A mother has revealed why her son is banned from having a phone – as figures show more than half of all ten-year-olds in Britain now have one.
Ex-primary school teacher Kam Chauhan, 43, from Milton Keynes, said she would fear for her son’s safety online if he had a phone and said she has heard about children aged between nine and 11 being attacked and having their mobiles stolen.
Her comments come as Ofcom data revealed that 60 per cent of kids aged 10 now have a phone, amid growing fears about children’s safety online and the ease with which they can access inappropriate material.
Ofcom also found that 63 per cent of children aged eight to 11 are now on social media, with most using their phones to access apps.
Ms Chauhan told MailOnline: ‘Children behave very differently when they’re behind a screen and yes he knows the difference between right and wrong but it’s a case of if he sees something that is inappropriate or not right, will he speak up? Because often it’s their friends doing wrong and they don’t want to cause trouble for their friends.
‘And then it’s the other part of online safety. Things pop up so easily, you can try and block them but it’s worrying.
‘Whatever you do now, if you put something out there, it’s there forever and something you can do now can affect the rest of your life.
‘He will get a phone at some point because he’s got to learn how to use it responsibly. But at 10 years old, I think it’s very young to fully understand the responsibilities of being safe online.’
Ms Chauhan said that her son did have a smartphone in lockdown solely for contacting and video calling family members. However, once schools reopened, she took the smartphone away from him.
She added: ‘In lockdown, he did have a smartphone but there were only three numbers on it, both sets of grandparents and one of his cousins. He used that to communicate and video call but that was the only thing he was allowed to do.
‘But as soon as the schools opened again, the phone got taken away. Now he’s in year six, we are going through the whole “I would like a smartphone, my friends have got one.”
‘But I used to teach and I used to see first-hand what would happen.’
She said that there have been situations where children have taken photographs of staff members and other pupils inside school without their consent.
‘You could have children within that class that are under a child protection order and that’s gone out there. You’ve got a member of staff that hasn’t consented to having their photo taken. There’s sensitive data that can be taken within that photograph and it’s been uploaded.
‘I’ve seen instances were a child doesn’t understand the concept of someone else’s privacy. They’ve gone online and searched for members of staff and other children.
‘I did see something recently about schools, they were talking about having a blanket ban of phones in schools and for me, personally, I think that’s a brilliant idea.’
Ms Chauhan said that when she allows her son to start using a smartphone, she will be putting rules in place to ensure she can monitor his usage.
‘I’m conscious that children these days are on them a lot and not getting enough sleep. So there will be a cut off time and the phone will be available for us to pick up and monitor as we please.
‘One of my biggest concerns is that children are a lot more tech savvy that we are. So it’s all well and good saying let me check your phone and do spot checks as they find ways very quickly to be able to delete things or hide things.’
Georgina Sturmer, a BACP registered counsellor who owns her own practice and also works for a parenting charity, told MailOnline that children’s social development may be hindered because of the use of phones at a young age.
‘I do believe that it’s possible that we’ll look back in future generations and almost be shocked that we kind of didn’t police this kind of technology when our children were younger.’
Ms Sturmer said that the challenge with children aged nine having phones is that they have grown up surrounded by screens.
‘Their formative years of brain development were during COVID, so if we think about kids who are nine now, they would have been nursery and reception age when the world went into lockdown and when everything went on to screens,’ she continued.
‘These are children who for a lot of their key developmental years have been spent with screens actively encouraged.
‘And I think that there are there are just lots of different aspects of things that are a bit worrying for children at this age having so much access to technology.’
Ofcom found that almost all children aged between three and 17 went online in 2022 either at home or elsewhere.
‘There’s something very tunnel vision about a smartphone screen, where it’s really just you and your screen interacting. It feels less social. Therefore you’re less able to develop those social skills,’ Ms Sturmer said.
Whilst she stresses that she is not anti-technology, the counsellor said that the concept of a child hiding away, staring at a screen and not engaging with people around them is ‘worrying’.
Ms Sturmer, who is a mother herself, said that parents may often feel ‘peer pressured’ to get their children online over the fear of them missing out in social settings.
‘If one or two parents in your child’s peer group suddenly decide that they’re going to give their kids a smartphone and then your child Just coming home from school saying “Oh, I’m missing out, they’re all playing the game” or “they’re all messaging each other”, as a parent you just want to do your best for your child.
‘Even if you are a bit anti-smartphones, you can see why it’s tempting to just want to give them access to that, so that they’re not missing out socially.’
Recently the Daily Mail reported that 60 per cent of pupils aged between 11 and 18 had received unwelcome messages on social media and messaging apps, according to Ofcom.
Nearly one in three said they had received an unwanted friend request and around a fifth were asked where they lived or how old they were.
A further 13 per cent admitted they had been sent pictures or videos of naked or half-dressed people, while ten per cent had been asked to share such content.
Teenagers reported this happened the most on Snapchat, a social media app in which the photos or videos sent automatically disappear seconds after they have been watched.
But social media expert Rhea Freeman, who is a Meta lead trainer and Ted speaker, said that platforms are here to stay and thinks it is important for children to understand how they work.
She said: ‘[Parents] burying their head in the sand or preventing any access when their children are the right age is a worrying strategy.
‘Social media is here to stay and whilst I do understand it can be scary, just pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t the solution.
‘As a parent, you might not like social media, and that’s fine, but it’s still important, in my opinion, to understand how it works so you can have open discussions with your children about it and help support them.
‘Preventing any access worries me too, because then social media becomes some secret thing that your children can’t possibly discuss with you, which means if they have seen something that has worried or upset them, they have nowhere to go.’
Ms Freeman also thinks that it would be helpful for schools to teach their pupils about the dangers of social media platforms and smartphones but also how to use them, so that they are well informed.
MailOnline also spoke to Kamalyn Kaur, an accredited psychotherapist and anxiety expert about the impact that mobile phone usage can have on children’s mental health.
She said: ‘Social media is the breeding ground for a “compare and despair” mindset.
‘Seeing others living their life in a certain way, looking a certain way, wearing certain clothes, playing with certain toys and having certain parties can lead to feelings of inadequacy or insecurity which can lead to anxiety.’
She also said that reduced face-to-face interactions could mean that children connect more with their friends online and through apps rather than in-person.
‘This can lead to social isolation and loneliness which can contribute to anxiety,’ she added.
The Online Safety Bill recieved Royal Assent last month and has become law, meaning that legal responsibility will be put on tech companies to prevent and remove illegal content such as terrorism and revenge pornography.
Companies will also have to stop children from seeing harmful material such as bullying, pornography and content that promotes self-harm and eating disorders.
If they fail to follow the rules, then they could face hefty fines and even prison sentences.
When the bill became law on 26 October, Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: ‘Today will go down as an historic moment that ensures the online safety of British society not only now, but for decades to come.
‘I am immensely proud of the work that has gone into the Online Safety Act from its very inception to it becoming law today. The Bill protects free speech, empowers adults and will ensure that platforms remove illegal content.
‘At the heart of this Bill, however, is the protection of children. I would like to thank the campaigners, parliamentarians, survivors of abuse and charities that have worked tirelessly, not only to get this Act over the finishing line, but to ensure that it will make the UK the safest place to be online in the world.’
Rhea Freeman’s top tips on how to keep your child safe online
Social media expert Rhea Freeman has revealed her tips on how keep your child safe online.
Do your research
Rhea says: ‘Learn about the platforms, the age limits, the parental controls you can apply, and really do the work to understand this.’
Rhea says: ‘Explain what is and isn’t okay online to your child and do all you can to ensure an open dialogue so they have someone to talk to if something has happened.’
She says to try and keep social media usage on communal devices like a home computer and also says to encourage using social media in shared spaces to prevent secrecy.
Rhea says: ‘Tell your child that you expect to be a friend or follower- not to engage with them online but because it’s important to you.’
She says that is is useful to have your children as contacts online so you can monitor what is said and what they are receiving from others.
Know how to flag inappropriate behaviour
If you see anything concerning online regarding your child, Rhea says it is important to understand how to report and flag it to social media platforms.
Source: Why I refuse to give my son, 10, a mobile phone: Ex-primary school teacher says devices are unsafe for children as data reveals more than half of all nine-year-olds now have one | Daily Mail OnlineCategories: News