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Cell phones, kids and the cancer scare — is it real?

Submitted by on Monday, 28 July 2008 No Comment

“When I was a kid, 12 was the magic number.

I was 12 — closer to 13, actually — when Mom let me pierce my ears. I remember walking through a grocery store that frigid January day as the numbness wore off and my lobes caught fire.

I was 12 when I was allowed to have a “”real”" stereo in my bedroom, instead of the kiddie Show ‘N Tell record player. Albums were censored, though, and Cher was banned.

My friends were 12 when their parents let them get phones in their rooms. None for me, though that was about the time we were able to get off a party line. And, yes, I also had to walk to school in three feet of snow, uphill both ways.

Some parents still hold those lines. Seems there increasingly is no line, though, when it comes to cell phones. Which is why so many parents freaked out this week after the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute warned about excessive cell-phone use for children.

There were a lot of cautionary notes in the report — such as suggesting use of hands-free devices and not attaching your phone to your body — but the part about limiting kids’ exposure drew the most attention.

According to The Associate Press, there aren’t current figures on kiddie cell phone use, though the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in a 2005 survey that 39 percent of kids ages 8 to 18 have cell phones. I’d bet the percentage has grown.

Because their brains are developing, it’s that age group that Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, the head of the Pittsburgh center, is most concerned about. “”Manufacturers report that cell and wireless phones emit electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic fields are likely to penetrate the brain of children more deeply than adults,”" the center’s Web site says.

I honestly don’t know what to think about the study. The Food and Drug Administration says cell phones are safe for children, but remember when Thalidomide was a cure for morning sickness? Or, to go to the other extreme, when saccharine caused cancer?

I haven’t seen a cell in Big Guy’s kindergarten class yet, but a normally sane family on our street just got their daughter one for her seventh birthday. And before the words “”security concerns”" cross your mind, let me add that this kid is home-schooled.

Big Guy and I have jousted for years about electronic gear. A friend has had a television in her bedroom since before she was 1 — VCR, too, but only because that DVD players weren’t affordable then — and he thinks it’s a gross injustice that he doesn’t.

And the second my cell rings — we no longer have a land line — he rushes to answer.

So I’m sure the day when he starts clamoring for his own phone is coming far sooner than I want it to. Certainly long before he’s 12.

Too bad for him. I still believe in holding lines.

Copyright 2008, Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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