Greystones, Ireland – In a bid to protect their children’s innocence and prolong childhood, parents in the coastal town of Greystones have come together to support a voluntary ban on smartphones for kids until they reach their teen years. The ban, which has garnered widespread support, aims to reduce anxiety and exposure to adult materials often associated with smartphone usage.
Parents’ associations in the district’s eight primary schools, catering to children aged 4 to 12, have the option to opt into the ban, extending its enforcement beyond school premises to the children’s homes. Although some parents have chosen not to participate, enough have joined in to make a meaningful difference, according to Rachel Harper, a primary school principal who spearheaded the initiative.
“If everyone does it across the board, you don’t feel like you’re the odd one out. It makes it so much easier to say no. The longer we can preserve their innocence, the better,” said Laura Bourne, a parent of a child in primary school.
The ban not only addresses the use of smartphones in schools, where restrictions were already in place, but also aims to tackle the lingering impact of social media on children. By implementing the ban uniformly, the hope is that it will become the new norm in Greystones, as expressed by Harper.
Support for the ban has reached beyond parents, with the country’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, voicing his approval in an op-ed for the Irish Times. Donnelly, who resides near Greystones and is a parent himself, emphasized the need for Ireland to lead in safeguarding children from harm in the digital world.
“Ireland can be, and must be, a world leader in ensuring that children and young people are not targeted and are not harmed by their interactions with the digital world,” Donnelly wrote. “We must make it easier for parents to limit the content their children are exposed to.”
Concerns about the effects of smartphone usage on children are mounting as ongoing studies examine potential long-term impacts on the developing brain. A study by the National Institutes of Health has already indicated that children spending more than two hours in front of screens daily perform poorly on tests assessing thinking and language skills.
Furthermore, a 2019 study published in a peer-reviewed pediatric medical journal supported the theory that excessive screen exposure in preschool-aged children may be linked to lower brain development.
In a similar move, a town in India has implemented a ban on smartphone usage for individuals under the age of 18, imposing a small financial penalty for violators. Additionally, a village in India has introduced an “evening digital detox,” prohibiting smartphone use for children and adults alike from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, as reported by the Times of India.
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