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Parents should set an example to their children by getting off their phones, Children’s Commissioner urges


Parents should tackle their own phone ‘addictions’ to set a good example for youngsters, the Children’s Commissioner has urged.

Dame Rachel de Souza said too many mothers and fathers are ‘using their phones at dinner time’ and ‘scrolling at night’ in an ‘uncontrolled’ way.

She also stressed parents’ over-reliance on social media makes it hard for them to limit children’s access to it.

Dame Rachel called for technology companies to fund ‘parental education’ to help families understand the dangers of too much screen time.

She gave evidence to the Commons education committee following new government guidance which has told schools to ban mobile phones.

It is hoped the action will cut down on cyberbullying and reduce distractions in the classroom.

But yesterday Dame Rachel said more action was needed at home by parents acting as good role models.

Parents should tackle their own phone 'addictions' to set a good example for youngsters, the Children's Commissioner has urged (Stock Image)

Parents should tackle their own phone ‘addictions’ to set a good example for youngsters, the Children’s Commissioner has urged (Stock Image)

It is hoped the action will cut down on cyberbullying and reduce distractions in the classroom (Stock Image)

It is hoped the action will cut down on cyberbullying and reduce distractions in the classroom (Stock Image)

‘I took a cab down here and I can’t tell you how many people were watching their phones and walked into the road,’ she said.

‘You see parents with kids using their phones at dinner time. We can’t say ‘I’m going to ban you from having this’… then act as adults in a totally uncontrolled way scrolling at night.

‘We really do need parents and adults in this country to have this conversation about our own addictions.’

Dame Rachel said she had interviewed children who said they ‘want boundaries around screentime’ and ‘parents should not be letting them take their phones to bed at night’.

She added: ‘When we asked them, when you have children, would you allow them to have a phone at [age] 11 or 12, [they said] absolutely not.

‘They also wanted their parents to talk to them early and often about the things they see in the online world.’

She said children were seeing ‘horrendous things’ online and no technology in the bedroom was a ‘good piece of advice’.

Esther Ghey, the mother of murdered teenager Brianna, is campaigning for an age limit for smartphone usage and stricter controls on access to social media.

When asked whether she would support age verification when a phone is sold, Dame Rachel signalled support.

She said: ‘As long as that’s coupled with education – a proper campaign of parental education – I think it could be incredibly helpful and we should be looking at every innovation possible.’

On Monday, the Department for Education published non-statutory guidance instructing headteachers on how to ban phone usage during lessons, breaks and lunchtimes.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said it would provide ‘clarity and consistency’ for teachers, given the ‘large variation in how different schools are managing the use of mobile phones’.

When asked about the guidance, Dame Rachel said: ‘I think it’s great at school to have a mobile-free zone. I think most headteachers do that.’



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