Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

19 February 2012

Use of Mobile Phones in Schools: Article from Pakistan

A recent article written by Sabir Shah entitled “Use of Mobile Phones in Schools” (full text available here), published online in the The News International, Pakistan, on 6 January 2012, is significant because it summarizes a number of important issues concerning use of this technology in education.  The article was inspired by the unanimous passing of a resolution by the Punjab Assembly in early January 2012 which bans the use of mobile phones in schools and colleges.  The Assembly did not argue “for a minute on this serious issue that has ignited heated debates across the planet if these devices really interfered with the teaching and learning processes in classes and if the radiation they emitted actually carried any potent health risks.”

Research conducted by The News International shows that despite “an over-whelming number of schools across the world limiting the use of mobile phones and setting up restrictions on their use”, students continue to use these devices in the classroom.  The reasons cited for establishment of restrictions were that students used mobile phones for “cheating in exams, bullying, harassment, facilitating gossip and other social activity, and causing threats to school security.”

The article mentions the first secondary school in the United Kingdom to allow students to use mobile phones as a learning tool (in 2009).  “MP3 players such as iPods and gaming platforms will be allowed into the classroom… Senior staff believes the versatile devices should be regarded as small computers for schools to use without extra cost, instead of banning them as most schools do,” writes the Daily Mail.

Towards the end of 2011, in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland, a private school, the “Institut international de Lancy” provided teachers and students, including those at primary school level, with iPads (1,200 in total).  These would be used for math exercises, viewing clips from YouTube, books and manuals that can be transmitted without having to avoid printing.  Use of iPads in the classroom has to be controlled through blocking certain sites such as Facebook and conducting audits. (Ref:  Tribune de Genève, 5 décembre 2011.)

In New York City, more than $1 million were spent on iPads for teachers in early 2011.  It seems, however, that the sheer volume of such wireless devices is overloading schools’ Wi-Fi capabilities.  Teachers find that these devices provide an easy way for them to add interactivity and visuals to their lessons.  What harm will wireless devices cause children in the classroom?  Why do some countries like Switzerland and the United States continue to encourage installation and use of this technology in schools?  There is already a growing movement in Canada to remove Wi-Fi from schools.

The News International article concludes with a summary of existing bans on wireless technology in schools throughout the world for health reasons, provided by the United States non-profit organization “Cellular Phone Task Force” and the numbers of mobile phone users (text quoted from article):

“In the year 2000, the UK Department of Education had recommended that children under 16 should not use cell phones except in an emergency. In 2002, the Interdisciplinary Society for Environmental Medicine (3000 physicians in Germany) had proposed banning cell phone use by children and banning cell phones and cordless phones in preschools, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, events halls, public buildings and vehicles. 

In 2005, Austria’s Public Health Department had banned cell phones in public schools and in August 2005, the Austrian Medical Association had warned against Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and cell phone use by children.”

The Cellular Phone Task Force website has stated: “In 2006, Germany’s government had stated it would not install WiFi in its schools until it had been shown to be harmless.

In 2006, a few Irish and British schools had removed their wireless networks. In 2007, the German Parliament had recommended against installing Wi-Fi in schools. In 2008, Ontario (Canada)’s Lakehead University had banned Wi-Fi on its campus. In 2008, schools in Madhya Pradesh (India) had barred use of cell phones in schools. It was again in 2008 that the National Library of France and other public libraries had removed Wi-Fi connections because of health concerns. The Sainte-Genevieve University of Paris had also followed suit.”

The website reveals further,” In 2008, the Russian National Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection had warned that cell phones were unsafe even for short conversations, proposing that children under 16, pregnant women, epileptics and people with memory loss, sleep disorders and neurological diseases should never use them. In 2008, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute said children should never use a cell phone except in an emergency and Voice (the UK Teachers Union) had called for a ban on Wi-Fi in schools same year. In 2009, all schools in Karnataka State (India) had decided to ban cell phones in all schools.”

The Cellular Phone Task Force website further says,” In December 2010, the French parliament passed a law prohibiting advertising cell phones to children under 14. The law prohibited children up to age of 14 from using cell phones in pre-schools and public schools. On August 30, 2011, the Israeli ministry of education published guidelines strictly limiting the use of mobile phones on all school grounds, citing increased risk of malignant tumors for students and the “passive exposure” experienced by kids who did not use phones.”

In May 2011, the 47-member Council of European States had urged to ban mobile phones and wireless networks in schools. (Reference: Daily Telegraph edition of May 14, 2011)

“The Daily Telegraph” said that in opinion of this powerful European body, mobile phones and computers with wireless internet connections posed a risk to human health and should hence be banned from schools…

Talking about a few vital statistics regarding mobile phones, in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions had grown from 12.4 million to over 4.6 billion, penetrating the developing economies and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid. (References: Associated Press and CBS News reports of February 15, 2010).

The world’s largest individual mobile operator by subscribers is China Mobile with over 500 million mobile phone subscribers and over 50 mobile operators have over 10 million subscribers each. (Reference: The Guardian edition of January 11, 2010)…

Pakistan was only behind China (547,286,000 users), European Union (466,000,000), India (362,300,000), United States (255,000,000), Russia (170,000,000), Brazil (120,980,000), Japan (107,339,000) and Germany (97,151,000 users).

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