radiationJust a few short years ago, the Chairman of the UK’s National Radiological Protection Board, Professor Sir William Stewart, warned that the evidence of potentially harmful effects of mobile phone use were gaining increasing credibility. A study in Sweden had shown that heavy phone users were more prone to developing non-malignant tumors in the ear and brain and the Dutch suggested that mobile phone use could change cognitive function. Others still reported evidence of cell damage and cancer.

Caution was advised, although he recognized at the time that the claims of health risks were in need of verification. A couple of years later, a large study appeared to suggest that such health fears were completely without grounds, but researchers were cautious about dismissing the fears altogether. And this claim game has continued ever since with one side telling us to avoid mobiles or suffer the consequences and the other claiming that the evidence points to there being no danger at all.

Ignorance is Bliss

It would seem that the vast majority are either ignoring the nay-sayers or are actively listening to those who tell us not to worry, worldwide sales of mobile devices stood at over a billion units in 2009 and that figure looks set to increase in 2010 (according to global IT research company Gartner). But with the young and old particularly vulnerable to any inherent dangers that may be posed by mobile technology, a recent survey of 1,400 parents undertaken by gadget retailer Prezzybox.com has shown that caution really is being thrown to the wind.

baby

Parents revealed that 63% of youngsters under ten years of age owned a portable phone. Those parents who gave in and bought their young offspring a dkidsphoneevice cited constant pressure (Simpsons-style) as their reason for doing so while others said they felt safer knowing that their little darlings were always within communicative reach. In a remarkably stand-off (or perhaps just a trusting) attitude towards txtspkparenting, 54% also admitted to not monitoring phone use in any shape or form. Some parents resisted the constant whining though, stating that such things were unnecessary for children so young and 7% admitted taking at least some notice of the nay-sayers, being concerned about potential health risks.

Furthermore, a year-long study by Coventry University of cellphone habits amongst youngsters may have you all ROFL – contrary to popular belief, it seems that regular text messaging actually has a positive role in literacy development. Text-speak, according to researcher Clare Wood, is “a valuable form of contact with written English for many children, which enables them to practise reading and spelling on a daily basis”.

Where Does That Leave Us?

While uncertainty about the health risks of extended mobile phone usage continues to rage, with those spouting the benefits and the dangers churning out data to support each case in seemingly equal measures, we’re left to consider the smartest way to deal with such issues in the absence of majority agreement.

Do we limit access to technology for those potentially at risk by way of “just in case” protection? Do we, in common with the 63% of parents in the Prezzybox study, just give in and let technology run riot amongst the young? Or is there some middle ground we can all happily inhabit until science makes its mind up?