When we think about cell phones and our kids, we generally worry about only a few things. There’s the exposure to radiation that some believe may cause cancer. There’s the very real fear that they will talk or text while driving and have an automobile accident. And there’s the more general concern that our kids’ cell phone habits might be preventing them from enjoying face-to-face relationships in the real world.
But according to a new study, cell phones may pose a threat that to our children that we hadn’t even considered. And the damage may begin before they are even born.
Research by the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health finds that kids who are exposed to cell phones while still in the womb and during the first seven years of their lives may be more likely to have behavioral problems than kids who have no such exposure.
For the study, researchers looked at cell phone usage by the mothers of more than 28,000 children. Based on self-reports, they determined that nearly half of the mothers had their cell phones on all day long and 10% talked on their phones at least four times a day.
After evaluating the kids for behavior problems including hyperactivity and attention and social issues, they determined that the more often a mother used her cell phone, the more likely the child was to have such behavioral problems. And unlike previous studies, this one accounted for family history and other factors including inattention by the mother. The researchers also determined that cell phone use and behavioral problems were not related to time spent breastfeeding or otherwise bonding with the child.
Researcher Leeka Kheifets says that the association between cell phone use and behavioral problems isn’t all that strong and, because the mothers were self-reporting, the data cannot be considered completely reliable. However, she and her colleagues speculate that cell phone use might lead mothers to excessively secrete melatonin, which can impact her metabolism and potentially influence the brain development of the fetus.
It’s all somewhat vague and inconclusive, but Kheifets believes that mothers should consider the possibility that their own cell phone use might be harming their unborn child. While she doesn’t go as far as to suggest pregnant women not use cell phones at all, she does recommend using a hands-free device in order to limit exposure to radiation.
Although it may seem like cell phones have been around forever, the truth is they are relatively new on the scene. It wasn’t until the last ten years or so that these little devices invaded our lives and became ubiquitous in our society. And while we would all like to assume that using them as much as we do is harmless, the truth is that only time and more research will tell for sure.
Do studies like these, which raise more questions than they answer, make you reconsider your own cell phone use?
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