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OPINION

Beware of the impact of mobile technology on our children

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Children are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of the environment around them, including all types of radiations generated by mobile phones, iPads, tablets, smart phones and all other kinds of wireless devices.

In new era, technology is being adopted by children at younger ages than ever before. There are different types of radiations generated by mobile phones and wireless devices, microwave radiations, ionizing and non-ionizing radiations. Ionizing radiation for example x-rays, radon, ultra violet rays in sunlight all are high frequency, and high energy. Non-ionizing is low frequency and low energy radiation. Cell phones have non-ionizing radiation. Mobile phones send radio frequency waves from its transmitting unit or antenna to nearby cell towers. When we make or receive a call, text, or use data, our phone receives radio frequency waves to its antenna from cell towers.

The potential harm from microwave radiations given off by cell phones and other wireless devices, particularly for children and unborn babies. Many researches proved that, children and unborn babies do face a greater risk for bodily damage that results from microwave radiations given off by wireless devices. The rate of microwave radiations absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. Fetuses are particularly more vulnerable, because microwave radiations exposure can lead to degeneration of the protective sheath that surrounds brain neurons.

According to a recent research the brain tissue of children absorbed about two times more microwave radiations than that of adults, and other studies have reported that the bone marrow of children absorbs 10 times more microwave radiations than that of adults. Belgium, France, Germany, and other technologically sophisticated governments are passing laws or issuing warnings about children’s use of wireless devices. They also legislated that smartphone makers specify the minimum distance from the body that their products must be kept so that legal limits for exposure to microwave radiations aren’t exceeded. For iPads, laptop computers and tablets the minimum distance from the device to body is 20 cm (about 8 inches).

There are many potential health risks to mental and physical well-being related to overuse of cell phones, especially low IQ & improper mental growth in children, sleep deprivation, brain tumors and psychiatric diseases are hot-button issues. I admit still studies related to radiations generated by mobile phones have been inconsistent and results have been conflicting. These wireless devices are now part of our everyday life, but they can be used in a manner that is safe enough, the most important point is the distance, holding a cell phone few inches away from our ear “provides a thousand times reduction in risk. Unless a cell phone is turned off, it is always radiating, so when not in use, it should not be kept on the body. The best place to keep a cell phone is somewhere like a pouch, purse, bag, or backpack. These devices should be kept away from a pregnant woman’s abdomen, and a mother should not use a cell phone while breastfeeding and nursing, and baby monitors should not be placed in an infant’s crib. Children and teen agers need to know how to use mobile phones and wireless devices safely. Cell phones should not be permitted in children’s bedroom at all.

Can cell phones cause cancer? In fact, there are solid grounds to believe it really is so. The cause for that is radiofrequency of electromagnetic fields given off by wireless and mobile devices. They have an adverse effect on our body, special on growing skulls of kids, toddlers and teenagers, so it can trigger the development of brain cancer in the future. According to a recent research conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, excessive use of mobile phones may lead to the formation of such brain tumors as glioma and acoustic neuroma. First and foremost, this is an issue for those adults and children who are virtually glued to their cell phones.

The pew research center has reported, that 75% of preteens and early teens keep all day their cell phones in their front pant pockets, which is way harmful for their reproductive health. Boys should not keep their cell phone in their front pants pockets. There is a potential harm to sperms, and girls should not place their cell phone in their bras. This recommendation was based on case study of 4 young women with a history of keeping their cell phones in or near their bras, and who developed breast cancer. It’s obvious, that more radiations are absorbed with more hours of use, so children should be taught to use their mobile phone as little as possible. Landlines, skype, and computer phone services, when connected to the internet with a cable, don’t give off radiations, so parents should encourage their kids to use those. Moreover, wi-fi routers in the home should be placed away from where people, particularly children, spend the most of time.

Good health is above wealth, but majority of us undermine their personal health, and becoming more careless about their children’s mental and physical state day by day, caused by using of cell phones so excessively. A recent survey found out that 92% of world population have mobile phones today. 31% of them admit they never turn off their mobile phones. More than 90% of parents provide their kids cell phones, so they can easily keep in touch whenever they want to. All of this gives sufficient ground to talk about a cell phone addiction, specially about the possible dangers of cell phones on children’s health.

Cell phone overuse has many seriously bad side effects on children’s health primarily and adult’s health generally. We strive to be constantly connected and available. This makes us feel tired, nervous, and absent-minded. We hardly realize that a cause for our tiredness and fatigue is hidden in our pocket. It’s high time to determine some more about the negative influence of mobile phones and other wireless technologies. From time to time, many children and some adults have a feeling that their cell phone is vibrating in their pockets when actually it’s not. They check it immediately and see that it was a false alarm. This situation is called a phantom pocket vibration syndrome. A study done by Dr. Michelle Drouin found that 89% of teenagers had experienced this type of sensation. This especially relates to the teenagers and undergraduates having a social media addiction. They are more anxious and nervous. Missing another text message from other side feels like a real tragedy to them. Reducing overall use of mobile phone, and shutting off cell phone’s vibration is a good way to combat and to deal with this syndrome.

When texting someone or reading an article on the Internet, we all have to stare at a small-sized screen of our cell phone. That can put a lot of strain on kids’ eyes, they can dry out and hurt when blinking. Eventually, this may result in visual deterioration. To maintain clear sight, need to keep device at least 12 to 16 inches away from the face. When talking about cell phones and health, we cannot ignore their influence on sleeping habits. Most of us and some of our children even, get used to set the alarm and put a cell phone somewhere not far from the head or even under their pillow. In fact, it’s a bad idea. As we’ve mentioned before, microwave radiation transmitted by a cell phone is harmful to a brain specially kid’s brain. Having a mobile device at hand can also end up with insomnia in children. They’ll feel tempted to check it at night. They won’t be able to sleep properly because of its vibrating and beeping. It caused sleep deprivation, which can lead to serious mental health problems in children less than age of 19 years.

A healthy spine is one of the key factors of well-being during growing age. When our kids slouching over a cell phone for most of hours daily, they ruin their neck and back muscles. So, no wonder they feel the nagging pain in these parts of their bodies. But wait, there’s more. Pain, strain and aching neck muscles can cause a severe headache to make things worse. So eventually, they’ll feel like a wreck. To keep our children health, it’s time to decide, that we should not allow our kids to overuse cell phones and other wireless devices.

 

Dr Faisal Khan is currently practicing in Saudi Arabia and can be reached at drfaisalkhanarticle@gmail.com.

OPINION

Some progress in Pakistan this week

From many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan

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As the monsoon rains lashed across the country, amid pounding inflation and protesting traders, Pakistan witnessed important developments this week. Though most incidents will have long term impacts which are expected to unfold with time, their significance at present can also be not denied.

ICJ orders consular access to Yadav, rejects Indian plea: (more…)

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CULTURE & ARTS

The Mystery Colour Pink Beholds

Colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values

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Pink has long been associated with girls, so where does this association come from?

Everything for a girl is pink, or will have at least a hint of pink. Starting from her nursery, toys, dresses to lunch box, school bag, pink is bombarded on girls.

There are a number of ways through which colours are imposed upon children. It begins when the baby is not even born. The phenomenal advancement in technology and prenatal testing, now makes it possible for parents to find out the sex of their still-not-born babies. This allows parents to decorate the nurseries in colours that they think are best suited with their newborn’s gender. It is the first step towards colour imposition.

It won’t be wrong to say that a baby girl is born in a pink world. It is this colour that she would find all around her after she opens her eyes for the first time. The room shading, dresses that she wears, toys she plays with and even birthday cakes she gets, are all pink. It’s not the parents only, this colour specification has become so real that new born gifts also comply with it. Visit a store for newborn accessories and the first question that is asked is about the gender of the baby. Even story books and children’s cartoons do their best to teach individuals gender specific behaviour . Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony n Friend are all girls’ favourite cartoons, painted in pink. Even the adventurous Dora wears a pink tee. Watching them, young girls associate themselves with the colour.

Marketing strategies that brands use further establish the colour identification for gender. It’s a psychological factor that brands exploit to leap their sales. They strictly follow with ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ rule and make sure their customers comply.

Studies show that after the age of two, children begin to understand gender specific roles and girls choose pink over other colours to identify theirs. Professor of Gender and Culture at the UK’s Leeds University, Ruth Holliday, states that “Even very young girls understand that pink things are for them. In experiments where guns were painted pink and My Little Ponies were painted black and made to look spiky, three-year-old children assumed the gun was a girls’ toy and the pony a boys’ one. The colour rather than the function determined gender appeal.”

Colour preference isn’t biological, it’s more of a human made marvel. Girls and boys are both born with the similar arrangement of biological composition, the only difference being X & Y chromosomes. It’s not that girls have a pink chromosome or a pink strand of DNA that compels them to like pink more. And if we look at historical perspective, the findings are interesting.

History suggests that before the 1900s, babies were usually dressed in white regardless of gender. There were no differentiation amongst them on the basis of their colour preferences. If there was any, it was quite opposite from what it is today. An article in the 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal reads that “the generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls; the reason is that pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for boys, while blue which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls”. Then what brought the switch over?

Anya Helbert, a researcher at University of Newcastle, proposed that women prefer hues of red more because traditionally they have been more exposed to the colour by gathering fruits. Other studies regarding this topic cite some events that gave rise to the present colour enforcement. One such event is World War II, where due to the blue coloured uniform worn by soldiers, blue colour became associated with masculinity.

Similarly, in the 1940s, Think Movement tried to convince girls to embrace their feminism. This movement urged women to embrace their womanhood, with the name tag with pink, the colour naturally corresponding to women.

This colour coding creates a stereotype that stays entrenched in the minds of children even after they grow. They identify themselves with specific colour that not only limits their freedom but also bounds them to act in the ways society tells them to. This kills their imagination and creativity and limits their choices. One of the disastrous implications of this colour stereotyping is that it affects self-esteem. The very basic attributes of pink colour are that it’s pretty, polite, catchy and sensitive. When a girl is told throughout her lifetime that she has to be the manifestation of this colour to look more ‘girl like’, she tries to incorporate these attributes into her personality. The same is for boys, the tormenting and bullying that accompanies wearing pink is staggering to the point that boys, mostly avoid the colour even if they like it.

Angela Weyers, Style and Colour consultant comments that, pink is assumed as a sign of “weakness and a lack of intellectual rigour” and advises women to actually not wear it to work in the corporate world, as they are less likely to be taken seriously. This, along with other stigmas surrounding the color, make it a cliché.

Now when we have understood that colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values, we have to understand this as a societal issue. There is no such thing as real-man or real-woman. And pink has literally nothing to do with a woman. Both men and women are humans with no supernatural specifications and they should be treated that way. Parents, educational institutes and media can play their role in this regard. Rather than fabricating pink and blue norms they need to be responsible in raising individuals. Let pink and blue be treated as colours only.

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OPINION

Dismays and Delights: How Pakistan fared this week?

Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome.

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This week in Pakistan was disappointing, to say the least. From the fiasco in the World cup match to the murder of a blogger in Islamabad, the list of dismays is long. India’s positive response to hold talks with Pakistan seemed the only silver lining in the dark clouds of dooms, yet it was quickly rebuffed by India as “fake news”.

It pains as well as amuses me that fans of cricket in Pakistan still remain die hard to their team. Its a different thing to be a cricket buff and another to be supportive of your team, for its been a while that Pakistan’s cricket team pulled a feat worth praise.

Pakistani Cricket Team captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (L), Indian Cricket Team captain Virat Kohli

One did not even need to switch on the TV or check updates on phone on the mess which Pakistan was in its World Cup match against India. The memes did the job pretty well, an area in which Pakistanis’ talent and sense of humour is worth appreciating.

Starting from the mind boggling decision of choosing to field after winning the toss, to poor bowling and miserable fielding (as usual), I can only say that the fans of Pakistani cricket team were very courageous to stick with their support through out the match. In comparison, was the highly professional and progressive Indian team, which showed true characteristics of first class cricket. It was no surprise that Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram showed his confidence in India as a player even before the match started.

A Pak-India interaction on a different level received an uplift, when the re-elected Prime Minister Modi of India, finally responded in positive to a series of letters written by his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since early this year, both countries have experienced most severe ties, even reaching the brink of war. The Pulwama attack in Indian held Kashmir triggered a spate of exchanges of words as well as arms. After an informal meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan’s allowance for India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Modi for the SCO meeting of heads of states, Modi’s preference to still fly using another, alternate route while refusing to rub shoulders with Khan at the conference, the ice seemed to thaw.

However, Pakistani media’s interpretation of Modi’s written response to Khan that India had agreed to resume dialogue, was refuted by Indian foreign ministry.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

“The letters only reiterated India’s old position that it wants normal and cooperative relations with all countries in South Asia (including Pakistan) and that it was important to create an environment free of terror and violence for it. There was no mention of any sort of dialogue with Pakistan,” responded the ministry’s spokesperson to The Times of India.

A similar exchange of letters between Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi and his newly appointed Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, was also explained as a mere reply. The hope of resuming of dialogues between the two countries was quashed.

So was the life of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, who was stabbed to death in Islamabad, sparking outrage among Pakistanis.

Blogger Muhammad Bilal Khan was murdered in Islamabad

Khan was known for his critical comments on religious issues. He also spoke about the disappearance of activists and journalists. Khan’s shocking death is pertinent in the context that he had a following of thousands on Twitter, YouTube as well as Facebook. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has assured of investigation by the government.

Perhaps, a not so highlighted and the lone positive news one could find was the approval of the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 by a Parliamentary body. The bill has recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

Photo Credit: AFP

The recommendations are now to be discussed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Once passed by parliament, the bill will pave way for the setting up of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert. It will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

A draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill has also been approved with recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints.

While unexplained deaths and disappearances of activists remains a worrying issue, some decision making for missing and abused children as well as disabled persons is a progress in the human rights of country.

Other sectors are eagerly looked upon for some positive news. The nation’s favourite sports of cricket comes back at the turn of the week with anticipation.

The week, which started miserably with Pakistan’s loss against India in the World Cup match, has ended with hopes and fears for the next contest between Pakistan and South Africa. Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome. A comeback by Pakistan in the World Cup could raise hopes for optimism in the week that is to begin.

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