Public Perception of Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) from Wi-Fi Routers

Non-ionizing radiation (NIR) is found in a large range of wavelengths and frequencies such as radio frequencies, which include telecommunications, cellular (mobile) communications, data communications (such as Wi-Fi), and navigation systems (such as GPS). The definition of NIR also covers radiation from extremely low magnetic frequencies (ELF), such as radiation from all electronic appliances used in and outside homes and schools. Our research aimed at exploring nonscientists’ use of scientific knowledge and argumentation skills as they debate and engage with this scientific issue relevant to their daily lives.

This research project, which ran from 2017-2019 was dedicated to exploring public perceptions of perceived risks from NIR. Specifically, we looked at perceptions of NIR from Wi-Fi in schools by researching media frames and parents sense-making and decision-making about the perceived risks.


The project consisted of the following components:

  1. Interviews with Hebrew speaking parents. A qualitative study that examined how adults engage with the issue of NIR from Wi-Fi routers in the public sphere (schools). Thirty-five parents of primary school children were interviewed to explore how non-scientists make decisions about this issue and how they gather, access and evaluate information. We explored the ways in which parents formulated their justifications for their decision and what sources and resources they utilized when engaging with science in their daily lives. Our findings highlight that these processes often did not rely on scientific knowledge or information, but rather on the participants’ personal perceptions of the issue. Overall, our findings demonstrate that personal perceptions, social networks, social media and trusted others from their social circle played a more dominant role in decision making, even if these individuals did not have the necessary scientific expertise. Our interviewees came from varied personal, social, cultural, emotional and demographic backgrounds but at the end of the day converged to limited patterns of justification and even more limited pattern of online searches. Our study teases out the complex way science literacy works in action – when non-scientists engage with SSIs in daily life.
  2. Media Analysis. We collected news items from websites, items that had a clear reference to NIR. We collected the items from 7 leading news websites: Mako, NRG, Walla, NANA10, Haaretz, The Marker, and Ynet during 3 years – 2014-2017. Collection of items was done using websites search engines using the search word “radiation”. Filtering the results, only items containing a reference to non-ionizing radiation were included in our analysis. In addition, we compiled all the talkbacks/reader comments published to these items.  Our data pool includes 70 items from the news website and 793 talkbacks. Analysis process of these media items and talkbacks has followed a quantitative coding protocol looking at risk perception (of NIR), mitigation suggestions and what kind of links and external sources get mentioned.
  3. Public Discourse on Social Media instigated by TV programs on NIR. Since 2016, three TV programs on NIR have aired and one public news segment. The first in April 2016 was hosted by Avri Gilad. It was titled: “How we kill ourselves: Radiation” and was produced by “Reshet” of Channel 2. This program was also a part of our pilot study with parents. On September 2016, Amnon Levi from channel 10 dedicated his program to looking at the lives of people who are sensitive to NIR the title was “True faces: The prophets of rage”. In July 2017 on Channel 10s “Osot Heshbon” Program, the first episode of the season was devoted to NIR from home appliances. On March 2018, Kan 11 news also aired a segment (~10 minutes) about NIR in the public domain and especially about people who identify as “sensitive to NIR. In the second year of the study our focus was on the social media (Facebook) discussions that followed these programs.Our finding suggest that opinions online do not necessarily represent the scientific current knowledge. From the 865 relevant comments in all Facebook pages analyzed 52% stated that NIR is dangerous without a doubt.  However, differences exist between the pages in who dominates the discussion – those who claim that NIR is dangerous or those who follow the accepted scientific evidence and claim that NIR is not dangerous. Analysis also points to the fact that social media discussions demonstrate that people fall back on their worldview and beliefs, rather than attempt to engage and learn.
  4. Public Engagement Event. On February 10th  2019 an open public engagement event was conducted in collaboration with the Israeli Society for Ecology and Environmental Sciences. The event featured 4 short presentations and a panel discussion. Presentations included:
  5. Eng. Moshe Netzer – Physical Aspects of possible NIR from Wireless Internet Routers.
  6. Dr. Uri Lerner – The Precautionary Principle and its application
  • Prof. Stilian Gelberg – Regulatory Aspects
  1. Dr. Keren Dalyot – Risk Communication and Parents’ Perceptions of Non-Ionizing Radiation in Schools: The Case of Wi-Fi in Israeli Classrooms – study highlights.

The panel discussion, titled: Public dilemmas involving the perception of risk toward non-ionizing radiation? Was hosted by journalist Sivan Klingbail and discussants were: Dr. Andrei Broisman (Ministry of Science), Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari (Technion, PI on this project), Aviv Lavi (journalist and environmental activist), Hadas Vagman (The Israeli National Information Center for Non-Ionizing Radiation) and Prof. Barak Fishbein (Technion Faculty of civil and environmental engineering). The event was free and open to the public and was hosted in a central location in Tel-Aviv. Around 50 people attended the event and participated in a lively discussion with the panelists.

Link to event pictures  /he/science-communication-conferences/wifi-event/

Link to article about the study in Ecology & Environment –

Link to an article in YNET featuring Prof. Ayelet Baram-Tsabari and this study –,7340,L-5459487,00.html

Related Publications:

Dalyot, K., & Baram-Tsabari, A. (under review). Socio-scientific issues and justification of decision making in a tl; dr society: The case of non-ionizing radiation from Wi-Fi routers in schools.

Dalyot, K., Sharon, A.J, Barel Ben-David, Y., Orr, D., & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2019). Public engagement with science in everyday life: Perceptions of Wi-Fi radiation risks in schools. Research in Science Education. DOI: 10.1007/s11165-019-09894-w.


Dalyot, K. & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2021, April). Parents Attitudes Towards Wi-Fi In Schools: The Role of Education in Engagement with Real-Life SSIs. Poster presented at the 94th NARST Online Annual International Conference.

Dalyot, K. & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2020, March). “I have a gut feeling about this”: Adult Engagement with SSI in Daily Life. Paper presented digitally at the 93rd NARST Annual International Conference. (Cancelled due to COVID-19)

Dalyot, K. & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2019, August). Adult science literacy in action: Engaging with a real- life socio-scientific issue. Paper presented at European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) bi-annual conference, Bologna, Italy.

Dalyot, K. & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2018, October). Non- Ionizing Radiation on Facebook: Discussion Patterns on Social Media. Poster presented at the EARLI SIG 20-26 Conference in Jerusalem.

Dalyot, K. & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2018, February). Scientific Discourse and Lifelong Learning on

Social Media: The Case of Non-Ionizing Radiation. Paper presented at the 11th Chaise annual conference.

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