Ban phones for all UNDER-16s, campaigners demand

Ban phones for all UNDER-16s, campaigners demand


Ban phones for all UNDER-16s and stick tobacco-style health warnings on packaging of gadgets, campaigners demand

  • A campaign by group UsforThem calls for a smartphone ban for under-16s 
  • It’s backed by past social mobility tsar and ‘strictest head’ Katharine Birbalsingh 

Phones for under-16s should be banned with ‘tobacco-style’ health warnings stuck on the packaging, campaigners say. 

Parent group UsforThem feels smartphones can make children distracted, isolated and depressed as a result of addictive apps. 

The campaign seeks Government intervention to help children become less digitally dependent.

It is backed by Katharine Birbalsingh, who is dubbed Britain’s strictest headteacher and claims phones ‘break their brains’. 

UsforThem’s plea comes after actress Sophie Winkleman revealed she has twice removed her children from school because she learned they would be given iPads from the age of six. 

Backed by ‘Britain’s strictest headteacher’ Katharine Birbalsingh (pictured) who claims phones ‘break children’s brains’, the campaign seeks Government intervention to help children become less digitally dependent

‘Banning smartphones for under 16s is an absolute necessity,’ Mrs Birbalsingh told The Sun. 

Mrs Birbalsingh, who quit as the Government’s social mobility tsar citing she was doing ‘more harm than good’, argued that things such as sex, cigarettes, alcohol, driving and some films are already banned for children. 

‘Yet we make access to these and much worse via the smartphone so easy, done without parental knowledge, not to mention how phones break their brains,’ she added.

The UsforThem campaign, which launched yesterday, aims to outlaw smartphones for children and is calling for a tobacco-style regulatory framework for them. 

This would place a duty on manufacturers, suppliers and phone providers to prove their products and services are safe for children, with the sale of those products prohibited until evidence is given.

Similar calls for smartphone bans on much younger children have gone on for years, and an under-16 ban was raised by a former No10 policy chief in 2016.

READ MORE:  Sophie Winkleman pulls daughters out of £20,000-a-year prep school once attended by their royal cousins Prince George and Princess Charlotte – after pupils are told they’ll get iPads in class

One leading psychologist, Dr Álvaro Bilbao, believes smartphones delay a child’s ability to improve their attention span and develop greater control of their own mind.

Dr Bilbao believes screen time should be severely limited in those under six to allow them to develop.

He said: ‘Children who are in regular contact with mobile phone screens, tablets or computers are more irritable and have worse attention, memory and concentration than those who do not use them.’

Dr Bilbao, a brain injury expert and psychotherapist, said that the risk of psychological and behavioural issues such as attention deficit disorder, depression and addiction problems increases the more time young children spend on mobiles and tablets.

He has now written a book called Understanding Your Child’s Brain, to help parents decide how they should approach the issue.

The dad-of-three says that devices with screens should ‘find their way into the child’s hands gradually’ once they have developed emotionally and intellectually.

Dr Bilbao said child smartphone-usage was ‘like giving an 800cc motorbike to a child who has just learnt to walk’. 

Speaking to The Times, former Peep Show actress Mrs Winkleman revealed her concerns that devices handed out from a young age were affecting how children learned.

She said she ‘immediately started looking for different schools’ when she learned pupils were ‘going to be given tablets, all of them from Year One to Year Six’.

Phones for under-16s ‘should be banned’ with ‘tobacco-style health warnings’ on packaging, campaigners say (file photo)

Her children, Maud and Isabella, attended the exclusive £20,000-a-year Thomas’s Battersea with their cousins, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who have since left for a co-ed prep school in Berkshire.

The half-sister to Claudia Winkleman praised the south London institution, which charges more than £8,000 a term in some cases, but said it did not suit her children and raised concerns the use of online learning is becoming normalised in UK schools. 

‘The internet is a toxic wilderness we’re letting children stumble through without protection,’ the actor said, concerned about the accessibility of extremist content online.

Winkleman, who is married to Lord Frederick Windsor, the son of Prince Michael of Kent, rallied against the adoption of digital learning in UK schools, which she said she believed was driven by parents.

She said her elder daughter was allowed to use a tablet for a limited period on Sundays, and said that she supported a parent group lobbying to outlaw smartphones for under-16s.

In 2016, former No10 policy chief Steve Hilton called for a smartphone ban for under-16s.

Writing for The Daily Mail, he said: ‘Devices have brought entertainment and education, but they’ve also erased the boundaries between the child and adult worlds.

‘We need to better police the border between children and technology, because unconstrained access to the internet prematurely exposes children to unhealthy sexual norms and disturbs normal social interactions.’

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