The Danger of Screen Addiction and how it Affects Your Children

Author: Greg Popham

Have you ever been sitting down with your child/children, maybe watching a movie or even talking within a group when you look over at them and find them lost in some other universe, staring at a cell phone or tablet screen? If you ask them a question, do they even respond? Are they off in a different world?
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I asked my 15 year old and his friend of the same age about how they think cell phones, tablets and other screen devices affect other children that they know. I wanted to do this before I gave my own opinions or those of the experts on the subject.
Here is what they said about what they personally observed with regards to their peers and cell phone or tablet use: “It makes people anti-social. It’s a bad habit in some cases, kids are constantly putting the device before others. It gives kids easy access to everything on the internet, like porn. The graphic things that they see really can’t be monitored by parents. It causes people to do bad things…because they see stupid people doing stupid things and some of them follow the bad examples. They (cell phones/tablets) are really dead weight and not really needed. They pull kids out of their immediate surrounding world.”

These are disturbing statements to me as an adult father of three. I decided to explore what the adult experts had to say about the subject.

Physical Effects

Physical effects of cell phone use appears to have an effect on brain activity but it is still unclear whether it is harmful. According to researcher Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, “We don’t know that this is harmful”. What is known, she states, is that “glucose metabolism is a direct indicator of brain activity”. In her study she found that there was a 7% rise in glucose metabolism in the brain region closest to the antenna of the cell phone. She supports the findings with positron emission tomography scans. More research is needed according to Nora Volkow because “the human brain is sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation that is delivered by cell phones. (more info: study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association).
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Does radiofrequency from cell phones cause cancer? So far there is no evidence that cell phones can cause cancer. Ongoing research is necessary to determine if long-term exposure causes cancer because the mobile phone has only been around since the early 90’s and the use has exploded in the last 10 years, especially with them being used by more and more children. We will not know of the long-term effects until we have a sufficient number of long-term users and correlated data to their cancer/non-cancer outcomes.
The World Health Organization states that the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly a carcinogen in humans and have ongoing studies to fully assess the potential long term effects of mobile phone use. So far no adverse health effects have been found. Animal studies on long term exposure to electromagnetic fields have not shown any increased cancer risk according to the W.H.O..

Psychological Effects

Perhaps the most danger from cell phones, tablets and other such devices are the social and/or psychological effects.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under two should avoid all screen time. “If they are always on the iPad and not actually doing those paper pencil activities that they should still be doing, those muscles are going to remain weaker,” said occupational therapist Lindsay Marzoli, Learning and Therapy Corner.
Does using an electronic device at a young age really prevent those users from being able to use their hands with pencil and paper (or crayon and paint)? Maybe the school system not teaching cursive writing does the same. If you no longer need paper and pencil, do you still need those muscles to work well? Perhaps writing in cursive in the near future will be a gift only for the few that could bypass the button pushing and screen gestures that will be so much more prevalent as we go forward.
It appears that the research shows no real physical danger of using these mobile devices but that more research is needed to find out. What really scares me are the social/psychological effects like the ones that my son and his friend have observed in their day-to-day life.

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