Raising Healthy Children in the Screen-Age

Let’s talk about the wired and hot topic at the moment, screen time! Rockmybaby® got answers to some of the tricky questions from the very knowledgeable Dr Mary Redmayne at a recent workshop we attended;

  • What is recommended for age groups?
  • What can we do as parents and caregivers, for children’s exposure to technology?
  • What are the effects?
  • How can we monitor the use of technology?

Dr Redmayne is an independent researcher, consultant, and an educator in environmental health (transmitting technology). She opened with the sobering question “What relationship do you have with your phone?”. If you’re honest, it’s probably an unhealthy relationship, one that you have become reliant on. So, what does this mean for our children, our next generation?

My mobile phone…to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death do us part…

Younger generations are becoming more exposed to technology, and as time goes on, the age of exposure is starting earlier and earlier. Those that are most exposed to these devices, are not fully informed. While the research is being conducted about the detrimental impact technology has on our health, it is important to create good user habits – this includes role modelling.

Let’s take a look back to 1879, when there were very few magnetoelectric fields. It was basically only natural exposure to magneto-electric fields, which included the sun and lightening. Our bodies have developed a need for the sun, vitamin D, which means it’s good for us!

Over time, we have increased our exposure through the immense amount of technology available to us. If you were able to see electromagnetic, it would be literally like being in smog, man-made smog! That is a pretty sobering statement when you consider your exposure, including: phones, laptops, watches, headphones, baby monitors, iPads, iPods, Kindles, the list goes on!

Cell phone emissions

Your phone is continually sending emissions, whether it is receiving or not. Simply being connected or wired in means that it is constantly transmitting. Interestingly, when your phone is in low reception areas, it is conducting more emissions as it’s working harder to find signals.


Using a radio and your cell phone, turn the radio to AM, with the volume up. Slowly bring the two devices together, you will literally be able to hear the transmissions between the two – it’s very frightening! (That’s without receiving or sending – the busier your phone, the higher the emissions become).


No! New Zealand’s exposure standard is not a legal procedure. It is our responsibility and obligation to protect ourselves, and more importantly, our children! It is up to us as adults, to teach the next generation technology safety. This should be taught and considered of extreme importance, as we do with sun safety and road safety. It needs to be brought into consideration when raising children, as there is growing evidence of the negative effects technology is having on not only children, but adults too!

Here are some implications that are currently being discovered:

  • Neurological
  • Fertility
  • Sensitivities
  • Brain tumors
  • Sperm and egg damage
  • Issues related to lack of fresh air, sunshine and exercise
  • Myopia (eye condition)
  • Postural and spine issues
  • Screen addiction
  • Increased bullying
  • Socially withdrawn
  • ‘Text neck’ (chronic neck pain and soreness)
  • Chronic upper back pain (stabbing pains)

Did you know, females are born with all of their eggs they will ever have? A simple way to protect fertility is not sitting a laptop on your lap, which is such a common position to engage with a laptop. The same protection applies to males for resting devices on their laps for sperm damage.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK? Children, the sick, the elderly

These three groups are the most at risk and vulnerable to absorbing emissions to their brains and bone marrow!


  • Keep technology as far away from your body as you can
  • Reduce cordless phone time/cellphone
  • Use speaker phone
  • Use a wired landline
  • No transmitting devices in bedrooms at night
  • Role model to your children (limit your own screen time)
  • If you have under 2 year olds, use screen time when they’re asleep (their recommendation time by NZ’s Ministry of Health is zero hours!)
  • Talk during TV watching, talk to your children about what they are viewing, help them understand what they’re viewing. Have an input into their understanding
  • Stop screen use an hour before bed time (stop stimulating the brain) – encourage reading a book before bed
  • Keep the screen further away from eyes
  • Look out of a window frequently to exercise the eye muscles
  • Teach children not to talk while on devices
  • Talk to your children!
  • At night: turn all devices off (including WiFi)
  • If you have to have your device on your body,ensure it is switched to flight mode or turned off
  • Baby monitors are one of the worst for transmitting, use other methods of checking on your baby.

“More connected = Less connection”Loneliness and screen addiction

“This system is better at hijacking your instincts than you are at controlling them. You’d have to exert an enormous amount of energy to control whether these things are manipulating you all the time. And so we have to ask: How do we reform this attention economy and the mass hijacking of our mind?” Tristan Harris

Dr Redmayne suggested the importance of creating contracts with your children around screen use. Get them involved in making the contract, if they are contributing to it, you are more likely to have a buy in.

Key things to have in your contract:

  • Password access
  • Be able to access their device at all times and check their device
  • If they break or damage their phone, it is replaced at their own cost
  • No mobile phones in bedrooms
  • Do not upload anything to social media you would not like your Grandma to see!
  • If you are being bullied, show your parents, don’t hide.

New Zealand Ministry of Health advice – screen time for age groups

  • UNDER 2 YEARS OLD – Zero screen time (no exceptions!)
  • 2 – 5 YEARS – Less than 1 hour
  • 6 – 18 YEARS – Less than 2 hours (non-school activities)

Problem substitution

  • Balance is urged
  • Teaching and modelling safe habits can start from birth
  • Technology can’t be eliminated, but we can put in safer measures, and reduce our exposure to ourselves and children.


“What memories will your children have of their childhood?”Mary Redmayne


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