Giving cellphones to babies


MOBILE phones or cellphones, whatever you choose to call them, it makes no difference to the fact that they are all the rage right now and even the poorest of people tend to have one; in some cases, even the latest or more expensive models. People spend hours per day consulting their phones; they whip them out to look at them, through habit rather than necessity. They spend hours swiping through them as an everyday pastime and let’s face it, phones have more or less become an integral part of most of our lives, especially for the younger generation.

Babies are smart, they are picking up on how often adults use their phones. They can see the role that phones play in our lives, so they want to imitate their parents and inadvertently, their parents comply.  It is hardly surprising then that one of the latest trends that parents are using to keep their toddlers quiet is rapidly becoming the mobile phone.

Toddlers are swiping and playing games on their parents’ phones–while their parents queue in the supermarket, or sit in waiting rooms or health facilities–as a source of entertainment. This disengages parents from their children while the child becomes mesmerised by things on a screen that captivate his or her undeveloped mind.

Most parents are not aware that this exposure can be harmful to their babies. There has been some concern over the neurological effects and the developmental disability effects that cellphones can have on babies due to their thin skulls and their still rapidly developing brains. Experts worry that the thinness of babies’ skulls might make their brains more susceptible to the radiation emitted by cellphones, if they play with them regularly.

Apart from the fact that giving books to babies will always be a more viable asset to their development than handing them cellphones, hardly any human attribute can be experienced through an inanimate object such as a cellphone. Books are a good way of spending quality time with babies; reading to babies encourages bonding, closeness and gives a child a sense of security, love, confidence and self-assurance.

The objective of cellphones no doubt is to make our lives easier, but that does not mean parents should neglect their ‘duty of care’ towards their infants and give them a device as a distraction. During the early years (0-3 years old), positive parental inputs are crucial to building a solid foundation for children. Therefore, parents should be engaging with their infants in a communicative, caring, encouraging and loving way, instead of palming them off with a cellphone or any other similar electronic device.

Parents should be aware of the fact that research into cellphone radiation effects on children is on-going. Because children are at a stage where their bodies are growing and changing all the time the effects will be different from that of adults. Children under the age of 16 have yet to develop the correct bone density and protective tissue for the brain. This makes them vulnerable to the effects of cell- phone radiation.

Cellphones are still a fairly new phenomenon in our society; yet we rely on them and seem lost without them or panic if we forget them at home. But while we adults are grown and able to hold our own, we must protect our children from elements that can be detrimental to their future health and well-being. We must allow them to grow naturally and expose them to positive and beneficial experiences that will enhance their lives and potential outlook.

The World Health Organisation recommends that children below the age of two should not be allowed to sit and watch television or any other type of screen activity (e.g. video games, cartoons). From the age of two to four years old, one hour per day or less is suggested. It is more than likely that many babies and children are already spending far too much time in front of one type of screen or another, rather than experiencing wholesome, regular interaction with their parents or caregivers.

Parents must connect with their children and stay connected. They must use opportunities to nurture their infants throughout their early years, their primary years, during their adolescence and even beyond. They are our children and we must protect them.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at