A New Study Just Added More Devastating Evidence To The Kids And Smartphones Debate

According to a recent study, one in ten boys aged 11-14 with their own smartphone are seeing harmful content within just 60 seconds of being online.


by Daisy Hall |
Updated on

Going back just a couple of generations, the moral quandary of the appropriate age to give your child a smartphone wasn’t even an issue. Now, with every school year it seems like children are having their own device from a younger and younger age.

Contrast that with adulthood where, according to Qualified Child Counsellor and author of No Such Things As Naughty Kate Silverton, we’re all anxiously taking steps to reduce our screen time after noticing the negative impact that it’s having on our sleep, sense of self, attention and mental health. If it’s true in adulthood, it’s likely true in childhood too. However, since it’s such a new area of debate, very few longitudinal studies have been conducted into the area.

One person who has researched this controversial topic however is Social Psychologist and author of The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, Jonathan Haidt. His research found that members of Gen Z – individuals born between the mid-90s and the early 2010s – are experiencing a mental-health crisis that could, at least in part, be attributed to the use of smartphones and access to the internet from a young age.

As a result, Haidt made several appeals to parents and educators in The Anxious Generation including more unstructured free play for children, no smartphones before high school, no social media before age sixteen, and no phones in schools.

Parenting is a constant battle of trying to do what’s right for your child. On the one hand, it’s difficult to know that your child is getting picked on and feeling left out because they can’t stay in touch with their friends who all have a smartphone. On the other, the earlier that your child gets a phone, the sooner they are exposed to the dangers of the internet.

Indeed, a recent survey conducted by Vodafone, which looked into online safety among boys aged 11-14, found that one in ten are seeing harmful content within just 60 seconds of being online.

Not only that, but 69% of the children questioned admitted to seeing content that portrayed negative attitudes towards women and girls, whilst 55% viewed content that made them feel bad about themselves. What’s even more devastating is that this negative content was often seen following innocent or unrelated searches.

As a result of these shocking statistics, Vodafone have coined the term ‘Aggro-rithm’ – to acknowledge the idea that smartphone users have access to harmful content without searching for it. The problem is, younger smartphone users may not yet know that this content is harmful.

The internet can be a wonderful source of knowledge, education and social interaction, but there’s no denying that it’s incredibly difficult to police and monitor. Before they’re even a teenager, children with smartphones are exposed to the harmful side of the internet and it’s having a long-term, negative impact on their lives.

Daisy Hall is a News and Entertainment writer on Grazia.

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