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Mom's cell phone use affects kid's behavior?

December 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
New research links cell phone use by a pregnant woman to bad behavioral problems by her children later in life. When Casey Freeman was pregnant with 19-month-old McKenzie, she was on her cell phone about four times a day.

"While I was nursing, [I was] talking to family, [I was] talking to friends and he came out pretty healthy," said Freeman.

But what will happen when he's older?

Danish researchers followed families from pregnancy to when kids were 6 or 7 years old. They found mothers who were on their cell phone a lot during pregnancy and after ended up with kids behaving badly. Scientists even controlled for variables such as smoking, education and income levels.

Yet, many parents have a hard time believing cell phones cause bad behavior in kids.

Authors of the study did try to explain there might be a biological reason, that somehow radiation from cell phones may affect the brain of an unborn child.

But behavior experts say the evidence is weak and that the cause of bad behavior is probably parental distraction.

"Cell phones are now a continuous part of our lives so that can really impact how much we can really pay attention to our kids," said Dr. Douglas Vanderbilt, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

He says the study is more about a parental bad behavior.

"The most important factor for kids is their availability, the parents' availability for their child and their attention. So it's important to read books, play with them and really attend to them in a meaningful way," said Dr. Vanderbilt.

He says kids will try to get a parent's attention if they think an adult is constantly on the phone.

"Parents are the most important thing for their kids' lives and being available to them is the bottom line," said Dr. Vanderbilt.

Again, the study was not a cause and effect study, it was based on a correlation. Since cell phone use has grown tremendously, it's a topic researchers plan on studying more heavily.


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