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Screen Time For Babies And Kids, From EMF To Blue Light: What All The Experts Say Now--The Only Article You Need To Read :)
Experts agree! Screens & littles ones are not a good mix.
The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Optometric Association AND Dr. Young - the world's foremost authority on screen and internet addictions - ALL have a strong stance on limiting screen time for babies and toddlers!
All these experts are concerned for a number of reasons - it can stifle mental and emotional growth, lead to behavioral issues, have drastic physical implication and even shrink the grey matter in their brain!
What do the experts recommend?
I've looked at countless studies, reports and statements and here is what the majority recommend:
- No screen time at all before the age of 2
- No more than 1 hour of screen time until they are 5 years old (the less the better, of course!)
Check out the full list of recommendations at the end of this article!
One interesting thing to note - some don't include face times and video calls with an engaging adult within that time frame! Understandably, any positive connection is better than no connection at all. So don't necessarily turn grandma and grandpa down from FaceTiming your babies!
Has Your Cellphone Become The Sitter, The Soother, or Another Member of the Fam?
With kids at home, the sweet sound of radio silence is all but gone for good. Replaced with reruns of Super Songs, bouts of earplug-worthy breakdowns, and sounds so shrill we're sure we're won't last a moment longer...
We've all been there and we get it.
So if a phone or tablet is going to help calm the chaos and hold our kids’ attention for even a single minute, it's quite tempting use and take advantage of the technology that’s meant to makes our lives just a little bit easier. There’s no shame in it! In fact, I truly believe that tech is a blessing in that it provides incredible resources for us as parents.
But, with all the research coming out to prove the link between tech-use and various health issues, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recent advisories, we should at least try to protect our tiny ones from the danger of too much screen time or improper usage. Right? Look at it this way: We put safety locks on our cabinets, doors, bottles, etc. to prevent harmful accidents; we do this because we know there’s danger present.
We lather gallons of sunscreen on our kids to protect them from harmful UV rays.
We feed them organic and strive for a healthy green environment. We teach them to look both ways before crossing the road and to never talk to strangers because we know the dangers that lurk. We do so many things to safeguard our tots when we know there’s danger in not doing so.
So, why should the dangers of EMF radiation and our kids be treated with less precaution?
Now, let’s make sure we’re all clear on one thing here. Ok, friends? In no way do I believe that “precaution” translates to eliminating the use of tech in our homes or with our kids. Rather, I support the continued SAFE use of tech which makes all the difference.
AN EMF METER CAN HELP YOU IDENTIFY THE INVISIBLE WIRELESS RADIATION
So, What’s Safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional association of 60,000+ pediatricians and pediatric specialists, recently issued their highly researched recommendations on cell phone, cell towers, and wireless radiation exposure. Published on the Academy's HealthyChild.org, it advises us to “reduce children’s exposure to cell phones and other devices that emit wireless radiation.”
The report reminds us that,
"Children are not just little adults; their growing minds and bodies make them uniquely vulnerable to the effects of the environment around them, including cell phone radiation. Because technology is being adopted by children at younger ages than ever before, it's even more important to investigate if cell phone usage is a health hazard."
The official position taken by the American Academy of Pediatrics is a big move, and one they’re not quiet about. In fact, they’ve sent numerous letters to government officials urging them to help tighten radiation standards for wireless devices and protect pregnant women and children from EMF radiation.
The World Health Organization recommends babies not SEE a screen until they're 1 years old. We think that's an awesome idea. Babies and screens really don't go together for a couple of reasons. One, the radiation and two, the developmental issues which we'll cover later, but for now, let's review the physical toxin aspect.
For Kids, This Makes A Ton Of Sense
Please feel free to browse the Tech Wellness Wireless and Health Guide where we detail electromagnetic energy and zero in on wireless energy specifically. The point is, the energy has been proven without a doubt to have a biological effect. Think of it like smog or a chemical pollutant or toxin - if you could avoid being exposed to it, wouldn't you?
Would you let your kids play next to device that was leaking lead, diesel fumes or DDT?
Well those are a few of the other compounds the World Health Organization has deemed “ Class 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans.) RF electromagnetic fields, aka wireless energy from your cellphone, was classified a Class 2B carcinogen by the W.H.O. in 2011.
At Tech Wellness we really like what's referred to as the Precautionary Principle. Basically, this means that because there's research saying the energy that powers our cell phones (and all wireless devices) could be causing health concerns, then we ought to take care when using our cell phones and use them mindfully. And you know what? That's what one the doctors who wrote the 2016 "Recommendations For Media Use" from The American Academy of Pediatrics said about the new World Health Organization recommendations.
And it's even more so for our kids...
The illustration below is from the MID-90's (yes, parents have been concerned about wireless radiation for a loooong time!) It's a picture of how kids' brains absorb more radiation than adults because of their thinner, developing skulls. This was done by Professor Gandhi who was actually working for Motorola and the Department of Defense (watch Devra Davis presentation below) at the time and lost his funding after he published this 2 dimensional modeling.
Children's little bodies are different then ours. Their skulls are thinner and the fact that their body systems are rapidly developing makes them more vulnerable to microwave and magnetic EMF exposures.
This was confirmed by a new modeling study in 2018. They modeled cellphones held to the ear and virtual reality devices that sit close to the eyes and concluded:
"...young eyes and brains absorb substantially higher local radiation doses than adults’."
They even recommended that the government regulations for cellphones and other wireless devices be Age Specific--to alert adults to the importance of limiting time spent on wireless and keep devices OFF THE BODY. Apple and all the cellphone manufacturers do tell us that too!!
Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust reminds us that this information is scientifically accepted. She also lead research confirming that because children’s skulls are thinner and tissues of a child’s head, including the bone marrow and the eye, absorb significantly more energy than those in an adult head. The illustration below demonstrates the greater exposure absorption for a smaller head. It's done with 3D modeling used for the Environmental Health Trust.
This Doctor Just Says No
Dr. Bill Sears is my favorite pediatrician ever. He's now Director of the Sears Wellness Institute and author of 45 books on children's health and wellness issues. Because he's the amazing doctor I entrusted my girls' care to, I asked him to weigh in on this subject. Here's how he feels about children and cellphones:
"I have a policy at my home and my grand-kids know it well. When they come to visit the first thing they see as they open the door is this sign:Welcome To Fun House!!While you're in here please leave your phones in this basket.
Dr. Bill believes cellphones are an issue for children. Not just because of the electromagnetic radiation, but also he advises parents that an environment that includes low-tech playtime as well as limited supervised use of technology is best for the child.
Make sure your child wears blue blocking wrap around glasses so the digital blue light doesn't effect their circadian rhythms.
The AAP provides a list of safe cell phone tips for families to adopt. These include:
- Use text messaging whenever possible.
- Use cell phones in speaker mode with a hands-free kit.
- Avoid carrying your phone against your body. (Cell phone manufacturers can’t guarantee that the amount of radiation you’re absorbing is safe.)
- Never give a child a cell phone for use as a toy or teething item.
- Always fully download movies or shows to your phone before allowing your child to watch them. When they’re watching, switch the phone to Airplane Mode. Tech Wellness has a nice list of WiFi free games for 3 years and older.
Our Screen Free Fun Collection is a great way to
keep kids entertained and off their phones!
And Tech Wellness recommends for parents of babies:
- When holding baby, try to keep the cellphone powered off completely for ultimate safety.
- Airplane mode is safer than on-but there's still magnetic EMF coming from any digital screen.
Try keeping the phone in a cross-body case-which can help you achieve distance from the phone for your baby-but use a long strap so the phone is not right over your abdomen--the radiation plume is strongest at the source
A Good Rule of Thumb: At Least 10 Inches of Distance Between You and your Cellphone
Be aware of where the Phone is when you're near baby. Is it in your hand? Is Baby in the other? Cellphone radiation is strongest as the source and diminishes to much lower levels when it's about 8-10 inches away.
Did you know that no matter what kind of cellphone you use, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy an LG--they all come with a warning. You can find it on the phone or in the manual. But basically they say--in order to stay within our own government safety standards, we should not let that cellphone touch our body. It's true.
Here's a video I made a couple of years ago demonstrating what the iPhone manual says.
Here's what we recommend for once the kids start having screen time:
- Have them wear kids blue light blocking glasses to help with digital glare and their sleep cycles
- Their developing brains absorb more radiation than grown adults. Keep them as far from the EMF radiation as possible - no laptops on laps, tablets in hands or phones to ear - and let them play on Airplane mode with the WiFi and Bluetooth off!
- Choose games that can be played on Airplane mode! I put together a list of the top 25 Free kids games that don't need any sort of signal. The list is updated for 2022 with download links on our site
- Make sure to balance screen time with LOTS of outdoor time to help prevent myopia and other eyesight issues.
Make sure your children aren't exposed to the WIFI-especially at night.
This simple switch makes it easy.
Screen Time and Becoming Healthy Adults
A landmark continuous study that's spanned 40 years and has given us tons of amazing long-term study information... It's the Dunedin New Zealand study and one module assessed 1037 individuals born in Dunedin, New Zealand between 1972–1973 at regular intervals from birth until they were 26 years old to look at screen time (TV back then) and anti-social behavior.
Here's what they found:
Excessive television viewing (insert screens?) in childhood and adolescence is associated with increased antisocial behavior in early adulthood. The findings are consistent with a causal association and support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of television each day.
Children, Screens and Learning
TV use per day at ages less than 5... Those who watch less than 1 hour of TV per day.
In a Journal of Science study demonstrated that babies use and need real interaction with real toys vs toys on screens to learn like scientists. Testing, playing and using the toys to see how they work.
The best learning tool? A pencil.
Dr. Manfred Spitzer says writing is the best way for a thought to get into a child's memory. So, when it comes time to learn for your child to write their name, your name and more--hand them paper, a crayon or a pencil.
And this interactive learning issue continues with kids at school. Turns out studies have shown that using online text books, with their interactive links to studies and diagrams, results in more superficial learning vs deep learning that our memories retain. Dr. Spitzer who wrote "Digital Dementia: explains, "we learn when we think vs when we click."
These kids glasses are extra cute, extremely comfortable, and block over 40% of blue light!
A Healthy Child Begins With A Healthy Pregnancy
The Baby Safe Project is a great organization that focuses on helping pregnant women understand the potential hazards of wireless radiation--especially to a developing baby.
The Project was inspired by the work of Dr. Hugh Taylor, who is the Chair of OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. You can watch this video here as he talks about the study he led to get information on if cellphone exposure could damage babies' brains.
Dr. Taylor's findings will inspire any mom to be to be careful with exposing her tummy to wireless radiation!
Mice whose moms were exposed to cellphones while they were pregnant displayed behavior that was similar to ADHD or ADD displaying these types of behavior:
- decreased memory
- more likely to be hyperactive
- relaxed--without a "care" in the world
They even looked at the grown mice brain activity and found that these exposed brains developed differently than mice that didn't get cellphone exposure.
The prefrontal cortex of brains who got a 24-hour dose of cellphone radiation had different electrical brain activity.
But--the good news is that the less hours of cellphone radiation, the closer the mice got to normal brain activity.
As parents, let’s empower ourselves with information. The more the better. Luckily, there are countless studies being conducted and solutions being found to reduce the harmful effects of technology. In the close coming years, we’ll find that this topic is part of our daily lives, and so now’s the time to start developing and teaching healthy tech habits.
Speaking Of Healthy Tech Habits
If you want your kids to develop better sensory-motor skills and better reading skills, screens for kids under 3 should be off limits. Dr. Kimberly Young notes that kids develop better sensory-motor skills playing with real toys and better reading skills offline. Her great Screen Smart Guide can help you be the best Tech parent out there. Dr. Young has been researching, teaching, and treating internet addiction for over 30 years, so we think her ideas are super solid. And for kids of all ages, Dr. Young points out that in order to develop social communication skills and healthy family attachment a tech disconnect is a must. We love that idea!
With the help of my daughter, we created a Family Social Media Plan to help
the whole family be mindful of their screen time and life safer and happier in a world full of wireless!
When Should Your Child Have a Phone of Their Own?
Our guide for parents covers all the in's, out's, up's, and down's of kids and cellphones. From Social Media issues to your child's privacy, to help you make that important decision.
Recommendations at a Glance
The World Health Organization:
Infants (less than 1 year) should:
- Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
- Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.
Children 1-2 years of age should:
- Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
- Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.
Children 3-4 years of age should:
- Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
- Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.
Dr. Kimberly Young, The Net Addiction Center
Age Range: Birth to 3 Years:
- At this age, screen time (including smartphones) impairs development, social communication, and a child’s attachment to parents and family. If they are completely disconnected from technology, they have time to develop human relationships with and critical sensory-motor skills. Focus on playing with physical toys, reading skills, and relationships with other kids.
Age Range: 3 to 6 Years:
One Hour A Day
- At this age, kids can be introduced to technology under careful parental supervision. Parents and caregivers too often may give a kid a tablet or smartphone as a digital babysitter or as a reward for good behavior. This is a crucial time in childhood development the focus now needs to be on social behavior skills. Keep kids involved in activities outside of the computer and avoid multi-platform portable devices (e.g., phones, iPads, laptops).. Make sure they don’t isolate with their technology, screens should be enjoyed in public areas of your home and you’re with them while they’re using them at this age. Plus, don’t forget to block video games and questionable websites.
The American Academy Of Pediatrics
For children younger than 18 months:
- Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
For children ages 2 to 5 years:
- Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For Children ages 6 and older:
- Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Our all time favorite Five Minute Journal has created a special Kid's Journal edition that your child will love!
If you’d like more information or resources, I’m here to help. It’s my true passion and purpose to educate and protect families in the Digital Age—including my own.