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Children's Health

Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Consider the fine print before you let your child go mobile.
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No doubt about it: Cell phones are a great way to stay in touch anytime, anywhere. But is your child old enough to have one? It’s a tough call for many parents because it’s not just about age.

You need to know what's involved -- in terms of both the phone and your child's well-being -- and the potential consequences of letting your child have a phone before deciding about adding that second line to your account.-

Benefits

You can't beat the convenience. If your child has a cell phone, you can call or text him to find out where he is and what he's doing and inform him of your own plans. It can make you feel safer just knowing  where your kids are. And in an emergency, a cell phone can be crucial if your child needs to reach you -- or vice versa.

That's partly why many parents are buying their kids cell phones. Twice as many children have cell phones now as in 2004. Most teens -- 85% of those aged 14 to 17 -- have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14 year olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For your teen, having a phone offers the same kind of security it does for you. -- knowing that you’re just a call or text away. Teens also may see having a phone as part of fitting in with their friends. But there are also some potential downsides to consider.

Health Considerations

Radiation

Cell phones work by using radio waves. That's radiation (though it's not like what you'd get from an X-ray). Does that affect health -- especially if children start using phones at a very young age when their brains are still developing?

In 2011, an international study showed no link between cell phone use and brain tumors in adolescents and teens. The researchers pointed out, though, that the people in that study didn't use their phones as much as people do today.

Still, experts say longer studies are needed. Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, says, "It will take several decades to get conclusive evidence on this."

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