The Government has agreed to issue to all primary schools guidelines with which to inform and educate parents on the dangers of smartphones for young schoolchildren.
The guidelines are based on pioneering moves by eight primary schools in Greystones, Co. Wicklow in which local parents pledged not to buy smartphones while their children are in primary school.
The Minister for Education Norma Foley has sought to make changes which aim to limit phone time for primary school goers.
The move, which has being discussed at Cabinet, will see national schools survey parents to see if they want smartphones banned for their kids.
More than 80% of parents want phones to be banned in both primary and secondary schools, as per August’s annual Back to School survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions which also has parents reporting that 10.7 is the average age at which primary school children get their first phones. Secondary school parents said the average age was 13.5 years.
The findings come as UNESCO, the UN’s education, science, and culture agency, recommended that only technology that supports learning is merited in schools, saying that mobile devices can cause distraction, risk pupil privacy, and lead to cyberbullying. The survey found that 30% of parents were concerned at over-use and time spent on phones; 23% about access to inappropriate content; and 19% about bullying.
Local Wicklow representative Minister Simon Harris said “I am proud to say this policy has come from our own innovative and forward thinking schools in Greystones.
“The policies put forward by Greystones primary schools have been an overwhelming success and by all accounts make parents lives easier while also protecting young people from cyberbullying or exposure to violent content online.
“Parents need to be supported by the Government and by the schools when it comes to protecting their children from the pressures and dangers of smartphones being used at a young age.
“I think it’s important Government put forward a national policy to guide parents and schools when it comes to our youth using this type of technology at such a young age.
“What these guidelines set out to do is to make sure that all schools deal with smartphones in a safe manner. We know that young people can be very affected by the use of smartphones at a young age and it’s crucial we put in place guidelines that set the national standard.