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Smartphone ban for under-16s should be considered

A total ban on under-16s owning smartphones should be considered by the next government, according to a report from MPs.

The House of Commons Education Committee also called for a statutory ban on mobile phones in schools.

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 Department for Education issued guidance, which is non-statutory, instructing headteachers on how to ban the use of phones during lessons and break and lunch periods.

However, the committee has said this does not go far enough.

Its report 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: “Without urgent action, more children will be put in harm’s way. From exposure to pornography, to criminal gangs using online platforms to recruit children, the online world poses serious dangers.

“Parents and schools face an uphill struggle and Government must do more to help them meet this challenge.

“This might require radical steps, such as potentially a ban on smartphones for under-16s.”

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”.

“The quickest and most effective route to protect children’s online safety and wellbeing is to strengthen the Online Safety Act in the next parliament and we call on all parties to commit to this in their manifestos.”

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