My eleven-year-old daughter has been begging me to buy her a cell phone.
I have solidly stood my ground – it seems wrong on so many levels, not least of which are the risk factors. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into her health and safety, it seems counterproductive to me to let her put an electromagnetic field next to her developing brain.
Finally, some backup for my mother’s instinct: a study published this week in the Journal of American Medical Association shows conversations of less than an hour produce an increase in brain activity. Guess what we will be discussing at dinner tonight?
The study is small, but its results prove that further testing is warranted on the long term effects of cell phone use. Most importantly, it adds fuel to my fire: cell phones can be a dangerous tool for developing organs.
47 participants were tested between January and December of 2009. Cell phones were placed on each ear; on one occasion the cell phones were off, on the other they were muted but would receive calls and texts. After the 50-minute exposure period, each person was given a PET scan to measure their brain activity.
The resulting scans showed that when the phones were turned on, there were significant increases in the brain glucose – the main fuel source for the brain – closest to the phone antenna.
The researchers were led by Dr. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She noted that whether cell phone radiation actually causes brain tumors is unresolved. “Further studies are needed to assess if the effects we observed could have potential long-term consequences.”
It is early days on these studies, I’m sure we will be bombarded by many more in days to come. And from what I witness, most kids use their phones for texting more than speaking. Nevertheless, when it comes to my child’s brain, better safe than sorry seems to be a fitting motto.
The other potentially bad news that could result from this study is an increase in the army of people who walk around talking to themselves. It always takes me a minute to determine they are actually using minute headsets…I’ll admit, it looks weird, but I’m buying one anyway.
Article first published as Study Shows Cell Phones Cause Changes in Brain on Technorati.
One of the many things I like about traveling, besides the obvious being transported to warmer climates, is observing people in airports.
To the untrained eye, it might appear that I am absorbed in my book, but really my bionic ears are listening to every conversation within a stone’s throw, and I’m watching every movement out of the corner of my beady eye.
And if you sit down beside me and have a conversation on your cell phone, it is not a private discussion: I am hanging on your every word.
A man sat down beside me at the airport last week and we had a lovely chat with his wife on his mobile. It was so stereotypical I could easily decipher – probably verbatim – what her responses were, despite not being on speakerphone (really, how rude!).
We talked about the Vancouver weather – balmy compared to where they resided (Chicago? Denver?). We all agreed traveling is extremely tiring, and the food sucks. We discussed his daughter’s basketball game, and whether or not her play stood out from the rest of the team’s, and how that Ashley girl is overrated. We talked about his wife’s paycheck, and how it was so small it didn’t cover the cost of her work wardrobe, and although we all chuckled, she was secretly annoyed that he keeps bringing this up. We segued into his wife’s friend for a bit – trouble on the horizon in her marriage, what are you going to do? And then, finally, could she pick up his dry cleaning and kiss the girls for him? He loves her and will see her tomorrow night.
My daughter started asking for a cell phone when she was in grade two. My response was very contained and reasonable, and included the words “over my dead body.” Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully, since I am still alive and she is now in grade six. It is safe to say she wishes me dead.
Unsuspecting people who plan on having children should be aware that procreating in this day and age also means additional phone plans, so make sure your provider is up to snuff and offers additional phones at knock out prices; at the rate we are going kindergarten will be the new high school when it comes to the age that is appropriate for acquiring hand held devices.
In my child’s defense, many of her peers have their own phones and use them to text furiously with alarming frequency. So in effect, she is being left out of the conversation. Perhaps the upside is it leaves those dinosaur landlines available for other members of the family; although she commandeers our home computer to Skype with her friends in lieu of texting.
Curiously I notice my children’s phone skills are suffering. I remember getting home from school and our phone would start ringing on cue, and we would begin dissecting what happened to who in school that day, despite having just said goodbye to these friends moments before. When my daughter’s friends call – which they do rarely - they have monosyllabic conversations that last less than a minute; a drastic departure from the hours I used to spend with the cord wrapped around my wrist, other household members ducking underneath it on their way to the kitchen.
Remember those cords? Or how long it took to dial “0′s” on those rotary phones? (Our family’s number ended in 7000 – brilliantly easy to remember, but you could have dialed Europe faster.) Or even the first cell phones, the size of a shoe box. The changes in telecommunication in my lifetime alone like a roller coaster ride; I can understand her desire to ride the wave.
But unfortunately for her, as dogged as she is to acquire one, I am doggedly against it. (This does not sway her a bit from asking for one every birthday, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day that passes, however.) The health risks are inconclusive, but it makes great sense to me that putting a phone up against your ear is akin to putting your head inside a microwave. Especially since her brain is still developing, I see no need for her to take such risks.
Of course she is quick to point out she wouldn’t need to use it for talking, since it’s all about texting. But to that end she can easily email, which I understand is slightly slower but effectively the same. And do I really want her to own yet another little screen to stare at?
She uses the safety argument, preying on my motherly instincts if nothing else, but the fact is she is rarely if ever on her own, which is another problem altogether. In our hovering society, she is most often shuttled to and from school, play dates and activities, seldom out of arm’s reach of a land line, or at the very least one of her friend’s cell phones.
Everyday I hear about another one her friends whose parents have caved in to the cell phone pressure; or more pointedly she tells me of the younger kids in her school who flash the little beasts around. It is the peer argument that smites the most; I get the overwhelming desire that she has to acquire something that seemingly everyone else has.
But adversity breeds character, I tell her. You need a cell phone like you need a hole in the head – and at the end of the day, a hole in the head is precisely what we are trying to avoid.