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Cell Phones and the Beauty of E-Books

(Hint: they're reading!)

Q: Is there truth to the new reports that cell phones might be linked to cancer?

A: The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently released a statement announcing that cell phone use could possibly cause cancer in humans. This agency evaluates research to identify causes of cancer.

It is important to note that this new statement is not based on any new research and continued studies are still accumulating. None of the studies have evaluated cell phone use over a period longer than 10 years. Studies have also focused on an adult population and included cell phone habits and technology that have changed dramatically over the past decade.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have all stated that evidence linking cell phones and cancer is not conclusive. Most organizations believe, however, that more research is necessary.

With over 5 billion estimated cell phone users worldwide, there is still not clear information on the impact of a lifetime exposure to the radio frequency electromagnetic fields given off by cell phones. Since today’s generation is the youngest to use the technology, parents can help their children develop healthier habits and practice precautions in several ways.

Avoid young exposure. The skull of a 5- to 10-year-old child is thinner than that of an adult, and potentially more susceptible to effects of the energy given off by cell phones. While an occasional chat on a cell phone for a young child might be okay, avoid regular exposure.

Limit voice calls. Most concern stems from the use of a cell phones placed close to the head during voice calls. The good news is the today’s cell-toting youth send texts more than they call, which decreases exposure to magnetic energy dramatically. Encourage kids to use their home telephone for voice calls.

Focus on known dangers. Cancer risks are concerning, but cell phones are known to be deadly when used while driving. Kids who attempt to text or talk on a cell phone while skateboarding or even just crossing the street can put themselves at serious risk, too. Model healthy behavior by turning off your phone while driving and pulling to the side of road to take calls.

Q: Do children benefit from reading e-books?

A: In it’s simplest form, an e-book is digital text that can be read on a tech gadget (iPad) or computer. Recent innovations have incorporated animation, web links, and interactive options that make e-books extra appealing to kids of all ages.

Exploring e-books with even young children encourages the development of transliteracy. Transliteracy is the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media, and today’s child will need this 21st century skill to be successful.

The most important word in the question is not “electronic” or even “book” — it’s “reading.” Worry less about the format of the reading and more about providing opportunities for your children to read.  

What’s the difference? E-books offer instantaneous digital delivery, can be carried on a mobile device or smart phone, and offer options like text size adjustments or language choice. Picture books might incorporate sounds and movement or a chapter book may offer dictionary links to words for readers who stumble upon new vocabulary.

Make it positive. Curling up with a great stack of books from the library can be a wonderful, positive reading experience — as can discovering a new book app together on your mobile phone or flipping pages of an e-book on the computer. No matter which format you’re enjoying, the most important thing to promote is a positive reading experience and create opportunities for both types when you can.

Explore technology together. Get a better understanding by doing a little research with your child. Electronic readers like Amazon’s Kindle offer kid-friendly collections of digital books for children of every age. Many local libraries offer free downloadable e-books for computers and electronic readers. Take a look at the Alice in Wonderland app for the iPad to get a new view of an old classic: tinyurl.com/yc3teyj

Sharon Cindrich is the mother of two and author of American Girl’s, A Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet and A Smart Girl’s Guide to Style. • Read more from Sharon at pluggedinparent.com

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