But, Dad, Everyone Else Has One…

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been debating this for some time but have yet to agree: When should we let our 10-year old daughter have a cell phone? She says all of her friends have one and, as far as I can tell, she’s right. I don’t feel that she needs one, nor do I think she’s old enough for a $400 piece of equipment. My wife disagrees and says our daughter needs a phone for safety. I’ve been holding my ground, but the pressure from wife and daughter is getting unbearable. What do we do?

A: Let’s start with a reality check. I’m betting that, despite what you’ve seen, not all of your daughter’s friends actually do have a phone. According to a recent study by the National Consumers League, only 56% of 8-12-year olds (“only” is a relative term).That said, as the dad of a 10-year old daughter, I feel you. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all, black-and-white solution. Cost definitely figures in somewhere, but it’s mostly about maturity. Some 9-year olds might be able to handle the responsibilities of having a phone while some 14-year olds might not be.
[Read more...]

Beam Me Up, Scotty—Or is That Too Dangerous?

Dear Readers: A few weeks ago I devoted a column to the issue of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by cell phones and other electronic devices that many people worry are causing an increase in a variety of cancers as well as a host of other health risks. That column generated a huge response from readers. Some of you were thrilled to see your fears validated in print. Many others, though, took issue with the claims of the two book authors I’d quoted. Being a big believer in intellectual honesty, I decided to dig a little deeper into the “other side” of the story. Here’s what I found:
[Read more...]

Put Down That Phone and Back Away Real Slowly

Dear Mr. Dad: This may sound paranoid, but all of a sudden I’m getting worried about electricity. My wife, three kids—ages 9-16—and I have smartphones. We’ve also got laptops, a wireless router, wireless phones, Bluetooth headsets, remotes, printers, satellite TV, Wii, Kindles, and about 25 other electronic gadgets spread out all over the house. I’m can’t believe that we aren’t being damaged in some way. Am I crazy?

A: Okay, have you been hacking my email? I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the same thing—and I have a feeling there are a lot more like us out there. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I received two books in the mail—both painting a very ugly picture of electronic pollution. I’ve barely been able to sleep since.
In “Disconnect,” scientist Devra Davis focuses on cell phone radiation and what she believes (and shows pretty convincingly) the industry has done bury the bad news. Health writer Ann Louise Gittleman, author of “Zapped,” also tackles cell phones, but she goes even further, pointing out that potentially dangerous electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are and lurking in places we’d never suspect: wall outlets, electric blankets, dimmer switches, hair dryers, iPod docking stations, refrigerators, electric razors, digital cameras, and even those electronic collars dogs wear that let them through their doggy doors.
[Read more...]

Does your child really need a cell phone?

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter turns ten next week and has made it known that she expects, needs, yearns for, and won’t be able to live without a cell phone. “Everybody has one,” she says. Is she too young? I’m not even sure I know what the issues are, but it seems like opening a huge can of worms.

A: When I was a kid, the rules about cell phones were simple. Oh wait, we didn’t have cell phones at all, which explains why you’re not up on the issues. So let’s start with a few advantages.

  • Cell phones allow you and your kids to stay in touch. The additional safety and security that this provides is—at least from your perspective—the greatest benefit. Your daughter can call if she needs you, and you can call her if you need to know where she is and what she’s doing.
  • Many parents (mostly those with children older than your daughter) use cell phones as a small-scale introduction to adult responsibilities—everything from paying the bill and staying within monthly minutes to keeping it charged.

At the same time, there are some potential downsides. Whether they outweigh the benefits is your call.

[Read more...]