Should we be concerned about health risks to our children from mobile phones?
More than half of children now use mobile phones. For parents and carers, this can increase confidence that their child is safe, thanks to regular contact.
But is this tool to check children are safe actually putting their health at risk?
This is a topic which has been raised with several members of the Advisory Committee for England, and we'd welcome comments on how we can all work towards more definite answers to these questions.
Scientific research has not found evidence of links between health risks and mobile phones.
But various studies carried the important proviso that it's too early to tell; in future we may find that today's children ARE at risk. The Stewart report in 2000 (http://www.iegmp.org.uk/report/text.htm) recommended that children should only use mobiles in emergencies, and that advice still stands.
The recommendation was based on the theory that children could be more at risk from radiowaves emitted; their brains are still developing and their skulls are thinner, making it easier for the radiowaves to penetrate.
And those who start using mobiles at a young age will have a cumulative lifetime use higher than current adults.
However, surveys suggest that many children are ignoring the advice.
Many parents and carers seem totally unaware of it - research findings by Ofcom reveal concerns about cyber bullying and dangers from strangers, but risks from the devices themselves are rarely mentioned.
The most recent Ofcom analysis of media use by children (http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/oct2) shows 87% of young people aged 12-15 have mobile phones. The trends are all for increased use - transfers to smartphones, increased use of smartphones to access the internet (especially social media sites), and increased use of mobiles by younger children (even 5-7 year olds are beginning to own smartphones).
Health research falls outside the remit of Ofcom but consumer safety is clearly an important area to share information. Should Ofcom research probe further to find out how the length of some mobile phone calls by children (thought to be the most risky activity)? Should it measure the length of time young people are online via smartphones?
And should it find out more about awareness by parents of the health advice on these? Let us know.
For more information on the use of mobile phones by children, check out these links<http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/oct2011/Children_and_parents.pdf> and <http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/media-literacy/archive/medlitpub/medlitpubrss/ukchildrensml11/>.