Should I worry about my kid's exposure to cell phone radiation?
Parents: you probably don't have to worry about the effects of cell phone radiation on your kid. But you should take some precautions against overexposure. Cell phones emit a kind of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) called "non-ionizing." This kind of EMR has not been shown to cause cancer in humans. "Ionizing" EMR, the type used by X-ray machines, is a very high-energy frequency that has been shown to cause cancer.
That doesn't get cell phones off the hook, though. The effect of electromagnetic radiation on the human body is the subject of several studies. While a few studies have shown an association between cell phone use and brain tumor risks, most studies have not found a relationship. Researchers are especially concerned about kids' vulnerability, because their skulls are thinner than adult skulls. Partial findings from a study released in May 2016 showed that some rats developed tumors after being exposed to cell phone radiation. While that is cause for concern, the dose that the rats got was extreme -- and a lot more than people get from holding their cell phones.
Scientists have calculated the amount of electromagnetic radiation that's safe. It's called the specific absorption rate (SAR). In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission requires that phones have an SAR level at or below 1.6 watts per kilogram of body weight. You can look up your cell phone's SAR level on the FCC website, or check to see if it's listed here. However, the SAR level is the subject of debate, so use it as one of many factors to consider.
Reasonable precautions should be enough to protect your family. While several companies offer cell phone covers that claim to protect users from electromagnetic radiation, it's not clear that they work or are even necessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents make sure kids reduce their exposure by texting instead of talking, not keeping their cell phones on their bodies, and using headphones.
While we wait for more research to come in, our advice for families applies to device use across the board: find a balanced lifestyle, which includes setting limits; establish device-free times and zones (such as Device Free Dinner); and model appropriate usage.
Are you worried about your kid's exposure to cell phone radiation?