Electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phones, touch-sensitive tablets or connected toys can affect children's cognitive functions - memory, attention, coordination - says Friday a reportof the French Health Agency (Anses).
Ahe experts, who recommend limiting the exposure of young populations, have also identified negative effects on well-being (fatigue, sleep disorders, stress, anxiety), which they attribute not to the airwaves themselves, but to intensive mobile phone use.
In its review of the state of knowledge, the National Health Safety Agency states, on the other hand, that "current data from the international literature do not allow us to conclude whether or not there are effects in children on behaviour, hearing functions, development, the reproductive or immune system, or carcinogenic effects".
In some cases, such as for the reproductive system or cancers, "there are practically no studies available for children," Olivier Merckel, head of risk assessment for new technologies at ANSES, told AFP.
In other cases, such as auditory functions, "there is nothing obvious about a negative effect," he says.
Regarding the effects on well-being (fatigue, anxiety), "the effect observed could be more related to the use of mobile phones rather than to the radio frequencies themselves," explains the specialist.
Some studies also seem to associate "intensive use of mobile phones by young people with impaired mental health", which translates into risk behaviour, depression or suicidal ideation, notes Anses, hoping that further work will be done to verify the causal relationship.
On the basis of these findings, Anses reiterates its 2013 recommendation to stick to "moderate use" of mobile phones and to use the hands-free kit as often as possible.
"The mobile phone remains the major source of exposure to radio frequencies, it is the most intense," emphasizes Olivier Merckel. This is due to the intrinsic power of the waves emitted by phones and the fact that they are placed directly against the body (at the ear or in a pocket).
Children at higher risk
These moderation tips, which are valid for adults, target children in particular who are more sensitive to the waves than their elders for physiological reasons. "Today we are certain that children are more exposed than adults because of their morphological and anatomical differences," explains Olivier Merckel. "They are not small adults," he insists.
In the brain in particular, certain areas that are still in transformation are more sensitive to the waves. Yet very young children - under six years of age - are now exposed at a very early age - even at a young age. in utero - to more and more waves due to the all-out development of wireless technologies (tablets, connected toys, wifi...).
Hence the ANSES recommendations to apply to all wave-emitting devices "the same regulatory obligations" as for telephones. Mainly the measurement of the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which corresponds to the amount of energy absorbed by the body, and the advertising of this information.
"We have questions about tablets, especially those that don't work in WiFi, but in 3G or 4G," says the expert from Anses.
The health agency would also like the conditions of these measures to be revised to be closer to the conditions of use and that the level of general exposure to the waves be "reconsidered" to ensure greater margins of safety, especially for children.
However, experts have ruled out a ban on mobile phones for children under the age of six, which was passed in 2010 but never published.
"There is no health data to justify such a measure," says Olivier Merckel. If the use of mobile phones at such a young age is "fortunately rare", he recommends "delaying the age of first use".