Cell Phones for Kids – Is the Convenience Worth the Risk?

Cell phone use is particularly detrimental in children, such as the recent Swedish study that found an increase in health complaints among adolescents with wireless phones.

Finally, acknowledgement from Congress that mental health issues are not simply a product of bad behavior or individual choice. Legislation was approved yesterday in the House that would require insurers to cover mental illness in the same way as physical illness, but the measure is still under consideration by the Senate. With all the national and international drama going on right now, we should all keep our fingers crossed that a reasonable Senate version gets pushed through somehow before Congress goes into recess.

It looks like we are continuing to get disturbing news about the use of cell phones, with a current study showing bad news for male fertility. However, I’m especially concerned about the studies that suggest cell phone use is particularly detrimental in children, such as the recent Swedish study that found an increase in health complaints among adolescents with wireless phones. The study was published at the heels of a meta-analysis that linked cell phone use to ipsilateral glioma and acoustic neuroma, with a five-fold increase in gliomas for people who began using cell phones before the age of 20.

I realize that there is plenty of room for error in these reports, but given what we know about the long-term use of cell phones with respect to our health, shouldn’t studies like these be given closer attention? I’m not a fan of cell phones myself, being shackled to one 24X7 for business purposes, but I have to admit that I bought one for my daughter when she started spending the night at other people’s houses and going on field trips. I purchased a monthly plan in which she has a maximum of 100 minutes, and I only allow her to carry it on certain occasions. Still, I’m mindful that there may be auditory repercussions no matter how often she uses the phone. The thing is, we just don’t know enough to say whether children should be allowed any kind of access to cell phones or not.

Have parents asked your opinion on whether their child should be able to use a cell phone or not? If they did, what would you say? The National Cancer Institute has published a nice fact sheet regarding cell phone use that might help guide patient decisions, but it certainly won’t help them feel any better about a cell phone if they are considering letting their child use one for practical purposes.