In a stunning show of unity, parents in a town in Ireland have banded together to jointly adopt a no-smartphone code for their children until secondary school.
Parents’ associations across the Irish town of Greystones have adopted the no-smartphone code for their children, the Guardian reports.
“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,” said Laura Bourne, one of the parents. “The longer we can preserve their innocence, the better.”
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Last month, schools and parents in the town of Greystones in Ireland took the initiative out of concern that smartphones were fueling anxiety and exposing children to adult content. It is a rare occasion for an entire town to take action together on such an issue, the Guardian reports.
The voluntary “Greystones Pact” is to withhold smartphones from children – at home, in school, everywhere – until they enter secondary school. Applying it to all children in the area will, it is hoped, curb peer pressure and dampen any resentment.
“Childhoods are getting shorter and shorter,” Rachel Harper, the principal of St Patrick’s School who led the initiative, told the Guardian. Nine-year-olds had started requesting smartphones, she said.
“It was creeping in younger and younger, we could see it happening.”
A town-wide policy reduces the chance of a child having a peer with a smartphone and parents can present the code as a school rule, said Harper. “They love it – now they can blame the schools.”
The initiative has garnered interest from parent associations in Ireland and internationally, prompting Ireland's health minister, Stephen Donnelly, to recommend it as a national policy.
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“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,” he wrote in the Irish Times. “We must make it easier for parents to limit the content their children are exposed to.”
The “Greystones Pact” stemmed from children showing anxiety levels only partly attributable to Covid-era adaptation, Harper told the Guardian.
Schools circulated questionnaires among parents, leading to a meeting of community stakeholders and an initiative dubbed “it takes a village”.
Not all parents will deny their primary schoolchildren a smartphone – the code is voluntary – but enough have signed up to create a sense of critical mass, said Harper. “Hopefully down the line it’ll become the new norm,” she told the Guardian.