back to article Dark mutterings on killer Wi-Fi in schools help no one

Dear Sir William, Please: either shit, or get off the pot. When it comes to Wi-Fi radiation, there's one comment from the anti-radiation lobby that I agree with: "We need another official inquiry - as authoritative as the Stewart reports on mobile phones." What we don't need is vague waffle of the sort which says that "Sir …


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  1. Mark

    Bad Behaviour = Bad Parenting not Wireless Death Rays

    Has nobody though to explain bad behaviour on bad parenting and the decline of discipline throughout our society?

    When I was young if |I got into trouble in school, or god forbid had a policemand come round I know that I would have been dead. This knowledge kept me on the straight and narrow.

    Nowdays we have parents blaming teachers for bad behaviour when they don't support the teacher but belive eveything thier little darling says, parents who disregard the police and tell thier little darlings that they can do no wrong and think tanks who invent lovely things like ADHD to explain bad behaviour (Maybe if the parents got up from the TV and spent some time with thier children there wouldn't be an attention deficit?)

    I was a hyperactive child and got into trouble occasionally, but don't all kids, I knew better than to do anything seriously wrong however, something seriously lacking in today's youth.

    nothing annoys me more than this amazing invisible death rays are wrecking our children rubbish. it is simple good parenting produces hard working and responsible young adults, bad parenting produces a shower of sh**.

    How about parents wake up and take responsibility and government think tanks and unions stop trying to make excuses for everybody???

  2. Mark Talbot

    Spoiled Brats

    There are some very good reasons why adhd and the likes have become more wide spread in the last 10 years.

    1. It's actually recognised as a illness and diagnosed by most doctors.

    2. More and more kids are being brought up in an instant society and expect to be continuously entertained and not have to work at anything.

  3. Ross Aitken

    Precautionary principle

    Whilst I would agree with the main thrust of your article, you do seem to imply that Sir William should know more than he has said in order to fairly say that we should limit children's exposure to mobiles until we know more.

    I would be inclined to say that, given the extremely high stakes, we would be remiss not to apply the precautionary principle. Waiting until definitive evidence one way or the other could have horrible consequences. That, surely, is the sensible rebuttal to global-warming nay-sayers and applies equally here, no?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pants on fire

    "...four-fold increase in ADHD in the last 10 years are exactly the problems we would predict"

    If that were true, you would have actually predicted them. Claiming after an event occurs that you would have predicted it - but for some unstated reason didn't - is just plain dishonest.

  5. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Fear causes the damage

    If you worry and get stressed about something then your health will suffer. It is the worrying about radio masts, Wifi etc. that causes the problem.

    We have satellites in space beaming Sky TV and the GPS signal down over the entire country but does anyone mention that?

  6. Chris Collins

    Simple cure for ADHD

    I find a swift smack on the arse to be a excellent cure for "ADHD". Perhaps the adult version of this would work for these idiots.

  7. Adrian Jones

    When you read "Let's do an official study."

    Does anyone else hear Mrs Merton?

  8. Simon Ball


    Oh please. The fact that the diagnosis rate for ADHD has gone up does not mean that the incidence of it has also. ADHD is a convenient scapegoat for behavioural problems that allows parents to assauage the guilt they feel for their neglect, and, more sinisterly, allows them to beat their children back into shape with a pharmocological club rather than actually trying to become better parents.

    And there is nothing wrong with the precautionary principle, providing that you explicitly express it in those terms. Sir William's comments were very unhelpful because he seemed to be disagreeing with his own report. That is a recipe for disquiet and conspiracy theories. If he was going to air his reservations and advocate the precautionary principle, he should have done so IN the report.

  9. Woody

    nature vs human

    Blaming wireless networking for all society's problems is nonsense.

    I'd point the finger at parents first, followed by broadcasters and greedy corporations targetting kids and mashing their developing minds with "brand awareness" and generally confusing them.

    That being said; I am on the fence on the long term effects of mobile and wireless radiation. In large cities, we are constantly bombarded with all manner of radio, microwave and other waves, most of these introduced by humans.

    Nature vs Human?

    I trust mother nature, she's been around longer.

    ...even if she has decided to melt and flood us into oblivion :)

  10. Andy

    Bad Statistics

    "a recent authoritative Finnish study has found that people who have used mobiles for more than ten years are 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side of the head as they hold their handset".

    This is the stuff that the extreme groups latch on to and use to spread their FUD.

    Of 10,000 people who had used a mobile phone for more than 10 years, 10 people had brain tumours. Of those 10, 7 had a tumour on the side that they hold the phone. If it was random you would expect it to be around 5, so, if you get a brain tumour (.1% chance) then it is 40% more likely to be on the side you use your phone.

    Fill in your own bad numbers as appropriate.

    I realise that the author does not acknowledge these statistics as being accurate.

  11. Jack


    Dear UK-ers:

    What is going on over there? I would expect this kind of base-less fear mongering from my follow Americans, but from Brits? Oh sure, you can go a little fruity over fur coats but we could always count on your support for the important stuff: fry-ups, a proper pint and Page 3 girls.

    Good God, get a grip. Y'all are supposed to be the sane English speakers.

    It's all David Hasselhoff's fault, isn't it? You've been watching too much "Bay Watch", haven't you? Please stop it this instant.

    Yours, etc. etc.

    p.s. Have you tried the special radiation blocking tin-foil hats? Works wonders in my experience...

  12. Barry

    Decline of society and all that...

    Mark, and others...

    "Has nobody though to explain bad behaviour on bad parenting and the decline of discipline throughout our society"

    Social commentators have been telling us how society is collapsing since, well, since the earliest social commentators started talking garbage really. Ancient Greek writers certainly did it - in fact you can probably find cave paintings somewhere depicting how kids today are out of control. Every generation has those who think the world was perfect 30-50 years ago and the modern generation is running riot and society is collapsing and, oh god, it'll be anarchy!!

    None of them have yet been right.

    The main reason for ADHD increasing is increasing diagnosis of ADHD. Once we used to call children naughty, now we say they have ADHD. Little has changed - we have just decided that this is a diagnosable and treatable condition, though it really just represents an extreme on the continuum of normal behaviour.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All in my mind

    A few years back our office had a new-fangled wireless access point, installed near my desk. I was convinced that this was causing me headaches. A few weeks later my colleague mused, ‘Hmm…. better switch that access point on- I’ll see if I can make it work’. It had never been switched on, yet it had made me feel ill.

    Never underestimate the power of suggestion.

  14. Christopher D'Souza

    Unsheathed neurons

    This may be the mutterings of a mad man, but I can actually feel in my head when my PS3 is on. I have had multiple sclerosis for 6 years and after finally getting my new, beautiful PS3, the last thing I would want is for it to be harmful to my health, so was bit concerned when I started to feel a slight headache during my PS3 sessions! (Playing the PS2 didn't seem to offer the same problems, so am trying to deduce what the cause could be)

    Of course there are hundreds of variables, but I have tried to be as scientific as I can in my theories and my deduction is that either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (or both!) is causing my headaches as my brain, with it's unsheathed neurons, is not protected as well as a healthy brain from the PS3's high intensity(?) radiation.

    So, panic over - except for the unsheathed (ooh-err) thousands with MS (not Microsoft, this time!). (note: I am not a money grabbing "victim" so just want to warn others rather than sue Sony for millions!)

    Right, where'd my copy of Ridge Racer 7 go......

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Reminds me of research into bees

    This whole thing reminds me of the story about radiation from telephones messing up the navigation of bees posted recently on El Reg. They put some transmitter INSIDE the beehive, and lo and behold, we have an effect. How many beehives actually have a transmitter inside? Given that the near field of a dipole falls off with the third power of the distance to it, and the emmission strength with the square of the distance, comparing the effect of having a transmitter inside a hive with the usual situation (transmitter probably (far) more than 10 m away) is ridiculous, especially if the dose response curve shows some kind of nonlinearity such as a threshold effect.

    We should of course carefully examine the health and environmental effects of any new technology, but please do it rigorously, and do not go scaremongering.

    Final remark on ADHD: some of the comments about it were perhaps a bit simplistic. From personal experience I know:

    - quite a fraction of kids who do not get much attention or discipline at home actually do behave well

    - some kids who are given proper attention do become more than a handfull



  16. Morely Dotes

    Sir William's middle name...

    ...wouldn't happen to be "Ludd," perchance?

  17. Andy Smart

    It's because people like simple solutions

    I actually work in a school (see caveat at end), with wireless networking, so I'm quite interested in this one. I think what actually lies at the root of this is that people want a nice clear 'solution' to problems - there are a lot of kids with behavioural problems (and no, sorry but a 'smack in the arse' is not a solution, as one poster suggested) but these are likely to be due to a multitude of causes acting in concert or alone.

    Factors such as society, the composition of the family, type of leisure time, diet, political climate, or methods of education are almost all playing a part in changing the way children act and think, as they have done for years. However that's scary because it means that we can't wave some magic wand and create the children that we think children ought to be; one of the reasons I'd hate to be anything other than a school network manager is that kids are so wonderfully challenging to all your ideas and prejudices, they're FUN to work with.

    Right now it's wi-fi because that has the added attraction of being some mystical force in the ether to which can be attributed the changes in society we don't like. On the other side of the coin wi-fi is going to allow teachers to create exciting and innovative lessons which will shape our children for years to come; but hey let's not focus on the positive here.

    I agree that the possible health effects of wi-fi should be monitored by professionals in a rational and scientific manner, but so should everything else in the school environment. Furthermore if there are students who are proven to suffer ill-effects from wireless networking (as in the case of the poster who is suffering effects from his games console) then measures must be taken to accommodate them, the same way we accommodate students with a whole range of other special needs in the school community.

    But to blame wi-fi for some perceived decline in behaviour with little evidence to back it up would be a disservice to our students - after all they'll have to operate in a wireless-rich environment when they get jobs, would it be fair to say that they shouldn't learn this in schools?

    (please note, these are my own personal views and should not be taken to represent the views of the school where I work, or of the education community as a whole)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be sceptical towards both sides

    It's true that there's little hard, systematic evidence to back up claims that using a mobile phone can harm you or being near a wi-fi hot spot can make you ga-ga.

    But claims that overhead power lines were bad for your health were dismissed as wacky for years, before it became widely accepted that it is not a good idea to live too close to them.

    And my bet is that it won't be long before it's accepted that spending a long stretches of time close to a mobile phone tower (or more specifically, in the most intense part of beam from a mobile phone tower) will similarly be accepted as not good for you either.

    So what does this tell us? That the next best thing to walking around in a full-body Faraday cage is maintaining an equal degree of scepticism towards claims from both sides of the these arguments until the evidence (or lack of evidence, despite persistent well-thought out attempts) makes it clear who's right.

  19. A J Stiles

    Re: Precautionary Principle

    I bet Ross Aitken's ancestors in caveman times were a boring lot .....

    "Watch this! See, if you hit a piece of flint in just the right place, you can make a sharp edge!" "That's dangerous -- you could have somebody's hand off with that!"

    "Do you know, if you rub two sticks together, you can make fire?" "Well, better not. It's dangerous. Somebody could get burned!"

    "Hey! I've discovered something really neat. If you throw a bone with some meat on it at a wolf, it will follow you around." "Ooh, that sounds dangerous, somebody could get hurt. Better safe than sorry, eh?"

    And imagine if somehow, without the benefit of weapons, fire or hunting dogs, they made it through to the time of the Industrial Revolution .....

    "You want to have all the workers together in one huge 'factory' instead of in their cottages? That sounds dangerous. What if there's an accident? Hundreds of people could be injured or killed! At least if they were all in separate cottages, there would only be a few casualties."

    "We should ban steam-engines. They spew out filthy black smoke, they use coal which has to be dug up in thoroughly unsafe mines, the pipes leak steam and people get burned, and sometimes they even explode!"

    "Electricity? You mean the power of lightning? That's a bit dangerous, isn't it? Look what it does to buildings and trees!"

    The sad fact is that *all* human progress, *ever*, has depended upon the taking of risks. This of course means people getting hurt, or even killed -- but the point is, they learn how *not* to get hurt, and the benefits become available to everyone. Then the next generation find whole new ways to injure, maim and kill themselves in the name of science .....

  20. Lawrence Geib

    Wifi is the devil.

    I live in a small village in the middle of nowhere - I guess the assholes that go around terrorising people at night and attacking well defended fortress' such as telephone box's have had high exposure to wireless technology.

    Did anyone forget to mention that the more intelligent kids who actually want to do well at school (and indeed get taught in the same wifi 'enabled' classrooms) behave? As opposed to the kids who tend to achieve less who think acting up in classrooms makes them look good infront of other under-achievers. Same classroom, same exposure, different mentality of child. It was exactly the same when I was at school and wifi was a mere pipe-dream.

  21. Andrew Britton

    Age of Wireless

    Your article makes perfect sense to myself, I just wished to highlight that WiFi has been around lot longer than 4 years. My school got wireless when I was in year 10 (maybe even year 9) that was 8 years ago and I attended what can be best described as an underachieving state comprehensive. I still think the connection is ridiculous though.

  22. Matt Brigden

    Oh please

    "On the other side of the coin wi-fi is going to allow teachers to create exciting and innovative lessons"

    And you cant do that with an ethernet lead why exactly ?

    As for this latest wifi scare .....

    Come on get a grip . Todays society loves to hang blame off stuff .

    Appalling behaviour gets blamed on ADHD . All I see is badly disciplined kids

    The standard of written English . If you teach kids to sound out letters they will then write them like that . And you wonder where txt speak comes from ....

    Todays kids seem to be lazier because they are . And its down to how we bring them up .

    If we make excuse for them then they will never change .

    We can hold as many enquirys as we like and our kids will carry on regardless . We need to pay them more attention and less attention to what the latest thinnktank says we should be doing .

  23. Charles Hammond

    Computer Room Malady

    I work in the IT Industry. I have a kind of mistrust when it comes to wireless netwroks; both for security and whatever health risks there might be. However, I have not seen any real difference between working in a room with wireless or working in a room without wireless. However, I do have some misgivings about working in enclosed spaces like an office or a classroom with lots of computers and not enough air circulation.

    I have noticed that working in a room with a self-contained Air Conditioning system that it can make you sick. Computers and monitors heat up the air and dry it out. If you are running a lot of printed material that also adds paper dust into the air. Also if the monitors are not that crisp or are a little on the low quality side, this can cause eye strain, and headaches. I think the older you get the more your eyesight has to do with the monitor. All of these things can have an effect on your health.

    Wireless technology is probably the least likely culprit. This is my experience of working in a server room with 4 other guys and 20-30 servers working in an enclosed space, with a self-contained air conditioning system, that never pulls in outside air. I have noticed that when one person gets sick everyone ends up breathing it. We have 2 air conditioners and they run non-stop just to keep the temperature low enough to keep the servers from overheating.

    So there is a lot going on in a room full of computers that could have be a contributing factor.

  24. Gina

    I Love ADHD

    It's brilliant and so is the cure.

    There's nothing better for society than feeding it's children narcotics from the earliest possible age.

    I found that if you give kids speed and cocaine they will do anything you tell them, they just can't get enough of having stuff to do.

    But to make a drug that gives the euphoria (when combined with good old fashioned opioid pain killers) of heroine is a totally genius way of taking care of kids that get bored in physics classes.

    I didn't realise it, but I have been a long term victim of ADHD.

    You wouldn't believe the number of things I couldn't and still can't concentrate on. In fact I'm thinking of suing my old County Council for not supplying me with the necessary narcotics to get straight As in school and a 'First' at University.

    So I reckon that besides good drugs, the only cures are completely impractical - like occasionally saying 'no - you can't have that' to kids.

    Teachers? Well they deserve a bit of blame, but we're the ones that decided that they would spend more time with our kids than parents do. And then we stopped them from being allowed to smack our kids about - what's up with that? Guess what, your darling little Johnny is a darling little shit. You know how he screams and shouts every time you don't want to give him something or let him do what he wants? That's actually not good behaviour, that's him telling you to beat the shit out of him, and not letting his teachers in on some child whacking action is incredibly bad form.

  25. Keith Langmead

    Don't forget the food

    I'd definitely go with the view that you can't easily assume there is one simple cause for all this, just like so many other conditions like dislexia, it makes more sense to assume that the rates of people being diagnosed with ADHD going up has more to do with the level of knowledge and quality of diagnosis than anything else.

    I agree that in some (not all) cases a good whack to the behind would do some of them the world of good. Hell when I was a kid my dad had an old 2 foot ruler, which I was left in no doubt would be used if I ever majorly crossed the line. I only gave him cause to use it once (and boy did I deserve it! :-), but it certainly had the mental effect to keep my nose clean.

    The most interesting thing I've seen on this whole issue in a while was the series with Jamie Olivers school dinners. Now while I'm not a massive fan of his, and it was far from a scientifically run experiment, he did manage to show how one boy who had previously been majorly hyperactive, noticably calmed down in the space of a couple of weeks, just from changing from a diet almost entirely comprises of junk food, to a healthy diet. It also only took very little time for him to go back to his old ways when him mum gave him junk food again as a treat for being good!

    Of course that case could have been a one off, perhaps that one child has an allergy to something in the junk food, but perhaps if millions of pounds in research is going to be spent it should be directed at things like this which CAN be conclusively proven, rather than research which can go on for years without any benefit coming from them.

  26. Andy Bright

    Surely the solution is simple?

    Just add tin foil hats to the list of school uniform requirements and we're sorted.

    The food idea seems to me to be the most logical thing I've heard for a long time, but it's far too sensible and should be ignored.

    No, just keep feeding them hardcore, mind altering drugs until we can work out why so many of them appear to be having problems concentrating... DOH!

  27. Gilbert Wham


    I could understand the *internet* giving you ADHD, but not it's mode of delivery. I'm with you Gina. Mmmmmm, Ritalin....

  28. Bloody_Yank

    You must stiffen your resolve on WIFI in schools ...

    Its obvious some scared Henny-Penny's in the schools have influenced this Sir William or are playing to some "pet theories" he has.

    The losers here are the students and the teachers. One of the primary benefits of wireless is that it can bring easy connectivity to older schools. Even when (expensively) re-wired - older schools still have fewer LAN taps per class room - and the LAN taps are not optimally placed.

    This means teachers (who sometimes move to different rooms during the day) may not be able to easily access class notes stored on the server or connect their teaching laptop to both the network and the class projector.

    Whereas wireless give all the flexibility of the newest schools that are wired to the hilt for connections. So until you Brits clear this up I'd say those poor lads-n-lasses at older schools are getting a "less rich" educational experience.

    I work providing on-site support at a 2200 student high school built in 1959. Its been decently rewired - but we are adding 5 discrete wireless nodes to improve connectivity. We are building a new expansion wing next year that will be pre-wired for integrated wireless nodes.

    As to ADHD - my step-son (born 1978) is profoundly ADHD ... I don't think we had wireless anything back then (in common use). Everything I learned about ADHD is that it is heavily hereditary and typically passed on by the father.

  29. Tim Bates

    The power of WiFi...

    Has anyone stopped and looked at the frequency and power output of these access points? Seriously... It's not a complicated issue.

    802.11b/g/n all run on 2.4GHz. It just so happens that microwave ovens also use this frequency.

    US FDA say that 5mW detected 2 inches from the microwave is safe.

    Home level access points run at about 30mW full power (and much lower at higher speeds).

    The power of the signal falls off at the square of the distance increase... ie 10 times distance = 1/100th of the power.

    I have this crazy suspicion that the same people complaining about kids being fried by WiFi would happily let said kids lean on the microwave oven door to watch the microwave popcorn cook.

  30. Bob Hannent

    Yet more worry making!

    Yet another attempt by the worried masses to find something to get hept up about. I work in an institution which has the pleasure of having probably the most dense coverage of any wireless network in an academic institution. I can only name one room where I can't get access now, but that's a very obscure room in itself.

    I also happen to have worked in microwave communications for many years and have had the pleasure of being exposed to the maximum prescribed dosage of non-ionising radiation for a non-certified worker. Of course I can say "never did me any harm" because that was three years ago and with the nature of non-ionising radiation I would have to be dead by now or nothing.

    I've also spent a substantial sum of money to organise a training course on the subject with the Health Protection Agency. I admit without a PhD in biophysics I am slightly disadvantaged, but it was all clearly explained to me and I understand the science of non-ionising radiation. I also was able to meet with a Greek scientist who studied the effects of close contact with Gaussian RF energy in mice, who after many years determined that he could find no threat only that there was a difference in collagen in female mice with high exposure.

    I've measured my mobile with very expensive apparatus and accordingly in a poor reception area I would need 6 hours of continuous usage to reach the maximum safe limits. WiFi power is very small compared to the power that those of us who have worked in the RF industry are exposed to and I think that we would have noticed if there had been any correlation.

    I have also met a short Hungarian man who once helped test radar systems by holding a florescent bulb up in a field to see if it lit. He said non-ionising radiation burns hurt in a very painful and unusual way, but he's in his 50s now and is healthy.

    After all, a specialist workforce, working for more than the past 30 years has been variously exposed and no one has noticed anything with them.

    Societies ills cannot be blamed on technology so easily:

    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun)." - Eddie Izzard

  31. John Browne

    They could try a 6 month shutdown of school WiFi...

    But please give me fair warning so I can get down to the bookies and lay down fifty quid on it making eff all difference.

    I keep the WiFi disabled on my router when not needed, but that is for security reasons, not health.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a sceptic, but I'm glad I listened to the panic

    I'm currently installing a network at a nursery. I said to them a few weeks ago when we were ordering the kit that we should get Ethernet over power as there have been various small panics about wireless networking. Boy am I glad I did that as shortly after the kit arrived it all went mainstream with the article in the Independent.

    Not that I have switched off our wireless network at home or currently believe the panic stories and ADHD linked claims for one minute.

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