Don’t Let Your Child Use Wireless Devices Before the Age of Two

The American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations for media use among children stating that infants from 0-2 years old are not advised to have any screen time.

One of the authors of a commentary in the guidelines, Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of developmental and behavioural paediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said that this APP report was made to make families aware that young children are not even able to interact properly with the media.[1]

As long as it is fine to look at pictures together with your family, it is not recommended to leave your kid alone with a television set, a phone, laptop or tablet. Advertising might claim that your baby can learn from screen media, for example by using educational apps but you should know that this is simply not true for infants. Radesky said that babies are not able to fully understand information which is screened on electronic devices, until around 18 months old.

Babies are watching moving images while being exposed to non-ionizing radiation emitted from tablets or laptops. It is not beneficial for their mental development and it may be harmful to them.

The APP recommendations go further. Infants aged 0-2 years should not be exposed to technology at all. Children aged 3-5 years are advised to use laptops or tablets for one hour per day only while children aged 6-18 years are restricted to two hours per day. The latter being the most troublesome for parents due to a lot of homework now being assigned online.

The reality of the situation

The time children spend in front of electronic devices has been growing for years, according to a report by Common Sense Media[2]. The usage of mobile phones in 2013 for children under the age of eight was on average just 15 minutes per day. Today, in 2017, it is 48 minutes, that is just the number of smartphones. 42% of those kids have their own tablet, a few years ago only 7% of children were in possession of electronic devices.

Common Sense Media’s report on technology addiction (2016) shows that children aged 8-12 years old spent an average of almost six hours per day using media, including social media (despite most age restrictions starting at 13), watching television, playing video games, using the Internet and listening to music. For teenagers (13-18 years old) the number is even higher, at almost nine hours a day[3].

The experts say time spent online will continue growing based on every new report released, each one shows how much stronger the impact technology has on children is. When exposure and use of mobile devices by young children were researched in 2015, it was shown that in the most households there are televisions (97%), tablets (83%) and smartphones (77%) and almost all children (96,6%) started using them before age of one[4].

When you are a parent of an infant, you probably don’t want them to spend so much time in front of electronic devices. Your intuition is followed by scientific research. In 2011, the WHO stated that EMFs are possibly carcinogenic and were included in the 2B list, among other carcinogenic factors such as lead, chloroform and gasoline fumes.

It is obvious that parents wouldn’t expose their children to toxic fumes, so why do most people expose their children to electromagnetic fields? 

Dr. Devra Davis, one of the most well-known specialists in the field of electromagnetic exposure, has lectured worldwide about the health effects of exposure to radiation among children. Electromagnetic fields are more harmful to them because of their thinner skulls, different dielectric properties and the development of their brains[5]. It makes their absorption even higher than in adults, for example, when they use mobile phones in direct contact with their head.

Multiple scientific studies have proved that children absorb more microwave radiation than adults and one of them has shown it to be two times higher, while others stated it is even more[6]. Professor Bortkiewicz has to lead the meta-analysis on mobile phone use and risk for intracranial tumours and salivary gland tumours. It has shown that in “people who had started using the phone on a regular basis before they were 20 years old, the risk of ipsilateral glioma was found to be fourfold higher”[7]. That means in the long-term, the adverse health effects of overusing electronic devices by children may have a serious impact on their health. Many governments worldwide (for example in Belgium or France) are aware of the possible risks so they are issuing warnings about children usage of electronic devices. They are not widely known publicly. Even when some limits and recommendations are included in manuals attached to devices, they have not been read by users. For laptop computers and tablets it is stated that they should be kept at the minimum distance of 20 cm from the body[8], for mobile phones, the limit is at least 1 cm.

Exposing your baby to non-ionizing radiation from birth is not healthy for them and it may result in future health problems. There is no need to drastically change your habits. You don’t have to throw away all of the electronic devices in your household. There are simple rules that should be implemented in your daily routine so that your child will be safer. They are based on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice[9].

  1. Parents should prioritize spending unplugged and creative playtime with their infants and toddlers. One of the researchers has shown that 70% of parents give electronic devices to children under age of four when they are doing household chores and 65% of them do it just to keep them calm[10]. It is fine as long as it is not a habit. It is more beneficial for your child’s development to spend time offline.
  2. If you want to educate your child with learning apps, remember that the soonest you can start to introduce your child to screen time is around 18 months old. Infants would not understand anything before that age. Also, be careful while choosing programs so they are high-quality and educational. It is the best to watch it with your child to help them understand what they see if they are very young.
  3. Make sure your child has other activities, such as physical ones, make sure they sleep well. Using electronic devices before bedtime may interfere with melatonin levels which affect the quality of sleep[11], especially in young children.

There are also other matters associated with electronic device use among children, such as when you should give your child their first smartphone. We wrote about it in our earlier article here. When you are sure that your infant won’t be watching television or playing games on mobile phone, remember that using a wireless baby monitor should also be banned. Wireless toys, which are becoming more popular, should also be forbidden. It is especially unsafe to put those electronic devices in a crib. If you want to know more, read our ebook about being protected from radiation during pregnancy. There is more information on preparing a baby’s room in there.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a professional association of paediatricians, founded in the 1930s. Today, it has over 60 thousand qualified members. It publishes “Pediatrics”, its flagship journal. If they advise something to parents, it is proven and reliable. We wanted you to know their opinion on using electronic devices with children. It is said: no use of any wireless devices before the age of two. Let your child be safer and healthier. There is no use in exposing them to radiation so soon. Plus, you can easily find more creative ways to spend time with them!

If you want to keep up to date with us and our articles (or follow what we’re doing in general) then you can find us via Facebook: Slow Digital

Sources:

[1]Howard, J. (2017) CNN: Kids under 9 spend more than 2 hours a day on screens, report shows [Online] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/19/health/children-smartphone-tablet-use-report/index.html (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[2]Common Sense Media (Date Unknown) Common Sense Media [Online] https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[3]Common Sense Media (Date Unknown) Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance [Online] https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/technology-addiction-concern-controversy-and-finding-balance (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[4]Kabali, H. K. et al. (2015) Exposure and Use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children [Online] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/10/28/peds.2015-2151 (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[5]Davis, D. (2016) Wireless Devices and Children’s Health [Online] https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Dr.DavisPAS-May-2016-slides.compressed.pdf (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[6]Nelson, R. (2014) Children Face Higher Health Risk From Cell Phones [Online] https://www.webmd.com/children/news/20140819/children-cell-phones#3 (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[7] Bortkiewicz, A. et al. (2017) Mobile phone use and risk for intracranial tumors and salivary gland tumors – A meta-analysis [Online] http://ijomeh.eu/Mobile-phone-use-and-risk-for-intracranial-tumours-and-salivary-gland-tumours-A-meta-analysis,63713,0,2.html (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[8]Morgan, L. L. et al. (2014) Why children absorb more microwave radiation than adults: The consequences [Online] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213879X14000583 (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[9]American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use [Online] https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[10]Kabali, H. K. et al. (2015) Exposure and Use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children [Online] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/10/28/peds.2015-2151 (Accessed 30.01.2018)

[11]Beres, D. (2014) Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You [Online] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/reading-before-bed_n_6372828.html (Accessed 30.01.2018)