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A World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer report suggested a correlation between radiation-emitting radio frequency waves of cell phones and malignant brain tumors. But just two months later, researchers in Switzerland found no such link -- they also reported in the same well-known journal that, contrary to prior reports, children who use cell phones are at no significantly greater risk for brain cancer than those who don't. Say what?
It may take years for researchers to come to a definitive conclusion. But here's what we do know: According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of teens own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Cell phones emit radiation. The human brain doesn't fully develop until we're in our 20s. And children's skulls and scalps are thinner than adults'.
In light of these facts, here are the best ways for you and your kids to talk and text on the side of caution:
1. Find out how just much radiation your family's cell phones emit.
Go to the Environmental Working Group's online guide to find radiation levels for each cell phone model in your household.
2. Type, don't talk.
Our cell phones emit radiation whenever we talk, leave voicemails -- and yes, even text. Still, some researchers say that giving potential carcinogens ready access to our domes might be more harmful than when we just text (and hold the phone away from our bodies). So if your kid is sending hundreds of texts a day, don't get angry. She might be doing the right thing -- health-wise at least.
3. Don't chat through weak signals.
Battling a weak signal? Don't. Studies have shown that our cell phones emit more radiation when they're struggling to transmit a signal to a tower. Instead of straining to put together sentences out of fragments and half words, put the convo to rest and try again when your reception works.
4. Invest in a radiation-slaying gadget.
There are several gizmos designed to stick onto a cell phone to reduce radiation. The jury's still out on whether all of them are effective, but what has yielded credibility in the scientific community are headsets, since they create some distance between the cell phone and the user's head. Some headset-makers have even concocted radiation-reducing sets, which carry sound through a tube, not through wiring.
5. Delay buying your kid a cell phone.
No matter how thick-headed your kids act, their brain and skull is thinner than yours. Some researchers think this allows for radiation to penetrate deeper into a child's brain. Is that for certain? Only time and more research will tell. For now, think about all the facts about radiation before green-lighting that cell phone for your 5-year-old.