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Call for smartphone ban for under-16s, MP suggests

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Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie has called for Stroud’s schools to join together and ban smartphones.

The Education Committee released its findings and said the mental and physical health of young people was being harmed and that screen time can disrupt pupils’ learning both at home and in the classroom.

The document entitled: Screen time: impacts on education and wellbeing, strongly supported tougher guidance on keeping phones out of the classroom and break times than what the Department for Education issued in February. 

The committee recommended formal monitoring and evaluation of this approach by the next Government with the possibility of a statutory ban if needed. 

It also concluded that screen time should be minimal for younger children and better balanced with face-to-face socialisation and physical activity for older ones.

It added parents need clear guidance from the government on managing children’s screen time.

The MP’s call for local action comes after St Alban’s in Hertfordshire is attempting to become the first UK city to go smartphone-free for all children under 14.

“I believe only an effective ban on smartphones, starting in schools will prevent the harm they have done since they came on the scene in the noughties for the children growing up now,” said Ms Baillie.

“I know from my postbag what a growing concern it is for parents and teachers here in Stroud.  Many of our schools were ahead of the curve and already have bans and measures in place but I believe that this is an area that could do something extraordinary if we work together.

“I have raised my concerns in parliament and to ministers but I do not think the existing guidance is tough enough.  This has to start at home with families and be supported by schools to protect children.

“Just how embedded smartphones are in young people’s lives is alarming. The report found evidence screen use has been found to start as early as six months of age and one in five children aged between three and four years old have their own mobile phone.

“It also found this increases to one in four children by age eight and to almost all children by age twelve along with increasing hours of use too as time has gone on.

“As Prof Jonathan Haidt said in a recent report, we must act as having a mobile phone at school is the equivalent of us bringing our television sets to school back in our day, along with our video cassette recorders, record players, walkie-talkies and any other communication devices or games, and sticking them on our school desks. We would not have done that, so why are we allowing it now?

“I am happy to get in contact with all our schools to see if there is support for collective action involving our expert teachers and local parents.”

She added: “When this report says it has  evidence 79% of children have encountered violent pornography before the age of 18, with the average age that children first see pornography being 13 years old. 

“When we know some 81% of girls aged 7-21 have experienced some form of threatening or upsetting behaviour. 

“When we can see that online sexual crimes committed against children online have risen by 400% since 2013, then we need to take action.”

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