BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School Grade 11 student Justin Thompson uses his smartphone to send a text message during his lunch break at school on Friday.
Currently about two-thirds of Brandon schools have been equipped with wireless Internet, but by next fall WiFi will be installed division-wide.
More schools are now using laptop computers and iPads, and with the WiFi technology they can be carted for use in different classrooms within the building.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection offers a wide range of tools for parents and teachers on Internet safety:• The Door that's not Locked (thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca), offers brochures and quizzes targeted towards different age groups from five to 15 years old.•Kids in the Know (kidsintheknow.ca), an interactive program that focuses on building self-esteem and safety awareness in children from kindergarten to high school by teaching problem-solving skills.• Zoe & Molly Online (zoeandmolly.ca), features comics and quizzes on online safety, directed towards students in grades 3 and 4.Visit Cybertip.ca to report online sexual exploitation of children.• In 2010-11, there were 8,651 reports of online child sexual exploitation across Canada. There were 7,913 reported in 2009-10.• Cybertip.ca has been in operation since 2002. In Manitoba, there have been 1,902 reports of online child exploitation.• On average, Cybertip.ca receives more than 700 reports per month and 9,000 downloads of educational material. More than 75 arrests have been made in connection with Cybertip.ca reports.
"We added 425 laptops across the division (this year)," said Brent Ewasiuk, director of management and information systems technology with the Brandon School Division. "iPads are going into seven schools by the time the year is over."
Schools still without wireless Internet are J.R. Reid, St. Augustine, O’Kelly, Alexander, Riverview, Spring Valley, Valleyview, Green Acres and Betty Gibson.
Last month, a union representing 45,000 Ontario teachers warned against the use of WiFi in schools. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association studied the effects of microwave radiation from wireless Internet, and has published a report stating that classroom computers should only be hardwired.
The union expressed concern about potential adverse health effects as a reaction to WiFi, such as headaches, heart palpitations and speeding heart rates.
Ewasiuk said the division has discussed the concern and is relying heavily on Health Canada for guidance.
"Everything that we’re getting from them is that the wireless that’s out there is well within acceptable limits," Ewasiuk said.
"We’ve put wireless in, but the signal across the school is a weaker signal. It’s not like we’ve put an access point in every classroom. It’s spread out through the school to give sort of minimal coverage."
According to Health Canada, it has been determined that low-level exposure to radiofrequency energy from WiFi equipment is not dangerous to the public. RF energy levels from WiFi equipment in all areas accessible to the general public are required to meet Health Canada’s exposure guidelines, which are based on an ongoing review of scientific studies on the health impacts of RF energy.
Exposure guidelines are updated every five to 10 years, however Health Canada says it will take immediate action to revise its guidelines should new, convincing scientific evidence arise.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 24, 2012