Parents in a town in Ireland came together to voluntarily ban smartphones for kids as old as 13

A young boy in an Adidas track jacket holds an orange iPhone with two hands.
The voluntary smartphone ban seeks to limit anxiety and exposure to unsuitable materials for youth.Matt Cardy/Getty Images
  • Parents in Greystones, Ireland, have implemented a smartphone ban for primary school-aged kids.

  • The ban is voluntary, but parents said it reached a critical mass that makes enacting it easier.

  • The pact seeks to curb anxiety and exposure to unsuitable material, and has won support nationally.

Some kids in Greystones, Ireland, may have to wait until their teen years to partake in the latest viral dance craze, thanks to a voluntary ban on smartphones that has won the support of many area parents.

The Guardian reported that parents in the coastal town, about a 45-minute drive south of Dublin, have joined together to implement the ban that seeks to bar smartphone usage until kids reach secondary school, typically at the age of 12 or 13.


The hope is that the ban will help prolong childhood by lessening the anxiety and exposure to adult materials that smartphone usage often eggs on.

Parents' associations across the district's eight primary schools, where kids range from about 4 to 12 years old, can opt into the ban, The Guardian reported. It is meant to be enforced not only at school, but also at home. Area schools already banned or restricted cell phone usage, but the effects of social media remained present, according to the report.

"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," Laura Bourne, whose child is in primary school, told The Guardian. "The longer we can preserve their innocence the better."

Not all parents have chosen to partake, but Rachel Harper, a primary school principal who led the initiative, told the publication that enough parents have opted in to make a meaningful difference.

"Hopefully down the line it'll become the new norm," she told The Guardian.

The country's health minister, Stephen Donnelly, who has three children and lives nearby Greystones, has taken notice and penned an op-ed in the Irish Times last week in support of the ban.

"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. "We must make it easier for parents to limit the content their children are exposed to."

The impacts of smartphone usage on kids is becoming an increasing concern as ongoing studies seek to analyze any lasting effects on the brain. A National Institutes of Health study is ongoing but has already found that kids who spend more than two hours in front of a screen each day got lower scores on tests focused on thinking and language skills.

A small study published in a peer-reviewed pediatric medical journal in 2019 supported the theory that high exposure to screens in preschool-aged children may be linked to lower brain development.

Meanwhile, a town in India has banned smartphone usage for all under the age of 18, according to the Times of India. Those who are found using a smartphone will face a small financial penalty. Another village in India is imposing an evening "digital detox," the Times noted, with all smartphone users — children and adults alike — barred from engaging with the devices between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. daily.

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