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Safety tips for use of digital technology by children at home

KCBS All News Radio, March 28, 2020 1:20 PM

Host: Dan Mitchenson

Guest: Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Family and Community Health, University of California, Berkeley

The California Department of Public Health has issued warnings that wireless radiation from long-term use of cellphones may be linked to cancer and other health effects including headaches, hearing loss, learning and memory disorders, sleep disruption, and sperm damage. Moreover, children are at greater risk because their brains and bodies are still developing. In the short-term, children may experience headaches, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and decreased general well-being according to the largest state public health agency in the country.

Particularly important during this pandemic, exposure to wireless radiation may suppress the immune system.

The research on adolescents suggests that wireless radiation exposure increases the risk of concentration problems, memory loss, and sleep disorders. Heavy use of digital devices also increases the risk of muscular and skeletal problems and internet addiction. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that excessive media use is linked to obesity, lack of sleep, aggression, school problems, and other behavior problems. The Academy recommends that children’s screen time for entertainment be limited to less than 1-2 hours per day, and the Academy discourages screen time for children under two.

After consulting leading experts from many countries, the Russian Health Ministry has just released 15 recommendations for children using digital technology at home for educational purposes. These guidelines are particularly relevant since most schools are closed and many may initiate online instruction for students at home.

The guidelines provide strategies to reduce wireless radiation exposure and to reduce the risk of infection, visual impairment and musculoskeletal disorders. The advice is tailored for different age groups ranging from under 6 to 18 years of age.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • Children and adolescents should primarily use personal computers and laptops connected to the Internet via a wired network. When using a wireless network, they should be at least 16 feet from the Wi-Fi router.
  • Children under 6 should not use any computer equipment for educational purposes at home whereas 6 to 12 year olds should minimize their use of computer equipment. 
  • When doing school work using a digital device, the guidelines recommend rest periods which means time away from using digital devices.
  • The guidelines also address the total amount of all types of screen time including TV watching. For children 6 to 12 years of age, this should not exceed 2 hours per day whereas for children 12 to 18 years of age, the maximum is 3.5-4 hours per day.

If listeners would like to read these guidelines or see safety tips issued by more than a dozen organizations, they can go to my Electromagnetic Radiation Safety website, saferemr.com.

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

Website:          https://www.saferemr.comFacebook:        https://www.facebook.com/SaferEMR
Twitter:            @berkeleyprc

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