Parents around the country have realised that children are being exposed to social media too young – the fightback has begun
Bryony Gordon is a bestselling author, columnist, podcast host, mental health campaigner and now the Telegraph’s Anxiety Aunt, Bryony is also the founder of peer support group Mental Health Mates.
A movement is mounting. Last week, a mother from Suffolk posted on Instagram about a WhatsApp group she had set up with a friend. Parents United for a Smartphone Free Adolescence had only three members when Daisy Greenwell announced it on social media. “I don’t want to give my child something that I know will damage her mental health and make her addicted, but I also know that the pressure to do so if the rest of her class have one will be massive,” she wrote, under a picture of her children playing happily in the woods. “What if we could switch the norm so that in our school, our town, our country, it was an odd choice to give your child a smartphone at 11? What if we could hold off until they’re 14, or 16? The scientific evidence for doing so is massive.”
At the time of writing this, the group has over 1,000 people in it. The demand to join is so large that Greenwell and her friend Clare Fernyhough have had to turn it into almost 50 sub groups: Wales Smartphone Free Childhood, South Yorkshire Smartphone Free Childhood, Fylde Coast Smartphone Free Childhood, and so on and so forth, until no part of the UK is left uncovered, not even the bits that have yet to be given access to decent broadband.
All week, the groups have been pinging with messages from parents quite rightly frustrated at how we have ended up living in a world where one in five toddlers have a smartphone, and over half of eight to 11-year-olds. Parents reminisced about their own phone-free childhoods, when to contact anyone out of the house you had to go to a phone booth, and use the BT card your parents had charged up for you in case of emergencies. That or call the operator and ask them to reverse the charges.
Obviously, I joined my local group immediately. This year, my almost-11-year-old will start secondary school and I have announced with a dramatic flourish that if she wants a smartphone, she can build one herself, out of tin cans and bits of string if needs be. She finds this annoying, but then she is at an age where she finds everything I say annoying, so why back down on this?
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