Cell Phone Radiation – 5 Ways to Minimize It Now

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:26 am

A May 2011 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 on cell phone radiation. 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 cell phone radiation levels for each 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.


Editor’s Note:  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) mentioned in this post has also reported on its website about recent changes to the FCC’s online consumer advice about cell phone safety, that soften the advisory.  These changes make US guidelines weaker than guidelines in other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland.  Clearly there is ongoing debate and controversy about health risks posed by cell phones, but it seems the issue bears continued assessment and monitoring.  We hope these resources help families better make their own decisions  for the health and safety of their children.

*The EWG is a non-profit organization established in 1993 that conducts research, circulates information and lobbies government to protect public health and the environment.

Helping Your Child in Emotional Pain – It’s Not So Easy

Last updated on October 11th, 2017 at 09:56 pm

A number of the “11 Action Signs” published recently by the Mayo Clinic to help parents, caregivers and health care professionals better recognize when a child may be suffering from a behavioral or emotional disorder (see the November 3rd post by Stefanie Zucker) were very familiar to me.

We witnessed some of these in our son when he was 6-7 years old: crying on the way to school and faking illness to stay home (he put a thermometer up to a light bulb to fake a fever!); often being very difficult and argumentative – then collapsing into meltdowns; sitting in a corner behind the sofa hugging his knees and rocking; saying things such as, “I’m not like other kids.”

It was so difficult to witness our son going through this kind of emotional pain. Eventually we determined that he was VERY unhappy at his school – due to some bullying, and overall dysfunction in his class and the school generally. However, it wasn’t so easy to figure out that there was something really negative going on at school – and that his emotional state was being seriously compromised as a result. He didn’t share what went on during his day, even when I asked – a typical boy! And the changes in his behavior came on slowly, in fits and starts. It was also hard to compare current to past behavior because kids keep growing and changing – not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. What constitutes “normal” at any given point? This is especially challenging because, as the Mayo Clinic report points out, most kids exhibit these behaviors at some point.

But the challenges do not stop at identification. What do you do when you begin to recognize the signs that your child is in emotional pain? Do you try talking to him – or involve a trusted family friend with whom he might be more open? Do you talk to his teacher? What if the teacher isn’t trained on these dimensions and insinuates that your child has a character flaw or that his behavior must be due to issues at home? Does it occur to you to contact his pediatrician or a child psychologist (do you even have one on hand)? Or do you – or your spouse – worry about stigma or that it might be overkill to involve a medical professional?

I experienced all of these situations. When I confided in another mother from school that our son was very unhappy and wanted to change schools, she asked if we would really let him push such a decision – and that from a primary care doctor with 2 kids! All these experiences and uncertainties can undermine your confidence in the right path of action.

In the end we had TWO medical professionals recommend his immediate removal from his current school. Fast forward 2 years – and an entirely different (and wonderful!) school – and life is altogether different. Or back to an earlier state we had forgotten about. After just two months in the new school, he was so much happier and better behaved – and back to singing and dancing around the house as he did things. We even remembered that we used to call him “Tigger” – because of the way he bounced around everywhere, full of infectious energy and enthusiasm.

Throughout this process I tried hard to show my son how special and loved he was. I had many long talks with him to try to help him cope with whatever was going on. When he said he was different and kids didn’t like him – one day solemnly proclaiming: “I’m the least popular kid in my class and the third least-popular kid in the school” – I told him to remember that everyone was different and worthy – and that “no kid fits everywhere, but EVERYONE fits somewhere.” And at Christmas two years ago – when everything was coming to a head – “Santa” wrote him an encouraging letter and gave him a plaque – that hangs proudly right over his bed:

On Thanksgiving, we at Pediatric Safety are VERY thankful…

Last updated on December 18th, 2017 at 08:13 pm

As I consider what I am thankful for this holiday season I realize that some things do not change: I am always thankful for my son. Even if there are frequent hassles and meltdowns, he has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Despite the chewed fence and dug-up lawn, I am also thankful for our dogs, whose unwavering doggy love can make the worst day feel better.

As I danced to Bollywood Bhangra music this past Saturday at a friend’s 40th celebration, I was thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had to live and work abroad; to be exposed to all the color and diversity of this crazy world. I am very thankful for my friends, both near and far, with whom I never tire of sharing, and whose support sustains me through work, life and parenting challenges. But I am also thankful for the societies I have had the good fortune to live and raise my son in. With all the issues we face, we often forget the many rights and benefits we enjoy in the rich-world countries.

As I look back at this year of transition, I am thankful for the courage to take a break from work and explore new paths when I needed to – and for the resources and support of my husband to do so, at least for a while!

Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with the PedSafe audience. Thank you for reading and for your many valuable comments. We appreciate your support.

…Audra Baumgartner

As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but think about this past year and all the changes in my life that I am grateful for. Not that this was an easy year…it wasn’t for me and I know it wasn’t for many of you who’ve also been affected by the downturn in our economy. Still – as I move forward towards 2012 I am hopeful and I find that I truly am grateful:

To have found a wonderful man that I love– someone who “gets me”… who puts my needs ahead of his own…who can cook with me in the kitchen…and will clean up when I am dead tired. For him I am truly grateful…

To have found a close friendship that I thought had been lost forever. Someone who treated the last 5 years of silence as if it had only been 5 days… who joined me at Pediatric Safety to help make this community something really special…and who picked me up and offered me unconditional support when I was at my lowest. For her I am truly grateful…

To have a healthy family – of course there are the usual colds, sinus infections, stomach aches, headaches (aches in general) – but that’s life. No one has anything incurable or life-altering. For that I am also grateful…

Finally, to have found all of you who believe in and support our goals here at Pediatric Safety…who read us day in and day out and believe that where ANY child is concerned, “one ouch is too many.” For you I am eternally grateful!

…Stefanie Zucker

From all of us here at Pediatric Safety,
have a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Help! My Six-year-old Son is Lying to Avoid School

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:26 am

You must address lying behavior assertively because this is a habit that can become serious. Tell your son the story about the boy who cried wolf and explain how lying undermines trust in relationships.

Encourage him to share the reason why he is trying to avoid school and his feelings in general. Work with his teacher on the underlying reasons and help him develop more effective social and emotional skills for handling stressful situations.

If he has developed chronic physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches, consult your pediatrician as well. Never let him stay home unless he has observable medical symptoms. If he does, require him to rest and skip all activities, making sure that it is not a rewarding experience to stay home. Six-year-old boys should prefer to be with their friends at school!

Teach Gratitude & Give Your Child a Healthier, Happier Life

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:57 am

Research shows us that adults who are grateful report having more energy, fewer health problems, and a greater feeling of well-being than those who complain. Most studies show that the more gratitude we show the healthier and happier we are.

The same goes for children. Children who express gratitude are more appreciative, more empathetic, kinder, more enthusiastic and generally happier. Grateful children look outside themselves and understand that others have needs too. They are more polite, usually better behaved and generally more pleasant to be around.

Kids who are not taught gratitude are forever disappointed and fight feelings of entitlement. They struggle with feelings that nothing will ever be good enough for them.

As parents, “Teaching our Children Gratitude” should be at the top of our to-do list. It doesn’t come naturally to our children. It is learned. Who better to teach, than us?

The first thing we might need to do is stop doing some of the things that parents have been doing for years. Avoid pointing out to our children that they are more blessed than others. That doesn’t teach them to be grateful. When it comes to meals, don’t tell them “you should be grateful for your food and eat it, kids in other countries are starving”. This won’t work either.


We need to model gratitude ourselves. We must live lives of gratitude if we want our children to really learn to be grateful. That means they need to see us take care of others, including our spouse, write thank you notes, say “please” and “thank you” and show empathy. That means we need to complain less, criticize less, and strive to point out the positives, not the negative, in situations, and in people. This includes our children and spouses. We need to refrain from complaining about our children (and spouses), instead tell them how grateful we are for them. We need to show gratitude for adversity too. Remember, children will, for the most part, do what their parents do. That is why gratitude has to start with parents, in our homes.

Provide your family opportunities to take care of others. Start by encouraging your children to take care of other family members, and then help them find ways to actively take care of others outside the family. Let them help you as you take care of others. They will learn by example. The goal is to give them “grateful eyes”, so they begin to foresee the need before they have to be told.

Give your children responsibility. We are always more grateful for things when we have to do them ourselves. The same applies to children. Give them appropriate responsibilities. They will realize the effort and energy it takes to accomplish them, and become more grateful for the people around them that do things for them. (Like their mom and dad.)

Teach your children to write Thank you Notes. Insist that this be done. Teach them that it is part of life. Organize a thank you note station in your home that is always stocked with papers, envelopes, stamps and crayons, etc. (Let your children see you sitting there often also). Start when they are very small by having them draw “thank you pictures” and then you write the words to go with it. Then move on to notes that have most of the words filled in. Have children write what it is they are thankful for and sign their name. By the age of 7 or 8, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to write the entire notes themselves. Don’t worry about perfection. Worry that they are remembering to do it. And doing it.

Teach your children to be grateful for adversity. When things are hard, or uncertain, or don’t go as planned, we need to teach our children to be grateful. To recognize the blessings that comes from hard things. We don’t want to teach, “we are luckier, or better than someone else”. Instead help children see what can be learned, and how we can take what we learn into other situations to help others and ourselves.

Say “No”. Our children don’t need everything they ask for. It is important for us to be reasonable and say “No”. We also have to be careful rewarding our children for everything. We want them to do good because it is the right thing to do, and not because they get something, like a new toy or money.

Role Play. Practice saying “please” and “thank you” with your children. Role play situations (grandma gives you a new toy, or someone pays you a compliment). During the role play, talk about how others feel when we show them gratitude. Remember, children aren’t thinking about everyone else. They are thinking about themselves, so we have to teach them.

Point out the simple things. Teach children to be grateful for the creations around them, the seasons, the sunshine, the falling leaves and the rain. Children will quickly understand that there is beauty all around, and that it has come from something much bigger than we are. Celebrate creations. Jump in the leaves, splash in the puddles, and feel the sun on our skin.

With Thanksgiving on our minds, it is a great time to encourage gratitude in our children.

By starting new traditions now, we can hope to encourage gratitude year round. Here are some simply Thanksgiving Traditions that can help our families “think grateful”.

Make a Gratitude Chain

Cut long strips of paper in different colors. Each day have family members, or help little family members, write down something they are thankful for. Take your stapler or tape and hook the strips together to form a chain. Hang it where the family can see it everyday and watch it grow. On Thanksgiving have each person read what they have written throughout the month.

Fill a Gratitude Jar

Any jar will work. Cut up strips of paper and round up some pens and crayons. Put the jar in an obvious place in your home. Everyday until Thanksgiving, have everyone in the family write or draw a picture of something they are thankful for that day and drop it in the jar. Help small children. On Thanksgiving day, pull all the strips out and read them as a family. Talk about how it felt to show increased gratitude all month long.

Have Grateful Hands

Once a week, throughout the month of November, trace the hand of everyone in the family. Sit down every Monday and write down 5 things you have each been thankful for that week. We like to write one in each of the fingers, like feathers. Tape the hands to your kitchen wall throughout the month so everyone can see them. Use the hands as a centerpiece for your Turkey Table. You could even laminate them after the holiday and post all the old ones each year as your children grow. They will love seeing how their hands, and their gratitude has grown.

Gratitude Tree

Head outside and find a few sticks and twigs. Put them in a jar and cover them with some rocks to hold them in place to make your own “tree”. Cut a bunch of leaves out of “fall colored” paper ( or just use tags, or small slips of paper). We have even used real leaves. As you write down what you are thankful for on your leaves, tape them, or tie them to your tree. Use your gratitude tree as your dinner centerpiece on Thanksgiving day

Thankful Tablecloth (My Favorite)

Find a big tablecloth. Or make one the size of your table. You will want a material that has a tight weave and that is smooth. On Thanksgiving Day, trace each person’s hand on the table cloth and write in the middle of the hand something they are thankful for and the year. Fabric markers work best. Each year, on the same cloth, enact the same ritual. Your family will love not only seeing how their hands have grown, but they will love to see what they were thankful for in the past.

Once thanksgiving is over, don’t let the gratitude stop.

  • Each night over dinner, have family members express three things they are thankful for that day.
  • Encourage your kids to keep a gratitude journal. Help them write down one thing they are thankful for each week. Or, have little ones draw pictures of things they are grateful for. Encourage them to move up to every night.
  • Clear a “grateful space” on your fridge. Throughout the year, post anything your family members are thankful for. Encourage family members to contribute. It can become an everyday reminder of the people and blessings your family is thankful for.

Above all things, start by focusing on our own behavior. This in and of itself will help model and teach our children gratitude.

Three Strategies for Protecting Kids from Sexual Predators

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:27 am

The Penn State Football child abuse scandal in the US is a classic case of someone misusing his position of trust and power to abuse and coerce kids and of adults in responsible positions not taking action to stop him. Parents are left wondering, ““What do I need to look out for? How can I protect my kids? What can I teach them about protecting themselves?”

In Kidpower’s experience working with over 2 million people of all ages and abilities since 1989, here are three strategies that might been able to prevent the terrible wrong done to these children and helped to bring this man’s abusive behavior to light much sooner

1. Make sure you know who is in charge of your kids.
Remember that anyone can be an abuser. As parents and other caring adults, we need to face the reality is that there are sexual predators who will create opportunities to be alone with kids by doing wonderful things with and for them. And, most of these offenders will seem like really nice people with excellent reputations. When people ask me to tell them what a child molester might look like, I say, “Look in the mirror – a molester looks just like anyone else!”

Most adults who choose to do great things with kids are good people who truly want to help. A coach, a youth group leader, a Big Brother/Big Sister, a religious leader, and a child therapist can all have relationships with children and teens in the context of their paid or volunteer role, and these relationships can be tremendously important to a young person. However, the vulnerability of young people to anyone put into these positions of trust is why more attention needs to be paid to screening these individuals and to following up thoroughly on any hint of a problem.

Don’t just trust someone because they are part of a reputable institution, church, or school. Check the person out for yourself, especially if he or she is going to be alone with your child. Check references. Don’t assume that someone will tell you if something bad happens. Trust your intuition if something feels uncomfortable to you. Watch out for someone who seems to single out certain kids for special attention and private relationships, who seeks social and recreational opportunities to be alone with kids without other adults there, or who is not open to parents and other responsible adults being fully informed about and comfortable with what is going on. When in doubt, check it out!

2. Teach kids not to keep secrets about problems, touch, presents, or favors.
Most abusers cultivate strong relationships with children before doing anything sexual. Often, they test a child’s boundaries by being inappropriate in other ways. In the chilling book, Conversations with a Pedophile, the abuser, who was interviewed by the author while in prison, describes how he would use a swear word to a boy in a church youth group and then say something like, “Oops! I just said a bad word. Please don’t tell your parents, because then we couldn’t have fun together any more.” He would then target boys who he was confident wouldn’t tell.

This pedophile’s strong advice to parents about protecting their kids from people like him was,“Listen to your kids!” Get kids into the habit of talking to you by asking supportive questions, being a good listener, and not lecturing. Pay attention to what they say. Let kids know that you care about what they are doing and want to know what is happening with them no matter how busy you are. Be very clear that problems, touch, presents, favors, privileges, and games should not be a secret. Teach young people how to set boundaries with people they know and care about.

What safe looks like...

3. Put Safety First!
Kidpower’s core principle is: The safety and self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense. Any of the many adults who witnessed or learned of Sandusky’s behavior might have prevented years of abuse and other victims if they had reported what happened to the police. The damage to Penn State’s reputation would have been far less than the damage that is being caused now.

If you suspect that there is a safety problem, especially involving children, take personal responsibility for doing something to address it. This means speaking up persistently and widely until effective action is taken to fix that problem. Don’t just tell someone, even if that person is in a position of authority, and assume that your responsibility is at an end. Follow up to see what is happening. Realize that children and young people who are being abused need help and protection – and that anyone who is abusing them needs to be stopped.

The Kidpower article Worthy of Trust: What Organizations Need to Do to Protect Children From Harm describes what people need to do to take charge of the safety of young people in their care.

To learn more about how to protect kids from sexual abuse, see our Child Abuse Prevention Resource Page.