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Are Smartphones A Smart Choice For Our Children?

Fianna Fáil Minister for Education Ms Norma Foley TD, has announced that she is bringing a policy to Cabinet that will support parents not to buy ‘Smartphones’ for primary school children. Many in society will welcome this move, given mounting evidence that so called “Smartphones” are NOT a smart choice for our children.

The term ‘Smartphone’ refers to the now ubiquitous touchscreen phone that is so ‘smart’ it can perform any number of diverse functions; including stream movies, access the internet, email, access social media, take high quality video and photos, pay your bills and show you how to get from ‘A‘ to ‘B’ with built-in satellite navigation tools. Indeed, the potential of smartphones is unlimited given their ability to download applications (apps) for just about anything.

Despite their benefits and utility, increasingly, scientists, educationalists and parents are highlighting that they have the capacity to cause real harm, when put into the hands of children and teenagers (and some adults too). Smartphones enable unlimited access to social media platforms with multiple studies highlighting links between social media and increased levels of anxiety, depression and bullying.
Dove recently launched its “Cost of Beauty” campaign, and a short film, that is a stark warning to all parents about the devastating impact various platforms can have on young minds when these platforms enable them (and some would argue encourage them) to scroll through thousands of images of impossible beauty standards.

We are repeatedly warned of the dangers of excessive screen time and with apps purposely designed to keep users online and engaged, it’s impossible for adults, let alone young minds, to get offline. As well as spending too much time online, smartphones enable anyone to access anything online. You may think “that’s fine my kids only watch YouTube and Tiktoks”, but even these familiar apps can lead children to dark and strange content.

Please do take the time to watch, to the very end; this ‘Ted Talk’ video, shown immediately hereunder:

As well as the dangers of social media, screen time and exposure to inappropriate content, smartphones and apps are potentially invading our privacy. Our actions are constantly monitored and our data used and misused. It’s worth watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma” to get an insight into this area of danger.

Less dangerous, but troubling all the same, are the warnings about smartphones and the damage they are doing to our intelligence and creativity. We never get bored, never need to remember anything and never experience quiet solitude when in the presence of our smartphones.

Boredom and offline time is essential to learning, imagination and creativity. Indeed, back in 2018 “The Times” published an article entitled “Why the Silicon Valley titans who got our kids addicted to screens are sending their own children to tech-free schools”. Why? The Silicon Valley titans know the value of tech free time, hands-on learning, boredom, imagination and creativity and they want this, not their high tech, for their kids. It is even said that Steve Jobs, creator of the iPhone and iPad, did not allow his own children to use the very devices he created.

Many parents get their child a smartphone for understandable reasons. They want to be able, for example, to contact their child about ever changing after school activities, sports matches or visits with friends. This is important but you don’t need a smartphone to achieve this.

All you need for children is what’s known as a “dumb phone”, [View here for “dumb phone” ]. Dumb phones are so-called because their functions are limited. All you can do is make a call, receive a call and send and receive texts (some readers may remember these prehistoric devices). With all the negatives associated with smartphones these days, maybe “dumb phones” aren’t that dumb after all.

And whilst politicians don’t always get things right (“Do they ever”, I hear some of you say), Minister Norma Foley may be making a ‘smart’ move/decision here, and if her advice is followed, one that will really benefit our children into the future.

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