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LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 69  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 1896-1897

Smartphone Use and Child Neurology


Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy

Date of Submission05-Mar-2021
Date of Decision31-Mar-2021
Date of Acceptance11-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication23-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Chidiebere Emmanuel Okechukwu
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome
Italy
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.333470

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How to cite this article:
Okechukwu CE. Smartphone Use and Child Neurology. Neurol India 2021;69:1896-7

How to cite this URL:
Okechukwu CE. Smartphone Use and Child Neurology. Neurol India [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 26];69:1896-7. Available from: https://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2021/69/6/1896/333470




Dear Sir,

Exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from smartphones over a long period might have a negative impact on a child's brain development.[1],[2],[3] Children absorb higher RF-EMR dose in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain.[4] Hence, there is a need to limit the daily use of smartphones among children. RF-EMR has two major effects on brain tissues, namely, thermal effect and nonthermal effect.[5] A child's level of myelination differs from that of adult.[6] The myelin sheath, which is a protective insulating fatty layer that forms around the nerve cell axons, is thin in children when compared with adults.[6] Moreover, RF-EMR is more absorbed by the brain tissues of children than adults.[6] The skull of a child is thinner, and the head is smaller than that of a healthy adult.[7] Children's skull has dielectric features like those of soft tissues.[7] Moreover, finite-difference time-domain simulations showed field penetration and higher specific absorption rate in deeper structures in children's brain.[7] Several mothers believe that their children need a smartphone because it would improve their knowledge and well-being.[8] However, problematic smartphone use is prevalent among children, and it is associated with poor sleep quality, depression, and anxiety.[9] Problematic smartphone use is detrimental to a child's mental health and cognitive development.[10],[11],[12],[13]

In Sweden, most children aged 7 to 14 years have access to smartphones, and there is a rapid rise in the use of mobile phones with age.[14] Moreover, there is less use of smartphone headsets among Swedish children. Headsets help lessen the RF-EMR exposure because of increasing the smartphone proximity to the head while on a call.[14] The effect of mobile phone RF-EMR on brain physiology and development has not been well studied in children.[15] Findings from a Swiss cohort study showed that RF-EMR exposure has adverse effects on neurocognitive functions among adolescents.[16] Awakening during the night by an incoming text message or a call was associated with an increase in headache and fatigue among adolescents.[17]

There is need to establish safety measures regarding the use of smartphones among children below 12 years of age. Prolonged smartphone call-time with the smartphone held against the head should be minimized in children. Preferably, a headset should be used by children to make phone calls. Moreover, excessive use of mobile internet among children should be discouraged. Children's brain tissue is more conductive, and their heads absorb more RF-EMR when making a phone call than that of adults. The higher water content of children's brain makes it more electrically conductive than those of adults. The exposure of children to smartphone's low RF-EMR should be emphasized because of the possible vulnerability of their developing nervous system. Myelination of the nerve cells of the frontal lobes is not complete until late teenagehood or early adulthood. Moreover, the skull of children is not fully matured when compared with those of adults. Long-term use of smartphone among children may have adverse effects on their brain development. However, although the possible biological effects of RF-EMF emitted by smartphones on children's brain functional anatomy can be easily prevented, the psychological/behavioral dependence on smartphones among children is detrimental to their sleep quality, mental health, and emotional, social, and physical well-being. Problematic smartphone use may not be easy to prevent, especially in children who started using smartphones in early childhood. Therefore, all efforts should be made to mitigate both the adverse biological effects and the psychological/behavioral consequences of smartphone use among children. Because of the widespread use of smartphones in the early years, there is a need for large clinical and epidemiological studies regarding the implications of prolonged smartphone use on the brain and mental development among children, and effective strategies should be taken to mitigate the possible adverse effects.



 
  References Top

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Kaplan S, Deniz OG, Önger ME, Türkmen AP, Yurt KK, Aydın I, et al. Electromagnetic field and brain development. J Chem Neuroanat 2016;75:52-61.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Moon JH. Health effects of electromagnetic fields on children. Clin Exp Pediatr 2020;63:422-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Cabré-Riera A, van Wel L, Liorni I, Thielens A, Birks LE, Pierotti L, et al. Association between estimated whole-brain radiofrequency electromagnetic fields dose and cognitive function in preadolescents and adolescents. Int J Hyg Environ Health 2021;231:113659.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Birks LE, van Wel L, Liorni I, Pierotti L, Guxens M, Huss A, et al. Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile communication: Description of modeled dose in brain regions and the body in European children and adolescents. Environ Res 2021;193:110505.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Okechukwu CE. Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure on neurophysiology. Adv Hum Biol 2020;10:6-10.  Back to cited text no. 5
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Fernández C, de Salles AA, Sears ME, Morris RD, Davis DL. Absorption of wireless radiation in the child versus adult brain and eye from cell phone conversation or virtual reality. Environ Res 2018;167:694-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Fernández-Rodríguez CE, De Salles AAA, Davis DL. Dosimetric simulations of brain absorption of mobile phone radiation-the relationship between psSAR and age. IEEE Access 2015;3:2425-30.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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Baek YM, Lee JM, Kim KS. A study on smart phone use condition of infants and toddlers. Int J Smart Home 2013;7:123-32.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Yang J, Fu X, Liao X, Li Y. Association of problematic smartphone use with poor sleep quality, depression, and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res 2020;284:112686.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Park JH, Park M. Smartphone use patterns and problematic smartphone use among preschool children. PLoS One 2021;16:e0244276.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
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Hawi NS, Samaha M, Griffiths MD. The digital addiction scale for children: Development and validation. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2019;22:771-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Lin HP, Chen KL, Chou W, Yuan KS, Yen SY, Chen YS, et al. Prolonged touch screen device usage is associated with emotional and behavioral problems, but not language delay, in toddlers. Infant Behav Dev 2020;58:101424.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
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Operto FF, Pastorino GMG, Marciano J, de Simone V, Volini AP, Olivieri M, et al. Digital devices use and language skills in children between 8 and 36 month. Brain Sci 2020;10:656.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Söderqvist F, Hardell L, Carlberg M, Hansson Mild K. Ownership and use of wireless telephones: A population-based study of Swedish children aged 7-14 years. BMC Public Health 2007;7:105.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
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Vienne-Jumeau A, Tafani C, Ricard D. Environmental risk factors of primary brain tumors: A review. Rev Neurol (Paris) 2019;175:664-78.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Foerster M, Thielens A, Joseph W, Eeftens M, Röösli M. A prospective cohort study of adolescents' memory performance and individual brain dose of microwave radiation from wireless communication. Environ Health Perspect 2018;126:077007.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
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Schoeni A, Roser K, Röösli M. Symptoms and cognitive functions in adolescents in relation to mobile phone use during night. PLoS One 2015;10:e0133528.  Back to cited text no. 17
    




 

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