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Keeping Childhood Smartphone Free – Surviving Digital

Minister Foley launches new plan to encourage parents to avoid buying smartphones for their children in primary schools

The Government has approved plans to roll out resources to support parents and parent associations who wish to develop voluntary codes regarding smartphone use among primary school children.

The Department of Education has drawn up new guidelines for parents which are now available online and will be issued to all primary schools.

The aim is to support parents of primary school children who wish to agree collectively on a voluntary agreement on the use of smartphones for their primary school age children.

There are concerns that smartphone use among primary school children increases the risk of cyberbullying and exposure to violence and sexual content and also reduces the number of hours they sleep at night.

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said the use of smartphones by primary school children was one of the main issues that was always raised with her during visits to schools.

She said the new guidelines would help to support parents taking action around smartphones for the children in their community.

Minister Foley said:

“I’ve been especially impressed by what I’ve seen in Greystones in Wicklow where parents of primary school children agreed collectively not to buy smartphones for their children whilst in primary school. These new guidelines are designed to see similar initiatives being rolled out across other schools.”

Many primary schools have taken steps to either totally ban or significantly restrict the presence of smartphones on school grounds. But the new guidelines contain practical advice and suggestions about devising voluntary agreements among parents concerning the use of smartphones for their primary school age children.

Minister Foley said she wanted to support more parents and schools in taking this step to take collective action around smartphones in their community.

Minister Foley said:

“That is why I am today launching these guidelines, which provide a framework for parents and the school community to have these conversations with their children and with each other.”

The development of the new guidelines has today been noted in a cabinet memo designed to help support parents amid concerns regarding primary school children’s potential exposure to cyberbullying and other online harms.

As part of a wider package of supports for parents, Minister Foley said that she was providing additional funding to Webwise, an internet safety initiative funded by the Department of Education and the EU, to deliver new web safety lectures for parents.

Minister Foley said:

“Webwise will now be offering information sessions and webinars for parents and schools through our Education Centre network, which are based throughout the country”.

And new research by the Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University is also being funded to inform the impact of smartphone restrictions on bullying behaviour in the Irish context.

Minister Foley said that there were clear benefits to owning a smartphone but the risks they posed to children had to be managed.

Minister Foley said:

“Principals tell me that online bullying using smartphones happens outside school hours. They can’t control it. It happens outside of school. Children can be exposed to violence and sexual content that no parent would want them to see via their smartphone.”

Minister Foley said that while everyone was guilty at times of being stuck on their smartphones, excessive smartphone use can be particularly damaging for children if they were missing out on real life experiences with their family and their friends.

Minister Foley said:

“It’s a gift, the ability to converse, to chat and to talk. But you only get that gift when you do engage with other people.”

The guidelines to support parents and parent associations wishing to develop voluntary codes regarding smartphone use among primary school children can be accessed online:

We are working on the Surviving Digital Project. The project aims to equip community care organisations, health professionals and social/cultural educators to create new programs that provide parents with the tools, knowledge and resources to tackle difficulties relating to screen addiction in their young children.

The Surviving Digital objectives are:

  • Create tangible and transferable tools for adults and parents (study, method, guide and training curriculum)
  • Empower the adult participants by recognizing their knowledge and contribution to their peers
  • to propose exchanges of know-how with visible and exploitable results in Europe.

These results are addressed to adults, adult education actors and parents, medical staff, local authorities and parents. They are inclusive and are built with the help of adults with fewer opportunities who contribute to the project. Find out more about the project here: 


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