London - A few weeks ago, I did something really stupid. A thoughtless act that I deeply regret. I bought my 11-year-old an iPhone.
Why? Oh, I don’t know - peer pressure, I guess. Pester power. Moral weakness. Temporary insanity.
After all, practically everyone in her class has one. Soon she’ll be going to secondary school, where not owning a smartphone is the equivalent of turning up in a pony and trap.
Besides, she’d sweated hard for her SATs. She deserved a reward, something special to show her that hard work pays.
Only now, I realise, I might as well have bought her a case of whisky, or handed her the keys to the car.
Because however frighteningly grown-up she may seem to me, she sure as eggs isn’t mature enough to handle a smartphone.
Pandora’s box isn’t just some mythical relic. It comes in five colours and fits in your coat pocket.
Scientists have just begun the world’s largest-ever study into whether mobiles are damaging our children’s brains.
I don’t know about physical harm, but as far as psychological effects go, I can spare them the trouble.
In just a few weeks, I have seen my daughter’s world shrink to the size of a 2x4 in screen.
Adults are equipped to understand that their phones aren’t their whole life; that they can be ignored or switched off. Little girls aren’t.
Suddenly, home was no longer a sanctuary from the pressures of school life. Playground rivalries and anxieties followed her home, channelled via one small device.
And so I did what I had to do. I took the phone away.
Now that everyone has calmed down, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my folly. And I’ve reached a conclusion.
Modern phones are like cigarettes, fireworks and E.L. James novels: not suitable for children under the age of 16.
It’s not just the way these devices facilitate bullying and cause havoc for teachers; or even the access they offer to pornography and violence, scary as that is.
Smartphone usage also stunts the emotional growth of children - and makes parents lazy.
By the time I got my first phone, I’d had a good few years of learning how to survive, as it were, in the wild.
Map-reading instead of Google Maps; writing sentences instead of text-speak; proper research instead of Wikipedia, writing to friends instead of texting them.
Even more usefully, because my parents never had the ‘safety net’ of a mobile phone, they made sure I understood and appreciated the dangers of the wider world.
Many parents say they buy their children phones for “safety reasons”. But this is an illusion.
A phone might give an impression of safety - “my child can reach me at any time”; but it is just a crutch, not a cast-iron guarantee.
If anything, youngsters are more likely to get hurt as a result of owning a phone - by getting mugged for it, stepping out in front of a lorry while texting or by taking risks they would otherwise not take. Thinking “I can always call Mom if I get into trouble”.
Society quite rightly tries to protect children from harm. We tell them they can’t have sex or drive a car until they are adult enough to understand the responsibilities.
Yet, here we are, allowing children full access to worlds their immature minds can’t cope with.
All in good time. I am not a Luddite. My daughter will get her smartphone back when she is ready for it.
For now, though, it’s going straight back in its box. - Daily Mail