Barrie parents blaming Wi-Fi for children’s behaviour in school are apparently unfamiliar with children, school

Barrie parents blaming Wi-Fi for children’s behaviour in school are apparently unfamiliar with children, school

This is your kid on Wi-Fi (Image: Jeff Karpala)

From the grain of salt department: a group of  parents in Barrie are complaining that new wireless networks in local elementary schools have led to a number of bizarre conditions in their children. The Globe and Mail reports:

Some parents in the Barrie, Ont., area say their children are showing a host of symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness to nausea and even racing heart rates…

The symptoms, which also include memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia, have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless, said Rodney Palmer.

There are so many reasons to be skeptical of this claim. The first is that Wi-Fi signals are basically ubiquitous these days, so isolating the exposure at school would be difficult at best. (Not that this argument will comfort concerned parents.) Not to be insensitive, but if school-age children are hyperactive, suffer from insomnia and have trouble concentrating, maybe the simple explanation is that they are…school-age children?

We’re surprised to learn that Lakehead University in Thunder Bay has taken this seriously—it’s banned Wi-Fi from areas with hardwire connections. There’s nothing particularly significant about the frequency used by Wi-Fi networks: a bit lower on the dial [PDF] is satellite radio, and a bit higher is that of GPS signals, both of which are much harder to escape than your local router. Given how quickly radio signals of all kinds lose their power—it’s called the inverse square law—this seems very much like making a mountain out of less than a molehill. But hey, skeptics are wrong too, so maybe we could get a scientist to check this out? But don’t take a blogger’s word for it unless they’ve got a PhD and teach at Yale. Like this guy. To violently paraphrase him, “Seriously? Wi-fi is way weaker than cell phones, and we can’t prove anything wrong with those. Now leave me alone.”

Barrie parents demand schools turn off Wi-Fi [Globe and Mail]
• Ont. parents suspect Wi-Fi making kids sick [CBC News]
Barrie area parents demand schools ditch wireless Internet [Toronto Star]
Banning Wi-Fi From Schools [Neurologica via Torontoist]