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Campaigners ‘thrilled’ as St Albans aims to be smartphone-free for under-14s | Smartphones


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Campaigners ‘thrilled’ as St Albans aims to be smartphone-free for under-14s | Smartphones

“This is mega!” said Daisy Greenwell from the Smartphone-Free Childhood campaign. “We are absolutely thrilled and we believe it’s going to have a domino effect.”

She was reacting to news that St Albans in Hertfordshire is attempting to become the first *** city to go smartphone-free for all children under 14.

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

“People are going to feel emboldened to follow suit,” said Greenwell, whose local WhatsApp group on the issue “exploded”, attracting 100,000 supporters in a matter of months. “The groundswell of support we have seen has been completely mindblowing.”

Headteachers in 30-plus primaries across St Albans got together to draw up a ****** letter to send to families, in which they declared their schools smartphone-free and urged parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until at least year 9 of secondary school.

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

The heads’ letter said: “The use of smartphones is now a feature of daily life for most adults and over the last few years the age at which children are given their first smartphone has dropped significantly.

“We know that in our schools some children as young as key stage 1 [ages five to seven] have smartphones. Whilst smartphones can be a very helpful piece of technology for adults, they can equally expose children to a number of negative risks.”

The letter went on: “We encourage all parents to delay giving children a smartphone until they reach the age of 14, opting instead for a text/call phone alternative if necessary.

“As headteachers we have committed to promoting our own schools as smartphone-free. We believe we can all work together across St Albans and join the growing movement across the country to change the ‘normal’ age that children are given smartphones.”

The letter went out on Monday. By lunchtime on Wednesday, Justine Elbourne-Cload, executive headteacher at the Cunningham Hill federation of schools and co-chair of the St Albans primary schools consortium, had done multiple media interviews, with more planned for Thursday.

Queries meanwhile have been flooding in from parents and school leaders in Hertfordshire and beyond, to learn more about the smartphone-free campaign. “The response from parents has been phenomenal,” she said. “They are really onboard. Parents are crying out for that support.”





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