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Seeing students with cell phones is a common occurrence these days, but are we really right to be letting them spend so much time on their devices? For a bit more information, I decided to research the harmful effects of mobile phones on students.
So, what are the harmful effects of mobile phones on students? Mobile phones have plenty of harmful effects on students, ranging from physical to mental. Radio wave radiation is one of the biggest causes for concern, along with the mental health impacts of social media. Similarly, there are other harmful effects, such as stress and sleep loss.
There’s quite a long list of harmful effects on students, although these can generally be applied to a wider audience too. In this article, I look at the harmful effects of mobile phone use on students and young people, along with ways to minimize their risks.
Harmful effects of mobile phones on students and young people
Mobile phones are a wonder of modern technology, and have fast become something that pretty much everyone can’t live without. However, not enough people are aware of the health risks of constant exposure to their favorite device. What’s more, these health risks are much more serious for students and young people.
Mobile phones work by emitting radio frequency radiation, which they use to connect to cell phone towers that provide them with coverage. The signal emitted by mobile phones is known as electromagnetic (EMF) radiation.
EMF radiation also covers other types of radiation such as heat and microwaves, which are emitted as byproducts when the mobile phone is in use. EMF radiation is known as non-ionizing, or low frequency radiation. This is the same as what’s emitted by your WiFi router, TV, or computer.
The issue that most people have with mobile phones when it comes to EMF radiation, specifically radio frequencies, is that we put them to our heads when we’re talking, meaning those radio waves are passing directly into our brains. What does this do for our health? It’s fair to say nothing positive.
Medical research into the effects of EMF radiation aren’t as plentiful as you’d expect, and there are differing opinions on whether it’s harmful to health. The World Health Organization, for example, found there is a reasonable link between cell phone use and increased cancer risk (source).
The issue when it comes to students, in fact all young people, and these kind of health complications, is that they’re that at a much higher risk because their bodies are still developing (read this article to know why).
Much the same as how smoking and caffeine use has a bigger impact on young people, EMF exposure works in exactly the same way.
However, the biggest issue when it comes to students and the harmful effects of mobile phone radiation is that there haven’t been enough long-term studies into the risk. There are genuine reasons for this, mostly to do with how quickly technology changes, but I feel it’s better to be cautious until we know otherwise, particularly with young people.
There’s also the fact that people carry mobile phones in their pockets, hands, or bags, meaning their exposure to EMF radiation isn’t limited to just when they’re using the phone.
Similarly, many students sleep with their phone near their head, meaning their exposure to RF radiation is almost constant. This, of course, can’t be good for their health.
Other harmful effects of mobile phones on students
Aside from the risks of exposure to EMF radiation, there are a number of other harmful effects to using mobile phones and they are as shown below. However, this list doesn’t necessarily even cover them all.
- Anxiety and depression
- Tendonitis and bad posture
- Sleep loss
1. Anxiety and depression
Linking mental health issues with mobile phone use is nothing new, and many of us have probably either experienced this ourselves or with someone close. Social media and instant communication create an unhealthy expectation of what’s acceptable, or even real, and this can lead to a range of mental health issues.
This is again compounded in students and young people, mainly because they’ve also got a lot going on in their lives already.
What’s more, they’re the first generation to properly grow up with access to this kind of technology, and so many people are unsure how to promote healthy use among students and young people.
2. Tendonitis and bad posture
This is an issue that not many think about when it comes to mobile phone use, but people who spend lots of time on their device are more at risk to bad posture, neck and back ache, and tendonitis or repetitive strain injury.
These issues are especially problematic for students and young people because their bodies are still developing, which can lead to complications later in life. However, this also works in the reverse, and if these problems are caught early enough they should correct themselves quickly.
3. Sleep loss
Unlimited access to a mobile phone can be addictive. Whether this is playing games or spending time on social media, it can become easy to lose track of the time and spend hours staring at the screen. If, like me, you have kids, you’re probably all too familiar with catching them still awake way past their bed time, phone in hand.
What’s more, blue light stimulates the brain and reduces production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep. This is why apps like Facebook go heavy on the blue and white: it keeps your brain engaged and awake, meaning you spend more time on the app.
Sleep deprivation is a particular problem for students and young people. Not only do they need more sleep than adults, but it also leads to lack of concentration, irritability, and higher chances of mental health issues.
Another harmful effect of mobile phone use for anyone, not just students, is an increased risk of physical accidents. Using your phone while walking might mean you don’t look when crossing the street, or you might decide to answer that call while driving. Whatever the reason, using a mobile phone makes it more likely you’ll have an accident.
Many institutions, including insurance companies and even the US Government, have found a link between young people using mobile phones and a higher chance of having an accident. In fact, using a phone while driving is the leading cause of death among teenagers.
One of the biggest reasons for this is lack of education, but it can even be as simple as they feel more confident than older people trying to do these two things at once. Either way, using a mobile phone can make it much more likely that young people have an accident.
Whether directly or indirectly, using a mobile phone can make students much more prone to stress. This in turn can have an impact on their performance at school, and lead to a number of mental health issues.
Mobile phones can be distracting, and it can be tempting to spend time speaking to friends or browsing social media instead of studying. However, we all know the impact of not studying for school, both in the short and long term.
One of the biggest problems in the short term is stress, which is something that should be minimized for students when possible.
How to minimize the harmful effects of mobile phone use
After I became more aware of the harmful effects of mobile phone use on young people, I realized I had to work out what to do to help my own children. However, my experience is mainly dealing with EMF exposure, which I could fix easily, but I realized it went further than that.
One of the easiest ways to reduce exposure to EMF radiation is to simply remove it from your life. For example, to block EMF radiation from a WiFi router, you can simply put it in a Faraday cage. However, this kind of reasoning doesn’t necessarily work with mobile phones, especially when young people are also involved.
My biggest piece of advice I can give for solving the issue is education. If you find a way to explain the harmful effects of cell phone use, you’ll have a much easier time than if you simply try to confiscate their phone. Below are my top tips for minimizing the harmful effects of mobile phones for students.
1. Buy them an EMF blocking phone case
Using a mobile phone case with built-in EMF shield is an easy way to cut out the worst of the student’s exposure to the harmful radiation their mobile phone emits. These cases basically make a Faraday cage around the phone, but still allow it to function normally.
For me, this takes care of the biggest risk of using a mobile phone. Considering most people, particularly students and teenagers, can be exposed to their phone 24/7, it’s worth trying to block their exposure to its harmful EMF radiation.
2. Try alternatives to phone calls
The other big concern when using mobile phones are the radio waves seeping into your head while making a call. This is what causes the greatest increase in cancer risk, particularly brain cancer or nerve issues.
A simple change in habits is enough to drastically reduce the risk of this problem. For example, using a phone on loudspeaker, or using video calling, are both great ways to reduce contact time between your head and the mobile phone.
While this doesn’t solve problems like EMF exposure, it at least saves you having those radio waves pulsing into your brain.
Another solution is to simply reduce the amount of time a student spends calling people. I’d recommend no more than 20 minutes of calling time a day, or at least calling with the phone in contact to the head. This should make a big difference when it comes to RF exposure.
3. Just turn the phone off
This is something that’s going to happen overnight, but if you spend time educating your child on the problems of constantly using a mobile phone, you should hopefully get them to change their habits, including switching the phone off (read my RELATED ARTICLE).
Switching off a mobile phone is particularly helpful while sleeping or driving. Realistically, these are times when you don’t need your phone anyway, and so having it turned off will improve concentration and sleep pattern.
If simply turning the phone off isn’t an option, suggest they use blue light filters or apps that modify the phone for evening use. Doing this should at least help regulate their sleep pattern.
4. Choose the right monthly plan
Another option for limiting mobile phone use among students and young people is to choose the right monthly plan. For example, if you buy them a plan (seeing as it’s probably you that’s paying), get one with, say, 1500 texts a month and a hundred or so minutes of call time.
If you set the monthly plan up as a child’s plan, which many service providers allow you to do, you’ll have control over billing, meaning they won’t be able to purchase extras. Combining this with turning the WiFi off at night is an effective, albeit slightly harsh, strategy for controlling phone use.
However, this option is slightly controlling in my opinion, and doesn’t necessarily deal with the problem of EMF exposure. You might find that selecting a different monthly plan is the only way to reduce the harmful effects of phone use, because if they can’t do anything with it, then there’s less chance of them using it.
While there are many harmful effects of mobile phone use on students, my biggest concern is with exposure to RF waves and other EMF radiation. These are the things that can carry the biggest health risks.
The best advice I can give for dealing with these is education, along with preventative measures where possible. Hopefully educating students on the harmful effects of mobile phones will change their usage patterns and reduce their risk of health complications.