There are always rumors circulating the internet when it comes to kids and cell phone use. From the Momo Challenge to kids growing horns, it seems there’s always something to worry about. But what are real and what are just cell phone myths?
Parentology caught up with a few experts to talk about current rumors making the rounds, and to help concerned parents separate fact from fiction.
Cell Phones Use Causes Horn Growth
Fiction – Recent studies have shown an increase of instances of small bony growths at the base of the skull in young people. While it’s thought they’re from cell phone use — or more accurately, the habitual bending of the neck from frequent mobile device use — there’s no proof phones are to blame.
“While the significance of these growths isn’t known at this time, there are several well-researched health effects of excessive cell phone and media use on children and teens,” Dr. CharlRe’ Slaughter-Atiemo, a leading board-certified pediatrician in Maryland tells Parentology.
Smartphone Use Interferes with Sleep
Fact – Blue light — especially before bed time — has been shown to interrupt melatonin, a hormone made by the body that helps us sleep.
“Light changes how your body should grow and develop,” Dr. Rob Darzynkiewicz, Chief Medical Officer of Hazel Health explains to Parentology. “Simply keeping phones out of bedrooms at night can help your child sleep better.”
Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics, tells Parentology that for every hour of blue light exposure before bed, there should be one hour of no exposure. “So if your child turns off his phone at 9 pm, it will probably take until 10 pm for the melatonin levels to start rising again.”
Smart Devices are Bad for Your Eyes
Fact – Any type of screen can cause eye strain, but small children may be especially susceptible to eye problems because of screen interaction.
“Many parents complain their child starts blinking a lot after staring at the phone screen while watching videos or playing games,” explains Hes. “What I’ve learned is young children are afraid to blink for fear of missing something on the screen.” Something she believes leads to dry eyes and more repetitive blinking after screen time is over.
Cell Phone Use Causes Headaches
Fact – Numerous studies show prolonged smartphone use can increase the frequency of migraine headaches due to a variety of factors, Slaughter-Atiemo says. This includes prolonged exposure to light from the screen, eye strain, bending over with poor posture, using your hands and fingers to type or play games and holding your neck to the side to make phone calls. “Limiting smartphone use can be beneficial to reducing the frequency of migraines.”
Darzynkiewicz adds that the most common type of headache you and your child will experience from too much time looking at a screen is called a tension headache.
“The tension can come from anywhere (stress, neck strain, eye strain),” he says, adding they can be avoided if screen time is moderated. “For children and parents that suffer from migraines (a unique type of headache) the item that starts off the headache could be anything (screen time, flickering, brightness).” Exercise and healthy sleep can also help alleviate these symptoms.
Earbuds Cause Cancer
False – This is one of the bigger cell phone myths. There have been recent articles claiming earbuds are a potential source of cancer because of the radiation exposure to your ear canal and brain. While it’s true wireless Bluetooth devices emit radiation, Slaughter-Atiemo says the amount of radiation emitted from earbuds is very low.
In comparison, Bluetooth devices give off much less radiation than cell phones. “It’s far more important to limit your cellphone use, then Bluetooth earbuds,” says Slaughter-Atiemo. She recommends keeping phones away from the body when they’re not in use, sleeping with phones away from the bed and using headsets to conduct phone calls.
“As a pediatrician, my advice is for parents to watch out for more immediate health risks that earbuds can cause, such as blasting loud music, which can lead to decreased attention (such as when walking and crossing streets) and high-frequency hearing loss.”