Sarah Vine says allowing under 16s to use smartphones is 'just as toxic' as underage drinking, sex and illegal drug taking

The columnist believes young teens should be banned from using them

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The Independent Online

Sarah Vine has called for a ban on the use of smartphones for the under 16s.

The Daily Mail columnist and wife of new justice secretary Michael Gove likened use of the devices by teenagers to drug taking, underage drinking and sex.

Citing new research performed by the London School of Economics on the “detrimental effect” mobiles have on the performance of children aged 14 to 16, she wrote:

“I want to see a ban on the use of smartphones among under-16s altogether.

“Why? Simple. Society has a duty to shield young brains from adult experiences they are either too immature to understand, or which might do long-term developmental damage.

“You would be mortified if you discovered your 12-year-old drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs or having sex.

Yet millions of parents every day allow their children to leave home with something just as toxic and, I would argue, just as damaging as any of these things: a smartphone.”

But it’s not the “non-stop stream of data” creating a permanent distraction, nor the seeming loss of more sociable methods of communication, that troubles Vine the most about the technology.

“What most horrifies me is the way smartphones take normal, healthy children and turn them into zombies whose principal pre-occupations are not schoolwork, riding a bike or even following the latest chart-toppers, but checking how many ‘likes’ their Instagram picture has amassed, or whether their latest video has amassed sufficient comment.


“At a time when young minds should be questioning and expanding, their horizons shrink to one tiny, glowing screen. Forget great art, travel, conversation: all they want to know is what’s the wifi code and where can I get the best signal?”

“If these devices were age-restricted, the benefits to the next generation would not just be academic, but physical and psychological, too,” she concludes.

“I know age restriction would never fully resolve the issue - just as the ban on selling cigarettes to under-18s doesn’t stop them all from smoking. But, Lord knows, we have to start somewhere.”

Her comments follow that of psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist's in April. The former Oxford teacher, who retrained as a doctor, claimed that smartphones were making children “borderline autistic”.