child using phone

Parental concern over children’s relationship with tech revealed by surveys

Image credit: DT

Two polls have revealed that the majority of adults feel children should be encouraged to learn and play outdoors to draw them away from electronic devices, while support is also strong for banning mobile phones in schools altogether.

Recent research by the National Forest Company found that 78 per cent of parents think more should be done to make outdoor learning part of the national curriculum.

More than 4,300 British adults were surveyed, of whom 733 were parents of children aged five to 18.

Two-thirds of parents thought their children spent too much time on modern technology, while the survey also uncovered that 11 per cent of children do not have any outdoor playtime at all in a typical week.

The research also revealed 58 per cent of UK children are online for an average of 2.26 hours a day, excluding time spent online at school.

Meanwhile, another poll from cyber-security specialists ESET UK found that 70 per cent of British adults would support the idea of banning mobile phones in schools.

The poll is in response to France’s decision to do just that last week, which was prompted by concerns around young people becoming addicted to their smartphones. The school ban comes into effect this month.

Parents’ biggest concern surrounding the use of mobile phones at school is that their child will be distracted in class.

Nearly two-thirds (66 per cent) worry their child’s phone might be stolen; 61 per cent think phones might be used as a tool for bullying, whilst 30 per cent fear that smartphones put their children at risk from online predators.

While the findings reveal that around a quarter of parents feel their child is not safe in relation to online threats during school time, almost the same number said they would feel anxious or nervous if their child was banned from having access to their mobile phone at school.

Psychologist Dr Sam Wass, known for appearing on Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Life of 4 And 5 Year Olds’, said the idea of a digital addiction disorder is still controversial.

“But there is no doubt that given the choice, many children prefer to stay indoors exploring virtual worlds than to go outside and explore the real world,” he said. “However, the available scientific research overwhelmingly suggests that getting outside has beneficial effects for children.

“It improves their long-term health, but also their mood, their concentration abilities and their capacity to learn.”

He cited a recent study that showed that increased exposure to green spaces was linked to lower levels of exposure to depression and anxiety - both feared to be on the rise in children.

Another recent study found that young children are far more receptive to the influence of robots than adults, with implications for how social robots may positively or negatively influence behaviour in the future.

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned that tens of thousands of youngsters are in danger of being groomed, exploited and blackmailed by sexual predators on the internet.

Looking at the role schools can play in educating children about the dangers of social media, in July this year education secretary Damian Hinds announced that online skills and understanding will be taught to school children from the age of four.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt - speaking in April 2018, when he was still UK health secretary - said that internet giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram were failing to protect young people using their platforms. He threatened to introduce regulations if they failed to act voluntarily, although no regulations have been passed as yet in the UK. Donald Trump has recently hinted at similar dissatisfaction with the same internet companies in the US.

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