Schools aghast at EU Wi-Fi ban proposal

The EU Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs has put together a draft resolution in which it strongly recommends that mobiles and Wi-Fi networks are banned from schools – to prevent children from being harmed.

They say the proposed ban is to stop that old unprovable allegation that Wi-Fi and mobile phones cause tumours. It highlights that young people are most at risk.

The recommendations have been met with concern by staff.

One deputy head told TechEye: “Nothing good can come from this report, especially if the EU succeeds in escalating this to a blanket ban or regulated services – by which I mean limiting wifi use within the classroom.  

“Even our reception classes use laptops to work on, which are either their own or hired out so they can continue to do their work at home. This will of course extend within the next few years to tablets, such as the iPad, all of which will need wifi.

“When it comes to mobile phones, we as teachers of course use them. Although children aren’t permitted during school hours to use these, we do allow them to use them supervised during lunch and breaks to speak to parents. We’ve seen no effects of anything dangerous.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, agrees, warning that the impact of banning such devices “would be enormous.”

He said most schools have Wi-Fi networks while pupils and teachers carry mobile phones.

Hobby added that many schools “are shifting towards far more mobile computing so pupils can have laptops they can take home to do their homework on.

“This would prevent all of that,” he said.

However, he agreed that “any survey that flags up a potential health risk for our children must be taken seriously, and we would accept authoritative medical advice on these matters.”

But it is “important to maintain perspective”.

“Wireless communication technologies are common in schools and, of course, in the rest of students’ lives. Unravelling this would have a massive impact on education,” he said.

“Unless pupils face an immediate and high risk to their health, while further research continues, I would urge schools to think carefully before issuing an outright ban. In any case, most schools already use these technologies judiciously – not least because teachers do not want lessons disrupted by mobile phone use.

“It is often the case with new technologies that sensible and proportionate steps can be taken to minimise any risks while still allowing the full benefits to be realised.”

It’s not just mobiles and laptops that have got the short straw, with the report also warning of the potential dangers associated with cordless telephones and baby monitors.

It said the latter would be potentially the most dangerous, with electromagnetic radiation  most affecting the developing brain.

The potential adverse health effects associated with mobile phone use and Wi-Fi have been debated for years now, not least on the front pages of the tabloids.

A report issued this time last year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said: “To date, no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use. Studies are ongoing to assess potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.”

That said, others agree with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states.

The Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST) recently conducted research which concluded: “A considerable body of evidence proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that microwave radiation from mobile phones and cordless phones cause a significantly increased risk for brain tumours.

“In addition, increasing evidence is indicating that it causes disturbed brain function, damage to the genes and other disturbances.”

The draft resolution will now go before the council’s full Parliamentary Assembly for approval.