Emissions: What’s what, what’s safe and what’s not

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Emissions: What’s what, what’s safe and what’s not

Emissions symbol

You rigorously review what your child’s watching on TV, where she’s getting her online info from and you’re all over educational apps. Job well done! Give yourself a good pat on the back for keeping your child screen-safe. Now, take a moment and turn your attention towards emissions. No, not the kind your car makes. We’re talking about the emissions coming from your smart phone, tablet or laptop.

You’ve seen the stories on the news or caught the media buzz about what’s radiating from all of our electronic gizmos and gadgets. Now you’re wondering if what seems like simple screen time might actually be putting your child in danger. There are cautionary cancer tales that point to your tech-time device as the culprit. Don’t panic yet! Understanding what’s what (and what you can do) when it comes to electronics emissions is the first step in easing your anxieties and keeping your child safe!

Are Mobile (Cell) Phones Safe?

Whether he has his own phone or just snags yours, it’s likely that your child is using a mobile at some point. You think it’s safe, but you’ve also heard that it emits radiation. Well, kind of. According to the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mobile phones do emit low level radio frequency energy (or RF).

Don’t confuse RF with some of the more major types of electromagnetic energy. Mobile phones emit RF somewhere along the lines of the microwave frequency range – and that’s only while they’re in use. Yes, high levels of RF can cause serious health effects, such as heating body tissue. Along with this, electromagnetic energy (at high levels) ionizes body tissue. That may sound somewhat sci-fi, but in reality it’s a process that permanently damages biological tissues. This includes your DNA and genetic material. Yikes!

Before you toss your mobile for fear that it’s doing damage to your child, the research on RF has yet to absolutely link phones and health problems. Unlike x-rays (which can ionize body tissues), RF energy doesn’t. That said, we’re still getting a grip on how RF affects us – and children may be particularly vulnerable to it. Limiting your child’s exposure (especially keeping the phone away from your child’s head) may be the way to go if you have any concerns.

What about Wi-Fi?

It’s in your home, at work and almost everywhere it seems. It’s Wi-Fi, and there’s a public perception that (like mobile phones) it can cause cancer or other ill-effects. What’s the deal with Wi-Fi? Regulatory bodies (such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority) are charged with making sure that W-Fi emissions comply with accepted safe exposure limits. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) sets standards that are designed to protect the general public. According to ARPANSA, and other major worldwide agencies such as WHO, Wi-Fi emissions don’t pose a health risk.

ARPANSA notes that there’s no need to stop using Wi-Fi due to concerns about exposure. If you still have Wi-Fi worries, reduce the time that you (and the kids) spend using it.

Is Blue Light a Bad Light?

That light coming off your computer screen may be doing more than putting strain on your eyes. The blue light (yes, it’s literally blue light – which is the highest energy wavelength of light) can reach far into your eyes, and your screen-loving kids’ eyes. This may result in permanent damage over time.

What can you do to protect your child’s eyes against blue light? Like other potential problem-causers, limit the amount of screen time that your child gets. Along with cutting down on screen time you can also buy blue light blocking lenses. These glasses use a special tint to block some of the high frequency light.

When it comes down to it, emissions aren’t absolute in terms of harming your child’s health. While they certainly may not be good for us, careful monitoring and limiting your child’s screen time may help to prevent potential problems. So, instead of watching hours of YouTube videos on your laptop or going overboard with games on your mobile, stick to screen activities that benefit your little one (such as educational apps or homework). This lets you push the overall time on electronics down, without having to completely cut them out.

What can you do to minimize risks?

On a personal level, there are a number of things we do to minimise our kids’ exposure, by focusing on the distance between the device and the user:

  • When our kids are on the phone, we ask them not to put the phone near their heads. They can use headphones or the phone’s speaker. Keep in mind that cordless landline phones also emit RF
  • When using laptops and tablets, we encourage our kids to place the devices on a table rather than on their laps. If they’re sitting on the couch, get them to rest the device on a cushion
  • We have our Wi-Fi router located away from the desk where the kids use their computer
  • If the kids are doing something on the device which does not require Wi-Fi, e.g. playing a game, get them to put the device in airplane mode. This stops the antenna from receiving RF pulses (and also saves the battery).

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