As children settle into the school routine around Australia, for most kids that means a learning environment that is increasingly dominated by screens and smart technology.
Many high schools have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for laptops and tablets for use both in the classroom and at home for homework. Primary school-aged children are also increasingly using tablets for learning in the classroom and are often assigned screen-based homework.
On top of this time spent on screens for learning, most children will have a mobile phone by the time they start high school and many will indulge in a little extra play time on screens at the end of the day.
This increased use of smart devices and screens means increased exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted from smart, wireless technology, as well as increased exposure to artificial blue light emitted from screens. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have shown a wide range of adverse health effects from EMR, as well as issues such as digital eye strain, premature macular degeneration, disruption to natural circadian rhythms and sleep problems from prolonged exposure to artificial blue light.
Here are our top five tips to reduce EMR and blue light exposure to help keep your whole family protected.
- Keep your distance: electromagnetic radiation abides by the inverse square law of physics; every time you double your distance from an EMR emitting device, you quarter your EMR exposure. Teach children to keep their mobile phones, laptops, Bluetooth speakers and all EMR-emitting devices away from their head and body as much as possible
- Use airplane mode: when connectivity is not needed, ensure the device is placed on airplane mode with WiFi turned off. Many apps and pre-downloaded games will still work with the device in airplane mode setting and it cuts the EMR exposure down to almost zero
- Give their eyes a rest: use a blue light screen filter or blue light glasses to protect their eyes when using a screen to significantly reduce the amount of artificial blue light. Teach kids the 20/20/20 rule to help combat digital eye strain; every 20 minutes look away from the screen at something 20 feet (6 metres) away for at least 20 seconds
- Make bedrooms a tech-free zone: set a time each night when all devices are taken out of the bedroom. This will help to reduce their exposure to EMR during the night and also help to safeguard their sleep. Artificial blue light at night can trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime and can suppress the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. It is recommended to remove all blue light sources at least one hour before sleep time.
- Limit screen-time: easier said than done we know, but teaching kids how smart technology works, and the pros and cons of using smart devices is really important. Our children will be the first generation to have lifelong exposure to electromagnetic radiation and they are much more susceptible to the exposure effects. Teaching them safe tech habits and to use devices in moderation is important for their physical and mental health and well-being.
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