Cell phone use on child development and behavior <ul><li>The 21st century has witnessed a rapid increase in TV, videogame, iPod, internet use and cell phone use in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>As a pediatrician, I’ve subsequently observed that critical milestones for child motor and sensory development are not being met, negatively impacting on child academic Performance and achievement of literacy. </li></ul><ul><li>Simultaneously there is an increasing incidence of childhood physical, psychological and behavior disorders, often accompanied by the prescription of psychotropic medication. </li></ul><ul><li>Are these two trends related? </li></ul><ul><li>While research is sorely lacking in this area, parents, teachers, therapists and family physicians could begin to gain information about existing research. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Over the last few years, several studies have found cellphones to increase the risk of brain cancer and dementia. However, most of such studies have remained largely inconclusive. Now to add fuel to the raging fire comes a World Health Organisation's study. According to WHO's cancer experts, mobile phone users may be at increased risk from brain cancer and should use texting and free-hands devices to reduce exposure. </li></ul><ul><li>In India too, recently a government panel findings highlighted the health hazards of excessive mobile phone usage. The inter-ministerial committee named loss of memory, lack of concentration, digestive and sleep disturbances as some of the ill-effects caused by mobile phone radiation. </li></ul><ul><li>But, ever wondered which smartphones have higher radiation than others? CNET published a list of phones with high levels of RF radiation. The list includes some of the popular smartphone models from companies like LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson. </li></ul><ul><li>The study is based on SAR or Specific Absorption Rate. SAR is a way to measure the amount of radio frequency (RF) energy absorbed by the body when using the handset. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Absorption of electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone (frequency being GSM 900 MHz) penetrates the skull of an adult by 25%, that of a 10-year-old by 50% and a five-year-old by 75%, says a report on cell tower radiation which has been submitted by an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, professor to the department of telecommunications (DOT). </li></ul>
Technology Overuse <ul><li>Throughout most of human history child engagement in rough and tumble outdoor play and imaginary games resulted in the achievement of adequate sensory, motor and attachment development required for attention and learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Today’s average household media environment includes three TV’s, three DVD players, two videogame consoles, three iPods, four cell phones and one computer/laptop. </li></ul><ul><li>Children now average 6.5 hours per day TV and videogame use, with over 65% of children using TV’s in their bedrooms. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Baby TV’ now occupies 2.2 hours per day for the 0-2 year old population, and 4.5 hours per day for 3-5 year olds and is causally linked to developmental delays. </li></ul><ul><li>This situation has prompted France to ban its broadcasters from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years of age. </li></ul><ul><li>TV and videogame use accounts for 60% of childhood obesity, and is now considered a North American ‘epidemic’. </li></ul><ul><li>Preliminary studies indicate increases in attention difficulty, poor academic achievement, aggression and sleep impairment may be attributable to childhood technology overuse. </li></ul>
Psychological Disorders & Psychotropic Medication <ul><li>Recent studies document a rise in psychological disorders in children reporting increasing incidence of bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. </li></ul><ul><li>Associated behaviors may be confusing for parents, teachers and physicians, and could be easily misunderstood, possibly resulting in psychiatric diagnosis and prescription of psychotropic medication. </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1991 and 1995, prescriptions for psychotropic medications in the 2 – 4 year old toddler population, as well as in children and youth </li></ul><ul><li>tripled. </li></ul><ul><li>80% of this medication was prescribed by family physicians and pediatricians. </li></ul><ul><li>28-30% of children receiving psychotropic medication are on multiple medications. </li></ul><ul><li>Limited high quality evidence guiding appropriate dosing and inexperience in documentation of long term effects of these prescriptions in children may mean that these children undergo unquantified risks. </li></ul>
Missing Critical Factors for Child Development <ul><li>In primitive times, human beings engaged in physical labor, and sensory stimulation was natural and simple. </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid advances in technology and transportation have resulted in a physically sedentary society with high frequency, duration and intensity of sensory stimuli. </li></ul><ul><li>These environmental changes are faster than human being’s ability to adapt and evolve. </li></ul><ul><li>Children who immerse themselves in virtual reality may exhibit signs of sensory deprivation, as they become disconnected from the world of physical play and meaningful interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>Parents spend an average 3.5 minutes per week participating in meaningful conversation with their children. </li></ul><ul><li>Overuse of TV and videogames may result in children lacking essential connection with themselves, others and nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child development are movement, touch and connection to other humans. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Developing children require 2-3 hours per day of active rough and tumble play to achieve adequate stimulation to the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile sensory systems. </li></ul><ul><li>This type of sensory input ensures normal development of posture, bilateral coordination and optimal arousal states. </li></ul><ul><li>Infants with low tone, toddlers failing to reach motor milestones, and children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic foundation skills for literacy, are frequent visitors to pediatric physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinics. </li></ul><ul><li>The use of safety restraint devices such as infant bucket seats and toddler carrying packs and strollers, have further limited movement, touch and connection, as have TV and videogames. </li></ul><ul><li>Many of today’s parents perceive outdoor play is ‘unsafe’, limiting essential developmental components usually attained in outdoor rough and tumble play. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Montagu reports that when children lack touch and human connection, they may respond by ‘turning in’ (anxiety, depression) or ‘turning out’ (aggression). </li></ul><ul><li>These complex behaviors may be confusing for parents, teachers and physicians, possibly leading psychiatric diagnosis and subsequent prescription of psychotropic medication. </li></ul>
“ In India, we have adopted very relaxed radiation norms of 4.7 W/m2 (watt per metre square) for GSM 900, whereas serious health effects have been noted at as low as 0.0001 W/m2. It’s not just human beings, cell tower radiation can also adversely effect birds, animals and the environment. Though cell operators continue to claim that there are no health issues, it’s time we realised the seriousness of the health hazards due to radiation from cell phones and cell towers,” said Kumar.
“ A person should not use a cell phone for more than 18 to 24 minutes daily. This information is not commonly known to the people in India, so millions use cell phones for over an hour per day without realising its associated health hazards,” states the report.
Considerations <ul><li>In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that children less than two years of age should not watch any TV or videogames. </li></ul><ul><li>They further recommended that children older than two should restrict usage to one hour per day if they have any physical, mental or social problems, and two hours per day maximum if they don’t. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Dimitri Christakis found that each hour of TV watched daily between the ages of 0 and 7 years equated to a 10% chance of attention problems by age seven years. </li></ul><ul><li>Further evidence suggests some parents may have technology addictions. </li></ul><ul><li>Adult Internet Addiction has been proposed for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition. </li></ul><ul><li>This fact supports possible implementation of school based technology reduction programs. </li></ul><ul><li>A randomized controlled trial of a 6-month classroom curriculum to reduce TV and videogame use resulted in not only statistically significant reduction in technology use, but also showed relative decreases in obesity. </li></ul>
Action Plans Parents <ul><li>Parents are the foundation for child development. </li></ul><ul><li>If a child doesn’t form a healthy attachment with their primary parent(s), their ability to pay attention and do well at school will be affected. </li></ul><ul><li>The critical period for early attachment formation is 0–7 months, and attachment is best formed through play. </li></ul><ul><li>Creating a balance between TV and videogame use and play is one of the many jobs of being a successful parent. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, allowing one hour of “box time” for one hour of hard physical outdoor work (bike up hill, haul wood, dig in garden), encouraging daily hugs, playful wrestling, nature games, and no TV in bedrooms or during dinner will go a long way toward a building a healthy, happy child. </li></ul><ul><li>Children really want their parents, not a babysitter in a box. </li></ul>