Image by Lyn Millett via Flickr
I'm a fan of Moms Rising. They appeal to my sense that focusing on individual behavior and situations is not nearly as important, if you want to make a positive change in the world, as focusing on policy and the structural incentives that drive individual behaviors. As i've written before, I'm also a big fan of my iPhone. And our two-and-a-half year old is pretty savvy with the iPodTouch/iPhone. So I was interested to read this recent post about the potential health risks of cell phone technology and the risks of using phones as a pacifier.
Frankly, I am not well-read on the science, here (and the piece is suggestive, but vague on specifics), but my practice even with my own cell phone accords with the general tenor of the implied suggestions in this post. If you're worried about potential health risks from wireless communication devices, I'd sum up my advice as follows:
First, for the grown-ups and older kids: don't talk on the phone a lot; certainly not for long periods of time while holding it up to your head. And don't wear one of those Borg-like devices that hooks around your ear and stays there all day.I really loathe talking on the phone anyway, so this is not a problem for me. (It's not that I don't like talking to actual people - I'm up for sitting for hours in a coffeeshop and catching up, anytime; but I believe phone conversations are useful for only a very narrow type of interaction, and otherwise are more trouble than they're worth.) In fact, there are complaints that the iPhone is not a very good phone even though it does many other things wonderfully. It's been fine in the area I live, in my experience, and also, what? People still use phones? Typically, if I need to use my iPhone for a call, I'll use the speaker phone or a headset and microphone.
Second, when it comes to use of the phone by your children, especially young children, smart phones are no different than other electronic gizmos. You need to monitor the kiddo's activities carefully and limit screen time.
Third, don't wear your phone anywhere on your body as a regular practice. My phone lives in my purse or on my desk, not in a pocket or, as suggested in the post above, in my bra. I wear it in an armband when jogging, and will sometimes place it in my pants pocket for brief periods of time (say wandering around the halls at work, or to have quick access to it in the grocery store). But otherwise, it's nearby, but not on me.
Fourth, for the kids, consider a device without a phone - while, again, I haven't looked into the science, it's at least possible that less information being transmitted means less risk. We have an old (in Internet time) iPodTouch that our 2-year-old uses.
Finally, and I think obviously, don't use a smart phone as a pacifier, as described in the post linked above. If you want your kid to have music while sleeping, fine, but use a stereo, or stream music from your computer to speakers in their room (our solution). But no, don't let the child sleep with the phone. I anticipate an interesting challenge for us as we sort out the house rules regarding technology in the boy's room as he gets older. But we're not there yet, so I'll defer that problem for now.
As for the parents, well, I try to remember to put the iPad on the bedside table before I go to sleep, but sometimes it ends up next to me when I conk out - shhhh; don't tell.