Excessive mobile phone usage affects memory of teens

Teens who talk excessively on the mobile phone and hold their phones close up to their right ear, score poorly in some memory tests, says a study (July) conducted by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland.
The results suggest that memory impairment might be a side-effect of radiation from overuse of mobile phones. Nearly 700 Swiss teens took part in a test of figural memory, which helps one recall abstract symbols and shapes. They participated in this memory test twice, one year apart.

The researchers also surveyed teens on mobile phone usage. The researchers found that those who held their phone close to the right ear were exposed to higher levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) and scored worse after a year.

“Potential risks to the brain can be minimised by using headphones or the speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power,” says Martin Roosli, head of environmental exposures and health at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

Spending time online increases junk food consumption

Young children who spent more than 30 minutes a day on the Internet are twice as likely to pester their parents for junk food, says a recent study conducted by the University of Liverpool and Cancer Research UK. Researchers questioned 2,500 seven to eleven-year-olds and their parents across the UK about their eating and screen time habits. The survey indicates that primary school children who spend more than three hours online are more than four times likely to spend their pocket money on chocolate, chips, sugary drinks, and takeaways than their peers who browse for less than half an hour. These children were also 79 percent more likely to be overweight.

The study found that, on average, children spent 16 hours a week online and watched 22 hours of television per week. Dr Jyotsna Vohra, head of cancer policy research, Cancer Research UK, says the study reveals a strong association between diet and advertising of junk food on television and the Internet. “It’s vital we see a 9 pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV and similar protection for children viewing adverts on-demand and online,” she says.

Breastfeeding improves cognitive skills

A new study conducted by Queen’s University, Belfast, in collaboration with University College Dublin, University College London and Cass Business School, UK shows that breastfeeding infants is likely to enhance their cognitive and memorisation skills. The study, which began in 1958, tracked approximately 9,000 participants from birth to age 50. Researchers found that infants who were breastfed for one month or more scored higher on memory tests in adulthood than those who were not breastfed. Breastfed children also recorded 10 percent higher household income.
According to Dr. Mark McGovern, lead researcher and lecturer in economics at Queen’s Management School, Belfast, these findings are important as they show a direct correlation between infancy and memory and later economic development. “Promotional campaigns have highlighted the health benefits of breastfeeding in recent years. However, our research shows that in addition to those benefits, breastfeeding may also have a significant economic impact throughout the life cycle,” says McGovern.

Corporal punishment ban reduces teen violence

Adolescents are less likely to get into fist fights when they live in countries where it’s illegal for parents to spank children as punishment for bad behaviour, reveals an international study published in the British Medical Journal (September). The study which surveyed 403,000 adolescents in 88 countries found that incidence of physical fighting was 42 percent lower among teenage girls and 69 percent among boys in countries that have banned corporal punishment at home and school than in nations without such prohibitions.

“Societies that have these bans in place seem to be safer places for kids to grow up in,” says lead study author Frank Elgar, associate professor in the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University, Montreal which conducted the study.

The results of the study suggest that countries which discourage corporal punishment positively influence teens’ attitudes towards violence. Thirty countries have implemented a full ban on corporal punishment in school and homes; 38 had prohibited it in only schools; and 20 haven’t banned it at all.

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