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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

UK MPs propose smartphone ban for under-16s

Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK are raising concerns about the impact of smartphone use on children's well-being. A report by the House of Commons Education Committee proposes considering a complete ban on smartphones for children under 16, alongside a statutory ban on phones in schools.

The committee, chaired by Robin Walker, expressed concerns about the "clear negative impact" of excessive screen time on the mental and physical health of young people. They cited evidence presented during an inquiry, highlighting the potential for issues like access to inappropriate content and radicalization.

“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 the 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.”

The education committee recommended in the report that the next government work with Ofcom, the communications regulator, to launch a consultation on new measures for the use of smartphones. “These would include: a “total” ban of smartphones for children under 16; parental controls installed on phones by default; and controls in app stores to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content,” the report read.

The report also called for a formal monitoring body to gauge the impact of the ban and to keep in reserve the option of making it statutory. “If results show that a non-statutory ban has been ineffective in 12 months, the government must move swiftly to introduce a statutory ban,” said the report.

While the committee raises an important issue, it’s still a hard call. Some parents and child development experts have expressed concerns about practicality and potential negative consequences.

Ian Russell, the chair of the Molly Rose Foundation and whose 14-year-old daughter Molly took her own life after viewing harmful material on social media, criticized the proposal, suggesting it would "punish children for the failures of tech companies to protect them." He argues for a focus on holding tech companies accountable for content moderation and user safety features.

The Department for Education previously issued non-statutory guidance encouraging schools to restrict phone use during lessons and breaks. The proposal by the House of Commons represents a stricter approach backed by law.


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