Earth Matters: COVID 19: Using tech safely while staying home


COVID 19 is changing our lives in many ways. We are spending most of our time inside our homes, forgoing dinners out and social gatherings, sports practices, yoga classes and weekends away.

Parents are homeschooling their children with on-line lessons and conducting business via the internet to the outside world. Mental health professionals are encouraging people to stay connected with family and friends through our phones or computers to ease isolation. And to pass time and keep our children from boredom or fighting, we are streaming lots of movies from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

While all this time spent on our devices absolutely helps to keep us functioning with some sense of normalcy in this unprecedented time, it is also exposing us to many more hours in front of computer screens.

And for most families, this means that we are also exposing ourselves to many more hours of radiofrequency (RF) radiation.

Last week, environmental health organizations from around the world reached out to parents regarding children’s digital educational environments, urging them to use wired connections to the internet and adopt best practices to avoid high exposures to RF radiation during this pandemic.

A press release from the National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy warned the public about the increased time spent on wireless devices and cited the growing body of independent science that documents the potential health effects from long-term exposure to the radiation emitted from wireless devices.

Among the institutions, it quoted was The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has published guidelines suggesting ways to limit the amount of RF radiation exposure to children. The guidelines can be found in a simple fact sheet on the AAP website.

The AAP is, in fact, strongly opposed to the current exposure guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission, primarily because the guidelines are almost 25 years old, making them irrelevant for today’s level of exposure, and do not take into consideration the large and growing body of science showing biological harm from RF radiation, especially for children.

Since children are uniquely vulnerable to all environmental exposures because of their still-developing physiology and typical behavior patterns, here are some precautions you can take and make your home tech-safe for your kids:

• Distance is your friend – Keep cell phones out of pockets (off your body) and do not hold them directly against your head. This warning can be found in the legal section of phone manuals provided by the manufacturers themselves.

Instead, use an air-tube headset or the speaker setting on your phone to keep a safer distance from the radiation-producing antennas embedded in your phone. When not in use, always place your phone on “airplane” mode.

• Wired connections to the internet are best – We are so used to wireless, that some of us have forgotten how reliable (not to mention, safer and more secure) an Ethernet connection to the internet is. There are many easy ways to connect with wires and adapters are available for devices that no longer have Ethernet connections.

• Turn off wireless devices at night – Turn off your router when you go to bed and don’t keep your phone, tablet or computer on a bedside table. This is very important for teens who often keep their phones close by at all times, even under their pillows while they are sleeping. Routers should be placed in rooms that are the least utilized and never in a bedroom. Choose baby monitors that plugin, as wireless models produce high levels of RF radiation.

• Using phones at home – Landline corded phones are completely safe and should be used for conversations when you are home. Cordless phones or DECT phones produce essentially the same amount of radiation as cell phones and the charging base emits radiation as well. And you can always forward your cell phone calls to your landline number.

• Online learning, videos, games – Streaming videos and playing games online result in near-constant RF radiation exposure. When possible, download and then engage with your device in “airplane” mode. Download your e-mail and then disconnect, allowing you to read and respond without being exposed. Students should use their computers, not phones, for reading and researching on-line.

• Position of wireless devices – Make sure that your child does not put a laptop computer on their lap! Computers and tablets should always be placed on a hard surface with the user in a chair that provides appropriate height and distance from the device.
• Lighting – If using the computer at night, another light should be located on the side of the screen (not behind the screen and not coming from behind the user).

The brightness of the source should approximately correspond to the brightness of the screen. All screens are illuminated with LEDs – this source of light produces a whiter and “colder” blue light which can harm the retina of the eye and inhibit melatonin production, which is essential to many body functions. Newer devices have a built-in color control to address this problem, but If you have an older device, you can download a free app that will turn the screen a warmer color. Go to
• Avoid Bluetooth and Earbuds – although these devices are attractive for ease of use, they put RF radiation very close to the ears in close proximity to the body and brain.

Their emissions are lower, but users tend to use them for long periods of time, increasing the risk of health impacts.

Technology is great and it’s keeping us connected to the world. Let’s just be sure it’s not harming our health at the same time.


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