A couple of days ago I saw my ‘almost-three-year-old’ son do something with my iPad that terrified me. It literally made me stop in my tracks. I froze with fear. I had a wave of panic rush through my body.
No, he didn’t access inappropriate content on You Tube (although he has been close to viewing something little eyes do not need to see). No, he didn’t have an ‘appcident’ and make a huge in-app purchase (click here to learn how you can prevent ‘appcidents’ on iDevices).
No, what I saw him do was far worse. It had possibly more serious consequences… long-term health consequences.
He rested the iPad in his lap! In his lap!
This is a common position for resting mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. But it is also potentially dangerous.
Why? Because it is a WiFi-enabled (wireless) device that was in close proximity to his body.
Now I do not want to cause un-necessary panic amongst concerned parents and educators. I know I already have enough to worry about, without worrying about things that are not necessarily valid concerns. But the more I have read, the more I am convinced that we need to make very careful decisions about how we use WiFi-enabled devices with and around young children.
Parents are concerned about children’s WiFi exposure and its possible harmful effects. And I believe, rightly so.
So do I Need to Worry About Wireless Devices?
As I have said before, we are conducting a bit of a ‘live experiment’. Our digital devices are developing and advancing so quickly that we don’t really know the long-term consequences of our current digital decisions. Our scientists and researchers have not been able to keep pace.
Even our leading Science bodies in Australia do not know for certain if wireless devices like iPads and iPhones are harmful. The Federal Government’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) acknowledge that there is a lack of scientific evidence on the impact of mobile devices on children. In their Fact Sheet, they state that overall the research evidence indicates that these devices are not harmful to users (phew, breathe a sigh of relief).
However, we do not yet have long-term or conclusive evidence. So there is still a possible ‘risk of harm’.
So What Should Parents Do?
There are concerns about the possible impact of wireless devices on young children’s brains. And I’m not comfortable with taking those sort of risks with my children.
As a result, ARPANSA recommends limiting children (and adult’s exposure) to the emissions from mobile devices. The four easiest ways you can minimise your child’s exposure to wireless emissions is:
- Keep the device away from their physical body. For example, a cover or device can be used with phones to keep them away from the head whilst talking on the phone. (My son loves using a ‘good old-fashioned’ Moshi Moshi handset when he speaks on the iPhone to his grandparents or friends). With tablets, encourage children to keep them OFF their laps. In fact, the best ergonomic position for children to hold tablets and mobile and gaming device is on their stomachs. Keep wireless routers for computer networks away from ‘busy’ household areas where a lot of time is spent (for example in bedrooms and kitchens).
- Minimise the amount of time spent with wireless devices. This is the advice your mother or grandparents would also suggest (I can already hear my Mum’s voice echoing these words). It is also the hardest to implement in a digital age. So if your child is not convinced about reducing the time they spend with these devices, see the next suggestion.
- Turn off WiFi and set your device to ‘Airplane Mode’. This is a simple one to enact and effective. There are not too many apps that young children will use that actually require WiFi, so this is a quick and easy idea to implement. See the video below that explains how to do this.
Tell me, do you also worry about your children’s exposure to wirleless devices, or am I panicking un-necessarily? Do you have any other ideas for keeping children safe around these devices? I’d love to hear your ideas.