Report: UK government should consider banning phones for under-16s


The education committee in the House of Commons, the lower house of the UK parliament, said tougher guidance on mobile phones in schools and how to manage children’s screen time at home is needed to better protect young people. — Unsplash

LONDON: The next UK government should consider a statutory ban on mobile phones in schools and a total ban on phones for under-16s, a report from British lawmakers has said.

The education committee in the House of Commons, the lower house of the UK parliament, said tougher guidance on mobile phones in schools and how to manage children’s screen time at home is needed to better protect young people.

It argued that screen time was harmful to children’s mental and physical health, and both schools and parents needed clear guidance from the government on the issue.

Earlier this year, the UK's Department for Education issued guidance instructing headteachers on how to ban the use of phones not only during lessons but during break and lunch periods as well, and suggesting that staff could search pupils and their bags for mobile phones if necessary.

But the committee has said this does not go far enough.

Its report said the next government should consult on raising the age of digital consent from 13 to 16, and should consider a total ban on smartphones for under-16s, as well as a full statutory ban on mobile phones in schools, pointing to a rise in children’s screen time and phone use that is consistent with behavioural addiction.

It said there had been a 52% increase in children’s screen time between 2020 and 2022, with a quarter said to be using their devices in an addictive manner.

Committee chairman Robin Walker said: “Excessive screen and smartphone use has a clear negative impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of children and young people.”

“Without urgent action, more children will be put in harm’s way,” he added.

However, online safety campaigner Ian Russell, whose 14-year-old daughter Molly took her own life after viewing harmful material on social media, said a ban on phones or social media access would “cause more harm than good” and would “punish children for the failures of tech companies to protect them”. – PA Media/dpa

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