The state does its best to protect us from our own follies and ignorance. It is illegal not to wear a seat belt. Cigarette companies are forced to put warnings on their packets. Five-a-day vegetables are encouraged as is washing hands after using the toilet or binning used tissues. We aren’t allowed to drive too quickly even if we are alone on a country lane. It isn’t just about harm to others. The state goes to great lengths to prevent us from harming ourselves.
Seat belts were not always mandatory. It is illegal not to wear one because wearing them saves lives by 45%. Smoking used to be fashionable. Fewer people smoke these days thanks in part to government interference. Now, society takes a different view of it.
In many spheres of life, we accept and understand this guidance/influence from the state. Not all of us are educated enough to know the damage done or risks taken by certain behaviours. We need government influence to help guide natural expectations and culture in society.
Yet when it comes to smartphones and game consoles, we tend to think parents don’t need support. When I campaign against smartphones for children, many people tweet along the lines of, ‘Well didn’t these parents give their kid the smartphone in the first place?’
Yes, they gave them the smartphone.
Age 10 is when it tends to happen, (in my experience) just before they get to secondary school.
The assumption then is that these parents deserve everything they get. And so does the kid. If they are stupid enough to give their kid a phone, then so be it.
But these parents are not necessarily bad parents. They are just doing what everyone else is doing around them.
- They don’t know that the big tech CEOs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs don’t (didn’t) give their kids phones until they are 16.
- Not in their wildest dreams could they have guessed that the most popular school in Silicon Valley bans phones and is anti-technology.
- They don’t realize that the brick phone option would allow them the convenience of being in touch with their child without exposing them to the dangers of unsupervised access to the Internet.
- They don’t understand the damage that several hours a day on Snapchat, Instagram and Whatsapp will do.
- They do not imagine that in five years, their child’s personality may have changed, that the addiction to the phone will make them unpleasant & desperate teenagers.
- Neither do they foresee that their child will refuse to do homework, will abandon all goals around GCSEs and might get themselves involved in gangs and start dating various undesirables.
By the time they realise, it is too late. And the poorer they are, the fewer distractions they can offer the child when they try to take the phone away, years after the addiction has taken hold. They can’t take them on nice holidays, give them pretty books (to own), interesting toys, visits to paid exhibitions etc. They might also have a number of children and with their two jobs, they are unable to spend the necessary time with their children to help with their addiction.
Because make no mistake: it is an addiction.
In order to stop a generation of children being addicted to these destructive apps that stop them from thinking, damage their brains & ability to think, concentrate and sleep, mess with their minds and cause mental instability, the government should at the very least force these companies to put warnings on their merchandise.
My teachers have had countless conversations with children who are badly addicted and cannot stop, despite wanting to do so. If only their parents had known when they were 10 that their saved-up money for the smartphone birthday present would have been better spent on a number of books. Someone needed to warn them. Sadly, I didn’t do it because not even I knew then just how dangerous the smartphone would be.
The big tech CEOs know this. They have firsthand knowledge of the damage unsupervised access to the internet does to a child. But they stay quiet about it so that parents like ours at school can make them rich while they protect their own children.
People think I exaggerate when I say, ‘You wouldn’t give your kid heroin, would you?’ And they laugh.
But one day we’ll understand just how little of an exaggeration it is. And perhaps then, the laughing will finally stop.
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