16 September 2017

Radioactive Overreactions

Yes iPads emit radiation; as do we all...

From time to time certain pernicious myths emerge from the depths of the internet, like this video that resurfaces periodically. The net result is usually the creation of considerable stress for loving parents who dread to think that there is even a vague  possibility that the devices that they and their children use everyday could possibly be harmful.

Some helpful facts...

Screen time

The actual percentage of the school day students use these devices is relatively small. They certainly never use the devices in close proximity to their heads, which is the basis of the research that makes claims about damaging radiation from mobile devices, and the models of iPads that schools use do not contain mobile SIMs that generate GSM frequencies.

Airplane Mode

Asking for Airplane mode to be activated is not a practical solution. Aside from the fact that most schools use MDM (Mobile Device Management) systems that rely on wireless connectivity to manage and monitor these devices, as well as to share student learning with parents via platforms like Seesaw; disabling WiFi on one device will not mitigate the issue when there are 10-20 other devices in the room emitting the same frequencies and, more to the point, when there are (harmless) wireless signals being bounced all round the room all day, all around the college and indeed all over the planet every day.


Do iPads emit radiation? Yes. But a radiation is no more intrinsically harmful than your body heat, which is also a form of radiation. The comparisons in the video made between the radiation emitted by a phone, and that emitted by a microwave are, quite frankly, ridiculous, like comparing body heat to a blast furnace. Wi-Fi signals use very low intensity radio waves. Whilst similar in wavelength to domestic microwave radiation, the intensity of Wi-Fi radiation is 100,000 times less than that of a domestic microwave oven. So if you encounter someone who talks about both as if they are the same should give you good reason to be suspicious of everything else they say as well... The amount emitted by a an iPad is millions of times less than the amount of radiation you are exposed to through natural sources such as going outdoors in daylight hours.

1:1 does not = increased use

A common misconception is that the provision of a device increased the amount of time our kids spend using a device, this is not why we use 1:1, we use 1:1 so it is easier to manage student content, and so students don't accidentally delete the work of other students, for more about this, please see my other post.

As a college we understand why parents who having heard rumours have concerns about the potential effects of microwave radiation from mobile devices such as iPads. A parent's concern for their children's welfare is of course understandable, but please rest assured that the College also puts the children's welfare foremost in all its decision making.

Radiation from Mobile Devices

When looking at any health or safety issue we do need to make a decision about where we gather our data from. In this day and age it is an easy process for an individual to present a specific viewpoint and to easily spread that message via the Internet. Once this message goes viral, as messages like this are prone to do, bear in mind the advertising revenue and free publicity generated are a motivating factor.

As an example of how individual sources can easily contradict each other, consider this Forbes article for an alternative viewpoint, and this article from “Wired Science” with a similar viewpoint.

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