When cell phones came in that were brick-sized, they were difficult to manage but were hailed as a major advance in communications. They meant that conversations could be much faster for business and social calls to relatives and friends became much easier. Not everyone could afford one but it was convenient and secure and calls could be made away from the office or home.
How things have changed over the years with the advancement to smaller smartphones and the advent of social media. Nowadays, there is greater concern among parents and ever higher protests about the risks to children from content displayed on websites and social media platforms.
Certainly enough. Young children and teens are subjected to bullying, personal abuse, self-harm and even suicide, causing severe stress and anxiety. Worrying about body shape, being loved and loved, and what is being said about her on social media can go on nonstop, 24 hours a day, every day adding to an unbearable stress.
It must stop. What was supposed to be a faster and easier form of communication has been eroded by bullying, online threats by trolls, and personal abuse on social media. It is driven by profit-seeking companies and in no hurry to remove these horrible and destructive messages.
The problem is that many young people keep their concerns to themselves unaware of the damage to their well-being and the potential damage to their mental state. Parents are often unaware of the symptoms and fail to recognize what is often a call for help. “I’m fine” is not information, dig deeper, speak softly, and ask for understanding so that children feel able to open up and share their anxiety and stress.
Serious concerns about the impact of social media were sharply highlighted by a Coroner court investigation a month ago into the death of schoolgirl Molly Russell when it was first ruled that social media contributed to the death of a child. This week, 3 Dads Walking, who lost three daughters to suicide, called for “suicide prevention lessons in schools” and implored parents to ask their children directly about their fears and concerns.
How many young people must die? How long should we wait for legislation to stop transmitting harmful information to children? It is time to act. The current situation has gone on for too long and these social media companies cannot be trusted to tidy up their home.
In Parliament a bill (delayed by weeks spent by Tory members choosing a new leader) would prevent negative messages on social media from appearing on young children.
Many MPs feel that it is not enough and that it should be strengthened, taking longer to pass through the House of Commons.
Sadly, the device that held so much promise for good in the world 40 years ago must be controlled, and as always, parents must take measures to keep their children safe from media moguls.
They are required to restrict the use of smartphones, monitor content and give clear and concise instructions regarding their use.
I only praise Chef Mary Berry for making the grandchildren who come to her house leave their cell phones in the breadbasket at the door. And to Channel 5 presenter Dave Walker, who made his three children sign a contract about how they use their phones. They are not allowed to go to apps like Instagram, they cannot put their phones in their rooms at night, and they agree to check their phones content regularly.
It feels like a step back into Victorian attitudes. Although phone restrictions are never popular and often mean kids feel left behind by their friends, it teaches them discipline and an understanding that a smartphone is not a right but a privilege, which can be forfeited if anyone breaks the rules.
Like many older readers, I don’t have a mobile smartphone because I don’t have add-ons or apps. The number is given to relatives and close friends only. The land line is good enough as a communication tool. Recently, I have a neighbor who was scammed by a smartphone, and another who lost £40k in a health service scam due to a temporary loss of focus. It only takes one slip: one neighbor was lucky but the other lost his savings.
There are more than one and a half million people without a smartphone, some in nursing homes, others in hospital, some with dementia, and many more who are unable to use it due to one disability or another.
They often come under pressure from suppliers to use phones to confirm their identity, access premises, secure essential services, and take advantage of purchases.
There is no doubt that with time, grudgingly, I will have to give in to the pressures of technology and move to the smartphone in the same way that banks find ways to get them online. I miss the old portable typewriter, which probably says it all!
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