Harmful Effects of Cell Phones on Kids

By Chris Blank

Updated December 05, 2018

Parents give cell phones to their kids to keep track of them or for them to use in emergencies. According to a 2006 report issued by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 74 percent of all cell phone owners had used their phones during an emergency. However, along with the well-known dangers of distracted driving that affect people of all ages, children and teenagers face other hazards from cell phone use.

Health Effects

According to the Food and Drug Administration, cell phones present a minimal health risk for users, including children. However, a 2009 study conducted by Fredrik Soderqvist, a doctoral student at Orebro University in Sweden, indicates that cell phones affect the biology of the brain. Young people participating in the study who used cell phones also reported a lower sense of well-being than study participants who did not use cell phones. In a 2008 study conducted by Gaby Badre, MD, PhD, from Sahlgren's Academy in Sweden, young subjects who used their cell phones extensively experienced more sleep disruption, restlessness and fatigue than subjects who were limited in using their cell phones, according to the Science Daily website.

Risky Pedestrian Behavior

Children crossing streets while using cell phones were 43 percent more likely to have a close call or actually be struck by a passing vehicle, according to research conducted in 2008 by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The study, published in Pediatrics, tested the behaviors of 77 children between the ages of 10 and 11 in simulated street-crossing scenarios. According to the report, children were less likely to look both ways crossing a street while talking or sending text messages on their cell phones than when they were not distracted, according to the Science Daily website.


Cyberbullying uses cell phones to target victims with hostile messages and other harassment, according to the Norton from Symantec website. According to a 2006 poll conduced by the organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and reported by KidsHealth.org, nearly one-third of all teens and one of every six preteens had been victimized by cyberbullying. Nearly half of all victims of cyberbullying do not know the identities of the perpetrators, and 16 percent of victims never tell anyone, according to the Stop Bullying Now! website, administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

"Sexting" and Its Consequences

Approximately 20 percent of teens surveyed admitted to sending nude or sexually suggestive images of themselves through their cell phones, according to a 2008 study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and reported on the CBS News.com website. Some local authorities have prosecuted teens who engage in "sexting,” or sending and receiving nude photographs, videos and sexually explicit text messages by cell phone, according to Seattle PI.com.