Means of instruction, be it at school or college, at the time of COVID-19 pandemic is heavily dependent on mobile phones.To combat the spread of COVID-19, institutions (worldwide) shift to telework instead of physical classes. This “new normal" fills a void in social interaction. Electronic devices (smartphone, laptop etc.) with Internet become quintessential for students. For months now, students around the globe attend classes through online mode. Mobile phones act as an efficient communication device as it transmits conversations and other useful information, in real time across distances that makes life easier. Mobile phones are engineered to meet the needs that are useful in everyday life. COVID-19 affected not just our physical health and society, but also our education system.
There are so many advantages of using mobile devices in an educational institute. Academic materials are available online for free, which means such devices allow students to get materials at low cost (or free). Free access to online ensures quick updates and free textbooks. Students can download educational apps,as many companies provide such apps to enrich and upgrade their knowledge. Moreover, students can also take photos and videos, contact instructors and peers, record lectures, and much more. Though these gadgets are useful, one should be aware of the various disadvantages and risks associated with such gadgets.
Along with this online learning, many students participate in mobile gaming and various social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. And hence the time spent by a student on mobile phone has increased. Looking at an analysis of Android-only phone usage, the average user spent 27% of their daily waking hours on mobile in April 2020. Terms such as “Smartphone addiction", “Compulsive mobile use", “Mobile phone dependence", and “Mobile phone overuse"are used to describe individuals or phenomenon --where mobile phones are used excessively. Students can improve themselves a lot in various fields with the help of mobile phone, or they can spoil themselves with the same mobile phone. It all depends on how they use it.
The more we use mobile phones, the more we are exposed to the harmful electromagnetic radiation. Mobile phones connect through wireless satellite signals, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. Such connectivity by default emit electromagnetic radiation, a form of non-ionizing radiation, which is known as radio frequency energy. Though radio frequency radiation has a lower energy than some other non-ionizing radiations (like visible light and infrared), it has higher energy than extremely low frequency radiation. The electromagnetic field (EMF), which is generated in a radio frequency range, is used for connectivity with other devices. We are exposed to the electromagnetic field constantly, when we carry a cell phone with us. Constant exposure to the electromagnetic field causes serious biological disorder over a long time. If radio frequency radiation is absorbed by the body in large amount, it can produce heat; this can lead to burns and body tissue damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies cell phone radiation as a “possible human carcinogen",due to an increased risk of cancer from long term and heavy use of cell phones. The tissues close to the phone can absorb the radiation. In addition, higher stress, fatigue, poor sleeping quality, irritation, headache, weakened immunity, fertility issues etc. are a few health problems that are caused due to prolong exposure to electromagnetic radiation while using mobile phones.
A few tips (based on several studies) are listed below which can help you protect yourself:
• Avoid using or carrying cell phone against your head and body at all times. The most recommendation is to have at least 10 mm of space between you and your phone.
• The speaker or wired headset reduce the amount of near field radiation you are exposed to as near field radiation from the phone is mostly concerning when the phone is against the body.
• Children should only use cell phones for emergencies or strictly in speaker mode at a safe distance. A child’s body is still developing and cell phone radiation penetrates a child’s brain more deeply than an adult brain.
• Switch sides regularly during a cell phone call to reduce radiation exposure to just one side of your head.
• Phone radiation is most when the signal is weak or when moving at a high speed such as in a car or train. At this scenario, it causes the mobile phone to increase the transmitting power in an attempt to connect to the nearest cell tower. Best avoid use during this time.
• The phone emits the most intense radiation during the initial connection when making a call, then it lowers its power once a connection is established. So wait for the call to connect before placing the phone next to the ear.
• Turn on the airplane mode when not in use or when giving a child.
• Keep your cell phone away from your head and body while you are sleeping. Your phone continues to emit radiation even when you are not making a call.
The author is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Asufü Christian Institute, Punanamei, Mao.