Home Tech Campaigners are ‘excited’ as St Albans aims to eliminate smartphones for under-14s

Campaigners are ‘excited’ as St Albans aims to eliminate smartphones for under-14s

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Campaigners are 'excited' as St Albans aims to eliminate smartphones for under-14s

“This is mega!” said Daisy Greenwell of the Smartphone-Free Childhood campaign. “We’re absolutely thrilled and think it’s going to have a ripple effect.”

She was reacting to the news that St Albans in Hertfordshire is attempting to become the first UK town to eliminate smartphones for all children under 14.

Before St Albans, last year it was Greystones in Ireland, where parents came together to collectively tell their children they couldn’t have a smartphone until secondary school. Greenwell believes others will now take similar steps.

“People will feel emboldened to do the same,” said Greenwell, whose local WhatsApp group on the topic “exploded,” attracting 100,000 followers in a matter of months. “The outpouring of support we’ve seen has been completely mind-blowing.”

Headteachers from more than 30 St Albans primary schools came together to draft a joint letter to send to families, declaring their schools smartphone-free and urging parents to delay giving a smartphone to their children until at least the ninth year of high school.

According to Ofcom research, 91% of children in the UK own a smartphone by the time they are 11 and 44% by the time they are nine, but concerns have grown over online safety and the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

The letter from those responsible said: “Smartphone use is now a feature of the daily lives of most adults and in recent years the age at which children receive their first smartphone has decreased significantly.

“We know that in our schools some children even in key stage 1 (aged five to seven) have smartphones. “While smartphones can be a very useful technology for adults, they can also expose children to a number of negative risks.”

The letter continued: “We encourage all parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until they turn 14, opting instead for a text/phone call alternative if necessary.

“As principals we have committed to promoting our own schools to be smartphone-free. “We believe we can all work together in St Albans and join the growing movement across the country to change the ‘normal’ age at which children receive smartphones.”

The letter went out on Monday. By lunchtime on Wednesday, Justine Elbourne-Cload, chief executive of Cunningham Hill Schools Federation and co-chair of St Albans Primary Schools Consortium, had conducted multiple media interviews, with more planned for Thursday.

Meanwhile, inquiries have increased from parents and school leaders in Hertfordshire and beyond to find out more about the smartphone-free campaign. “The response from parents has been phenomenal,” she said. “They really agree. Parents are crying out for that support.”

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