls and use text messaging when possible, along with finding a cell phone model with low emission levels.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest that you use hands-free devices if you’re concerned. This takes the radio frequency away from the head. The FDA agrees with the NRPB on its conclusions that there is, “no hard evidence of adverse health effects on the general public” from exposure to radio frequency energy while using wireless communication devices.
Something else to keep in mind is that given the pace of electronic innovation and the downward push of technology to younger and younger children, it’s worth noting that the absence of constant connection and noise are important to healthy development. Children need alone time, thinking time, and time when they feel independent. They need uninterrupted time to read and have real face-to-face conversations. As cell phones become MP3 players, cameras, video games, and televisions, the problem of helping children develop healthy minds and bodies is not getting any easier. Although there are no long-term studies to reveal the possible dangers to young children or adults from cell phone use, moderation is perhaps the best approach.
Children and Telephone Behavior
As parents, if we do decide to give our children (or teens) cell phones, it is also our responsibility to teach them proper phone manners. Whether children are speaking on your home phone or a cell phone, they could benefit from an etiquette lesson. Below are some tips for teaching your young ones how to be polite on the phone.
As always, children will learn how to behave on phones both from what you say and from what you do.
- Make sure your child never uses the phone while driving. In fact, this is illegal in several states. Be sure to model this behavior yourself.
- For young children, instruct them not to answer the telephone unless you say it’s okay.
- Teach your child to dial 911—as well as when it’s appropriate to do so—as young as three years of age.
- Establish an appropriate way to answer the phone in your home. Answer by saying “Hello” and identifying your household if you choose.
- Establish “no phone” hours, such as dinnertime and homework time, and let all calls go to voicemail.
- Tell your child not to chew gum, eat, or drink while he is talking on the telephone.
- Help him learn to listen to others without interrupting them.
- Have your child turn off household background noise such as the radios or televisions before answering the phone.
- Teach your child to end conversations with a “Thank you” or “Goodbye.”
- Show him how to replace the receiver quietly.
- When placing a call, have your child state his name and whom he wants to speak with.
- Model for your child how to leave a message with the person who answers the phone or on voicemail. Children are often scared to leave a message.
- Tell your child that if the person he is calling sounds busy, he should ask if he can call back at a more convenient time.
- If your child wants his call returned, help him learn to give his name, telephone number, and a time when he can be reached.
- Keep note-taking materials near the telephone.
- Instruct your child to always take a message. Be complete and accurate. Who is the message for? Who is the message from? What is the message? What time did the person call?
- Remind children that using the phone is a privilege and not a right.
- Tell your child not to give information about your family to anyone over the phone or to disclose your whereabouts.
- Teach your children how to respond to calls for you when you cannot or do not want to answer with, “She is not available.”