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Health & Parenting

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Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Consider the fine print before you let your child go mobile.

Health Considerations continued...

The FDA's web site states that "the scientific evidence does not show a danger to any users of cell phones from radiofrequency energy exposure, including children and teenagers."

It's possible for cell phone users to reduce their exposure by spending less time on the phone or by using a hands-free device or speaker mode when making a call.

Sleep (or Lack Thereof)

If your child has her cell phone with her at bedtime, will she actually go to sleep or will she stay up and text?

Pediatricians are seeing growing evidence that cell phones, especially those that allow kids to text, can disrupt children's sleep patterns. In a recent survey, four out of five cell-owning teens sleep with their phone on or by their beds, and teens who text were 42% more likely than those who don't to keep their device close at night in case they got a text.

Sleep is important for growing kids. You can set some ground rules with a phone curfew to ensure your child gets a good night’s rest.

Teen Drivers and Texting

Texting while driving is a huge risk. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows it’s the most distracting task a driver can do.

Other research has found that talking on the phone -- hands-free or not -- affects driving ability as much as drinking alcohol. And 28% of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers using a phone to text or call, according to the National Safety Council.

Don't assume your teen won't use a phone while driving. In one survey, more than half of teens aged 16-17 who own cell phones said they have talked on the phone while driving, and a third of those teens who text admitted that they have texted while driving.

"Lots of kids think they can multi-task," Lori Evans, MD, director of training in psychology at the NYU Child Study Center, says. "But multi-tasking isn't really multi-tasking. It's just shifting attention. So kids think they can text and pay attention to the road, but in reality they can't. That's dangerous."

Talk to your teen about the risks. Follow up over time to make sure he or she gets the message.

Above all, set a good example. If they see you texting (or talking) while driving, you've undermined the lesson you want them to learn.

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