Greystones Parents Unite to Keep Smartphones Away from Primary School Children
A Town Takes a Stand: Greystones Parents Say No to Smartphones for Primary Schoolers. Image Generated using Upveda AI

By Rahul ShrivastavTechnology reporter


In a remarkable display of solidarity, parents in the Irish town of Greystones have come together to implement a collective decision, informing their children that smartphones will not be allowed until they enter secondary school. The move has been endorsed by parents’ associations across the town’s eight primary schools, aiming to present a united front against the relentless requests from children for smartphones.

Laura Bourne, a parent of a child in junior infants, expressed the sentiment shared by many parents, stating, “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.”

Concerns about the detrimental effects of smartphones on children, including increased anxiety and exposure to adult content, prompted the schools and parents in Greystones to take this proactive step last month. The town’s joint action is a rare example of an entire community addressing the issue collectively.

The voluntary agreement entails a complete ban on smartphones for children within the town, whether at home, in school, or elsewhere, until they reach secondary school. This approach aims to mitigate peer pressure and minimize any potential resentment.

“Childhoods are getting shorter and shorter,” remarked Rachel Harper, the principal of St. Patrick’s School and the driving force behind this initiative. Harper noted that nine-year-olds were already making requests for smartphones, indicating a concerning trend of younger children seeking access to such devices.

Previously, the schools had imposed restrictions on devices within their premises, but they still witnessed the influence of social media on students who owned smartphones, igniting curiosity among their peers.

Implementing a town-wide policy reduces the likelihood of children feeling left out when their peers possess smartphones, as parents can now cite the code as a school rule, explained Harper. “They love it—now they can blame the schools.” The initiative has garnered interest from parents’ associations both in Ireland and abroad, and it has caught the attention of Ireland’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, who resides near Greystones. Donnelly has recommended it as a nationwide policy to safeguard children’s well-being.

In an article published in the Irish Times, Donnelly wrote, “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. We must make it easier for parents to limit the content their children are exposed to.”

The Greystones agreement emerged due to the heightened anxiety levels observed in children, which can only be partly attributed to the adjustments necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, stated Harper. Schools distributed questionnaires among parents, leading to a meeting involving various community stakeholders and the birth of the initiative termed “it takes a village”.

While the smartphone code remains voluntary, enough parents have signed up to create a sense of critical mass, noted Harper. She added optimistically, “Hopefully down the line, it’ll become the new norm.”

Nikkie Barrie, a parent of an 11-year-old in primary school, attested to the immediate impact of the code. “This code makes such a difference to my life. If I know 90% of the class is in agreement, it makes my job easier in saying no.”

Barrie expressed her desire for the pact to extend to the early years of secondary school, given the negative effect smartphones have had on her 13-year-old. “It’s been the bane of my life; I’ve lost my daughter. When technology is involved, they sit there like robots engulfed in this world of TikTok or whatever.” However, Jane Capatina, a 10-year-old student at St. Patrick’s, accepted the notion of waiting at least another two years before having a smartphone. “I would like one; I’d like to text my friends. But I don’t want to become addicted to it.” Her eight-year-old sister, Rachel, approved of the pact, stating, “It’s fair if no one can have it.”

Josh Webb, a 12-year-old, remained stoic in the face of his recently acquired phone being stowed away until he enters secondary school in September. “It’s not the end of the world for me. I know some in my class won’t like this at all. But we’re kids, what can we do?”

Webb recalled the sense of exclusion he felt when his friends shared videos with each other while he had no phone. “They’d be sharing videos with each other, and I’d just be watching them.” Webb acknowledged the value of extending restrictions on phone use across all age groups but speculated that adults might not be thrilled with the idea.

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