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With evidence mounting of the harmful effects of smartphone usage in childhood, parents are increasingly looking to schools to support a smartphone-free environment – at school and at home. We asked Daisy Greenwell, co-founder of the Smartphone Free Childhood movement, to list her 5 essential questions that parents should be asking schools about their approach to smartphones.  

Pupils' smartphones in a box at the front of the classroom8 May 2024

1. What is your smartphone policy?

It sounds obvious, but a head's response to this simple question opens the doors for you to dig deeper into a school’s approach to smartphone use. For example, are pupils allowed to have their phones on their person and, if so, switched on or switched off? Perhaps the school enforces that phones are switched off and left in smartphone lockers or handed in at the beginning of the school day? Or they might use lockable pouches upon arrival at school. For the team at Smartphone Free Childhood, the gold standard is to have all phones locked away for the duration of the day, to ensure children are able to concentrate on lessons and socialise at break times without distraction. 

2. Will my child need a smartphone to access essential parts of the school day or for homework?

You need to understand the extent to which smartphones are embedded into a school’s culture. For example, are smartphones being used in place of a traditional homework diary? Or, to keep track of the school timetable? Are smartphones required to access transport to and from school? If a school seems to depend on smartphones for the day-to-day running of the school, it would be worth asking if these functions can be accessed via other devices, such as laptops. Requiring children to have a smartphone to access essential parts of school life instantly blocks parents from trying to keep their children lives smartphone-free. 

3. What support do you give to parents who want to delay buying their child a smartphone?

If delaying the purchase of a smartphone is something you are interested in, you will want to find out how the school will support you. There are many schools leading the way in this area by actively promoting a delay in smartphone ownership, for example by encouraging parents to sign a smartphone agreement or implementing complete bans on the school premises. Ask if the school is willing to recommend alternatives to smartphones to the parent community – such as phones with no internet or app access. You can find a plethora of resources to help with writing a letter to the head and introducing smartphone alternatives on the Smartphone Free Childhood website.

4. What education do you provide about the safe use of smartphones – at home as well as school?

I think it’s important that a school collaborates and works with you as the parent to ensure children are safe online at home. There are some successful examples of home use agreements where schools recommend and promote sensible use policies such as: not using smartphones after a certain time in the evening to ensure good sleep; not having smartphones in the bedroom; explaining the addictive nature of certain apps and the algorithms that are designed with the express purpose of keeping users online. Schools which promote home use agreements have great success, as children and young people within the same school are aligned on use at home. Parents also find it hugely helpful to be able to refer to the school’s policy if (when) they experience pushback from their children.  

5. To what extent is your smartphone policy joined up with other local schools?

By asking this question you open up a dialogue around joined up thinking and the extent to which schools in your area work together. There has been a very successful town-wide agreement in Greystones, Ireland. This was actually parent-led and resulted in all the primary schools in the town agreeing on a way forward. There is huge scope for schools to work together in geographical areas and it is worth enquiring about this important issue. 

Daisy Greenwell, founder of Smartphone Free ChildhoodDaisy Greenwell is cofounder of Smartphone Free Childhood, the grassroots parent movement which sprang up in February 2024. She's a journalist and editor, and mother of 3.

Smartphone Free Childhood is a parent-led movement aiming to protect children from the dangers of using smartphones too young. In just a few months since launching it has amassed eighty thousand followers on its WhatsApp and social media channels. The organisation's new Smartphone Free Schools Guide, providing evidence, information and inspiration for parents to send to schools is available to download now -


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