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Few people appreciate that all of these wireless devices come with warnings in fine print from the manufacturers. In most mobile phone user manuals the following note appears: “keep the phone 2.5cm from your body”. Also, remember that such a notice was designed with the phone in mind that the phone would be used by a large man with a large head and that he would use his phone less than half an hour a day.
In the last decades interpersonal communication has evolved dramatically. It is no longer necessary for people to be together in the same place to communicate with each other. Nowadays there are many ways of communicating at a distance: cell phones, the internet and your social networks are what carry it.
Not only adults make use (and sometimes abuse) of new technology to communicate, but minors are also easy prey for the advertising campaigns of telecommunications companies. Hence the question of many parents: "At what age can a child be given a cell phone?"
To answer this question, there are several factors that must be taken into account: psychological, health and safety factors since mobile phones are not toys for children.
Mobile telephony and minors: what do the studies say?
In 2009, a study was carried out in Spain on: "Child safety and customs of minors with mobile telephony" 1. The analysis of the results allowed to establish the following conclusions:
- The mobile phone has become a new leisure tool: 24% of minors make calls and 50% send SMS daily.
- 30% of minors who use these devices have already purchased games for it.
- 72% of minors have received messages inviting them to participate in sweepstakes or games of chance.
- 38% of minors say they feel bad when they are forced to do without their mobile. Of them, 10% claim to have had a terrible time without their phone.
- 11% admit to having come to lie, cheat, even steal money from their parents to recharge the balance of their phone.
- 25% have an expense with the telephone that they consider excessive.
- 18% of minors have felt harassed through mobile phones.
- 19% acknowledge having sent insulting or threatening messages
- 7% have ever chatted via mobile with strangers.
- 9% have received photographs with pornographic content.
The same year, the UNAF (Union Nationale des Associations Familiales) carried out a similar study in France "Unaf / Acción Innocence Study on adolescents and the mobile phone" 2.
The objective of this study has been twofold: first to know how young people use their mobile phones and then to draw conclusions that can help parents better guide their children with the use of their cell phone (use that changes with the age of the children ).
In this study it was observed that:
· More than 70% of adolescents have a mobile phone.
· In general, adolescents talk with their parents about what type of phone they want and what plan they want to associate, but not about how they will use the phone.
· In the classrooms: 56% of telephones have rung in class, 47% have used their telephone during class hours, 7% have filmed their teacher during class.
· Harassment: 16% have been victims of harassment through the cell phone and 24% have received messages with sexual content from their colleagues or strangers.
Both studies reflect a reality that touches us more and more.
Psychological aspects to consider: from use to abuse and addiction
The first symptoms of abuse of new technologies are: restlessness, sudden changes of character, irritability, anguish and isolation; dysfunction in everyday life, loss of concentration, etc. whose immediate consequence is the low quality of studies and distractions in class time.
It is evident that the misuse of technology also leads to a real impoverishment of that face-to-face communication relationship3. In fact, the illusion of being ultra-communicated (virtually or remotely) in many cases translates into a true isolation of people from their peers4. Some children have recognized that they use the cell phone to alleviate their loneliness, since they spend most of their time away from their parents. In turn, they use it to monitor what their children do in their absence.
Nomophobia is the name of the mobile addiction disorder. ¨ It comes from the English: “nomo” which is the abbreviation of “no mobile”, which means “without mobile”. This appears among addicts who are distressed by not being able to communicate through cell phones. According to a specialized researcher, “ the signs of an anxiety disorder can be observed in behaviors such as when the person returns home alone to look for their cell phone or when, when they are without their cell phone, they feel palpitations and become nervous”5.
All these symptoms finally speak to us of a true obsession with “owning the latest generation mobile phone equipment, followed by states of anxiety when not being able to possess them”, which has a lot to do with the current Consumer Society, so it is worth wondering : What concept about Consumerism do you want to show a child? In this area, many psychologists warn of the fundamental role of parents in educating their children about Consumerism.
When choosing a mobile phone, little mention is made of the risks arising from excessive exposure to microwave radiation emitted by cell phones. However, these led to the recommendations contained in the so-called Steward Report6 carried out for the British government and based on the effect on the neuronal tissue of children and adolescents, their greater absorption of said radiations and the longest accumulated exposure time: “(…) We believe that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for making non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones among children..”
Remember that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) consider cell phones to be "Possibly carcinogenic to humans and are therefore classified in category" 2B "7 .
Few people appreciate that all of these wireless devices come with warnings in fine print from the manufacturers. The following note appears in most of the mobile phone user manuals: “ keep the phone 2.5cm from your body”. Also, remember that such a notice was designed with the phone in mind that the phone would be used by a large man with a large head and that he would use his phone less than half an hour a day.
To get an idea of the radius of the irradiation:
The penetration of radiation into the head of an adult man is very different from that of a small head of a child. A child's brain, healthy or not, is encased in a thinner skull, which is why they absorb more microwave radiation. The brains of children with learning disabilities, autism, or other neurological disorders may be more vulnerable to damage than those of their healthy friends and family.
In addition to the above, microwave radiation from cell phones affects sperm production8.
But not only microwave radiation is involved, another warning printed on the iPad says: " a small percentage of people may be susceptible to seizures (even if they have never had before) when exposed to lights or light patterns, such as when playing games, or watching videos ... Stop using the iPad and see a doctor if you experience pain headache, fainting spells, seizures, eye movement or nervous muscle movement, loss of consciousness, involuntary movements or disorientation. To reduce the risk of headaches, fainting spells, seizures, and eyestrain, avoid prolonged use, keep iPad at a distance from your eyes, use iPad in a well-lit room, and take frequent breaks.”
In fact, recent studies9 link myopia with the excessive use of these devices. The problem with keeping these portable devices a good distance from the eyes is that children's arms are too short to achieve a safe distance from the device.
Harassment and insecurity
In 2011, INTECO and Orange carried out a “ Study on security and privacy in the use of mobile services by Spanish minors ”10. D Highlights of the report They are:
- The mean age of onset in mobile telephony by Spanish minors it is between 10 and 12 years old.
- 2.5% of minors admit to having been the object of cyberbullying through the telephone by other minors
- 82.3% of minors use their mobile to take and send photographs.
- 4.8% of the minors surveyed recognize that their image has been disseminated by others without having given consent.
- 4.3% of minors have received images suggestive of people around you ( passive sexting), and 1.5% admit to having taken pictures of themselves sexy ( active sexting).
- Active sexting is more practiced by girls (2.2%) as opposed to passive sexting, more practiced by boys (5.1%).
- 3.8% of minors affirm that they have received calls or SMS from unknown adults what they wanted meet them
- 17.8% of minors say they have been the object of economic damage ( scams, fraud, etc.) with your smartphone.
Likewise, the participating experts have grouped the most important dangers in their opinion, posed by cell phones for minors, into the following categories:
- overuse and addiction
- threats to privacy and sexting
- inappropriate content
- economic risks (fraud, economic losses, etc.)
- virus and spam
The ones that most concern parents are:
- inappropriate content
Given the above, the specialists of the Technological Research Brigade (BIT) recall that it is essential establish norms and guidelines between adults and minors, know how you use it, with whom you talk or connect, what applications you use or where and with whom you browse. Ask to remember the minors be careful with the photos, videos and chat conversations they share; that they only give the mobile and add real acquaintances on social networks; that they do not use the mobile for insults and that they go to an adult in the event of possible cyberbullying.
Advice for parents
From all the above, it seems that the parent / child dialogue is key to having a healthy approach to the phone and its multiple possibilities, therefore, it is necessary to set limits and rules and above all to set an example (knowing how to turn off the phone from time to time when and only answer really important and / or urgent calls; do not talk while driving; turn off the cell phone in a hospital environment, etc.).
Health: ensure that the minor makes moderate use of his telephone, limiting his calls to the really essential ones.
Send texts instead of making calls.
When calling, use your phone following health precautions (use a hands-free kit or use an anti-radiation case, do not sleep with the phone under your pillow, etc.).
Warn the children that they should not use a cell phone while walking down the street, otherwise they lose their vigilance and they can be run over. Also, when using a cell phone while on the move, they lose links with the antennas so your phone will be emitting more power.
On the other hand, warn them that it is inadvisable to use a mobile phone in a closed metal enclosure (car, bus, etc.) since the waves emitted by their phone bounce inside the metal structure (Faraday box effect).
Security: indicate that the phone number should only be given to people you know.
Do not reply to unknown numbers, spam or commercial advertisements.
It is important that they notify if they receive messages "out of place", with sexual or other content.
Citizenship: the use of the mobile phone must not harm others… use in a public space or during classes is not appropriate.
Do not exceed the intimacy of others by taking photographs or filming them without their approval: do not do to others something that you would not like them to do to you.
2.- Etude Unaf / Action Innocence sur les adolescents et le téléphone portable . Download the press brief (in French): http://www.cyber-base.org/jmle/fiche/fichiers/dossier_de_presse_internet_et_mobile_etude_tns.pdf
3.- Regarding communication itself, we are witnessing an impoverishment of the language, in the msm the use of abbreviations such as "xq" instead of "why" is frequent.
4.- Enrique Novelli, psychoanalyst, member of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA).
5.- Dra. Devra Davis, Environmental Health Foundation, http://www.environmentalhealthtrust.org/
7.- The WHO and the IARC based their decision on this classification on the evidence obtained on the impact of these electromagnetic fields on the origin of gliomas, a malignant type of brain cancer (based on a study of people who used their cell phone for 30 min. a day for 10 years).
8.- See previous blog of May 24, 2012.
9.- Prof Ian G Morgan PhD, Cases of myopia due to the use of iPhone, iPad screens, etc., http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2960272-4 / abstractMyopia
10.- The interviews were carried out with Spanish families with children between 10 and 16 years old who have a smartphone for private use, between September 20 and October 14, 2011, and has had the collaboration, among other experts, of Jorge Flores, director of PantallasAmigas. Source: INTECO