Thursday, 2 March 2017

iPads, Radiation & Airplane Mode


From time to time articles or videos appear with alarming headlines that connect mobile devices with harmful effects on children. It is of course completely understandable that parents become concerned when they see these things. The College places the safety and well being of our students above all other considerations and we monitor official advice around all aspects of safety that affect our students. Most recently, a video has been circulating among our parents about the possible harmful effects of radiation from mobile devices like iPads.

When looking at any health or safety issue we need to make careful decisions 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. We also need to bear in mind that there are reasons for people and organisations to do this other than a genuine concern for public welfare. An article with a dramatic headline or video with lurid claims, attracts traffic and that traffic can generate revenue from advertising for example.

As an example of how individual sources can easily contradict each other, consider this Forbes article and this article from Wired Science, which both offer a strong counterpoint to the video mentioned previously.

The underlying issue here is, given that individual representations or newspaper articles are not necessarily reliable or often contradictory, where does the College look for direction?

Two places:

  • Large bodies of collated research, generally called meta-analyses
  • Expert advice from leading health authorities such as Ministries of Health and the World Health Organisation


We are not aware of any large body of research that shows a causal link between mobile device usage and radiation that result in any negative impact on people’s health. Furthermore there is currently no advice from any world health body that we are aware of that advises that children be protected from such radiation emitted by wireless devices such as iPads.

We take this issue seriously and monitor the medical advice from recognised institutions around this issue. The welfare of the children in our care is paramount to us and we will respond appropriately in the event that the advice from the leading health authorities changes at any point.

As a college we understand why parents might have concerns about the potential negative effects of using mobile devices after watching videos like the one linked above. A parent's concern for their children's welfare is of course understandable, but please rest assured that we take this issue seriously and monitor the medical advice from recognised institutions around this issue. The welfare of the children in our care is paramount to us and we will respond appropriately in the event that the advice from the leading health authorities changes at any point.


Here are some further points that may be helpful in setting the overall context:

Screen time

The actual percentage of the school day our students use these devices is relatively small. A common misconception is that the provision of a device per child increased the amount of time our children spend using a device, but that is not why we have 1:1 devices. We use 1:1 devices 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 this post.

Students certainly never use the devices in close proximity to their heads, which is one basis of the research that makes claims about damaging radiation from mobile devices, nor do our iPads contain mobile SIMs that generate GSM frequencies.

Airplane Mode

Having the College iPads in Airplane mode is not practical. We rely on wireless connectivity to manage and monitor these devices, as well as to share children's learning with parents via platforms like Seesaw. This will also have a minimal impact on the overall amount of waves in the air, given the large number of services being beamed around the island to support mobile phones, wireless, television, etc.


Ben Morgan & Seán McHugh

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