After plans to make St Albans the first smartphone-free city for children under 14, our panellists discuss potential benefits and drawbacks I wouldn

‘They give us liberty with less anxiety’: A teenager, a parent and a teacher on smartphones for under-14s

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2024-06-08 08:00:04

After plans to make St Albans the first smartphone-free city for children under 14, our panellists discuss potential benefits and drawbacks

I wouldn’t mind if it was only in St Albans that headteachers want to create a smartphone-free city for under-14s. I can take reasonable steps not to live there. But banning phones for young people is raised all the time, and it’s the lazy way out. There are noticeable negative effects of extensive internet use: I’m 16, and in the middle of GCSEs – if I could get back all the revision time I’ve lost on TikTok, believe me, I would.

But I don’t believe the downsides outweigh the good. Phones have allowed my generation liberty with less anxiety. It is known, unfortunately, that teenage girls face a lot of street harassment. A phone’s primary function is contact with other people, and when you are a teenage girl this is essential. And yes, it has to be a smartphone – a dumbphone won’t do it. You need your friends to be able to find you on Snap Maps, or to signal you’re in a dodgy situation – calling 999 isn’t always possible. It is so unbelievably naive to try to limit this, and shows a lack of social thinking. It’s so easy to villainise the artefact instead of the culture that has formed around it.

One hope for the internet was it would enable greater information access worldwide. I think my generation is much more aware of global politics than previous ones were at our age; if we know about the abortion battle in the US, or the temperature spikes in Mexico, or the bombardment of Gaza, it’s because of social media. The empathy for global struggles that could previously be glossed over fuels us. Just look at the school climate strikes, and the youth presence on the pro-Palestine marches.

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