Today, we are more attached to our smartphones than ever.
Like an addiction, many of us cannot resist the urge to check our screens and disconnect from the real world. About 95 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, according to the California Public Health Department (CPDH). That's a sharp uptick from 35 percent in 2011, reported by the Pew Research Center.
Pew researchers also found nearly 70 percent of Americans reported using social media compared to just five percent in 2005. In addition to always having their cell phone in hand, many people sleep next to their phone and even keep it in hand while using the restroom.
In about a decade, smartphones have become an intimate, almost necessary part of our daily lives.
But health officials are now warning smartphone users to keep a safe distance from their favorite gadget. The CPDH issued guidelines this week on how families and individuals can decrease their exposure to radio frequency energy transmitted through cell phone use.
"Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith in a press statement. "We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults."
The average age when children first get their first smartphone is now 10 years old, according to the CDPH.
"Children's brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use," said Smith. "Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night."
Here are some of the new guidelines highlighted by the CDPH:
- Keeping the phone away from the body
- Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak
- Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files
- Keeping the phone away from the bed at night
- Removing headsets when not on a call
- Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.