Northumberland councillor raises concerns over impact of smartphones in schools

Concerns have been raised about the use of smartphones in schools
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A councillor has warned that "unlimited" use of smartphones is harming young people, particularly in schools.

Coun Mary Murphy said smartphones could impact both children's physical and mental health. It comes after the Government launched a "crackdown" on mobile phones in schools, issuing new guidance for teachers to help prohibit phone use during the day.

Speaking at Wednesday's meeting of Northumberland County Council, Coun Murphy - the Independent member for Choppington - questioned the council's cabinet member for education on the implementation of the Government's strategies. She also revealed some shocking statistics about smartphone use among the young.

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She said: "What are Northumberland schools doing about the known damaging effects of having unlimited access to smartphones and the resulting harm this is doing to the physical and mental health of children?

"Ninety-seven per cent of children have a smartphone by the age of 12, and 46% of young people report being online constantly. This has a harmful impact on their sleep, their cognition , their ability to socialise and to concentrate.

"The industry has failed to act responsibly. Those of us who care for children need to share responsibility."

The guidance issued by the Government earlier this year backed headteachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including at breaktimes. It added that schools have seen success in prohibiting mobile phones through tactics such as introducing lockers with charging points for students to ensure they don’t come into classrooms.

The council's portfolio holder for children's services, Coun Guy Renner Thompson, responded to Coun Murphy.

He said: "I agree with you - there needs to be more research done to see what more can be done in our schools. We have been through and checked with our schools.

"The council doesn't create policies for schools, but they all have the correct policies in place. It is something that does need to be addressed."

Coun Murphy said schools should encourage parents to be involved in policy making on the issue. However Renner-Thompson pointed out that most schools had places for parents on governing bodies, which they struggled to fill.