EMF, or electromagnetic fields, is a form of radiation associated with the use of electronics. In our busy, tech-infused worlds, it can seem impossible to avoid EMF exposure. Especially while at home with your kids who love their screen time, be it in the form of the TV, a tablet, laptop or their phone.
If the issue of EMF protection is new to you, Cai Dixon explains why it’s necessary and how to take relatively simple steps to keep your family safe.
I never gave electromagnetic radiation much thought until I became pregnant with my daughter. Her father asked me to use my cell phone less, just as a precaution, so I started to do some research.
Honestly, I felt a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as I tried to unpack the many and various issues around EMF exposure from our modern devices.
When I was a child, it was common for my brothers and me to be admonished for sitting too close to the TV screen. We were told that the radiation was bad for us, and it would damage our eyes.
Whether this notion was true or false, it was an era when you never challenged your parents, so we moved back from the TV.
Older televisions used cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors that did give off some radiation – generally considered to be below harmful levels. Distance was a factor to exposure, so it was probably wise that our parents used the precautionary principle.
Today’s children have televisions, tablets, computers, e-readers, DVD players, phones, and more… but somehow distance has gone out of vogue – with many screen devices designed for use at close range.
These design differences make it more difficult (but not impossible) for parents to implement precaution.
What is the problem with EMF exposure from devices?
Devra Davis, Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology and Founder of The Environmental Health Trust, says, “All wireless devices use microwave radiation to communicate – but at levels much lower than your microwave oven.”
“Decades ago, it was assumed that since microwave levels for wireless communication were low, they could not heat or harm people. Therefore, cell phones and wireless devices came on the market before they were properly tested for long-term safety.”
“However, these early assumptions of safety are no longer valid. Recent science indicates that wireless can have harmful biological effects. Hundreds of scientists and more than a dozen governments are all saying the same thing, ‘Reduce EMF exposure to children.’”
What are the health concerns of exposure and why is EMF protection needed?
“Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the effects of wireless radiation,” Davis explains. “Research repeatedly shows that a child’s brain and body absorb more radiation than an adult brain due to a child’s thinner skull and unique physiology.”
“There are decades of peer reviewed studies demonstrating serious biological health effects from low level microwave radiation including neurological damage, DNA breaks, oxidative stress, immune dysfunction, sleep and memory disturbances, ADHD, abnormal behavior, sperm dysfunction, and brain tumors.”
Davis goes on to share, “These effects have occurred at exposure levels far far lower than the safety standards most governments use. Children will have a lifetime of exposure. Since the health effect is cumulative, children require special protections. Due to these health concerns, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued recommendations to reduce wireless exposure to children.”
How to Protect Your Child from EMF Exposure
If lowering exposure to potentially harmful energy fields and increasing EMF protection is something you would like to integrate into your own household game plan, here are a handful of opportunities to do it:
Put the Device in Airplane Mode
This doesn’t work for streaming. But any time you can download a movie, an app, a game – do that. Then put the device on airplane mode while your child uses it.
Keep a Safe Distance Between Your Child and the Device
House rules are somewhat easier to enforce when they are safety-related. TV’s still do emit enough radiation at a close distance that it is worth keeping your children and yourself at a fair distance (source).
Use cases or accessories that hold devices so your child’s body never needs to be in direct contact with them while they are in use. When it comes to EMF protection, going hands-free is an easy fix for a tablet (source).
My child even seems to enjoy hearing about the stricter rules in my day and how cushy her life is by comparison. She is fascinated that we had so little technology. (And a black and white TV!)
Choose Texting Over Calling
The electromagnetic fields involved in texting are brief and miniscule compared to talking with a phone on the side of your head. Encourage texting over gabbing. The California Department of Health says because the “brains and bodies of children and teens are still developing, the effects of EMF exposure may be more harmful and longer lasting.” (source)
However, make sure that texting isn’t 24/7 (which it can be for most kids). Set effective tech and screen time limits for your kids and stick with them.
Consider EMF Protection Shields
There are a number of choices for shielding from cases to clothing and bedding to wall paint. You may wind up feeling like you need a bio-electrical engineering degree to sort out the pros and cons of all the EMF protection options. But, what area of parenting has been easy so far?
Nourish with Real Foods
I think of too much screen time like I think about eating too much candy. The antidote is boosting other areas of health to keep things in balance. Healthy diet is my choice go-to for any unhealthy activity.
Make sure your child is eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables… particularly those associated with eye health (carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin) and those rich in iodine for thyroid protection (seaweed, lima beans, bananas).
Limit Screen Time
Mama needs time to get things done, and devices keep the kids engaged. But the last thing you want to encourage is technology addiction. Take a look at the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for screen time by age. And make sure you always have a number of fun ideas for screen-free time on hand for when your child inevitably announces, “I’m bored!”
Engage your child in some discussions about the possible negative outcomes of EMF exposure like long-term health effects and risk. Armed with the info, they may choose to use devices less or in different ways.
Related: How to Prevent Digital Eye Strain
Spend More Time Outside
Staring at screens (or anything) for a prolonged period is pretty unnatural for our eyes. When you take a walk outside, you might find yourself gazing at a flower close up or watching the sunset in the distance. Our eyes bounce back and forth and move around a lot. It is their natural form of exercise and keeps them strong and healthy (source).
We also tend to move more when we are outdoors… sunshine, air, the experience of variant temperatures… all healthy stuff. Life in balance.
Make Sure Your Child Gets Quality Sleep
Plentiful and dark sleep is one of the best ways to counteract exposure to screens during the day. Bedrooms should be free of devices during sleeping hours.
An extensive study on how EMF radiation affects the quality of our sleep found that the body senses EMF radiation very similar to how we perceive light (source). As our bodies sense this radiation, the pineal gland (the gland responsible for producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythm) slows down production (source).
Consider turning off your whole house wireless modem (manually or with an outlet timer) once everyone has gone to bed.
Take a Cue from the Amish
Okay, it’s probably not reasonable to only use tech at work but not at home. Or in the case of children who are not homeschooled – tech at school but not home.
However, at times I joke with my kid and say, “Today, we are living in the olden days. A child with a healthy imagination should be able to find some other ways to amuse and entertain herself.” And believe it or not, that sometimes works.
More Information on EMF Protection
And these articles are filled with ideas on getting kids outside more to offset the effects of EMF and technology: