Flick Drummond has called for smartphones to be banned in all Hampshire schools following a parliamentary report she worked on concluded their use is harming children’s education and welfare.

Ms Drummond, who is contesting Winchester for the Conservatives, sat on the education committee that investigated the issue and published its report: Screen time: impacts on education and wellbeing. 

It found harm to mental and physical health and that screen time can disrupt pupils’ learning both at home and in the classroom.

The report said it can take up to 20 minutes for pupils to refocus on what they were learning after engaging in a non-academic activity such as browsing the internet or noticing a notification on their phone.

Ms Drummond said: “It is becoming clear just how persuasive these, in effect, mini computers have become in young lives over the last 15 years or so and we need to reassess the relationship they have with them with intervention in schools to stop their use. 

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“Already places like St Albans are looking to ban phones and I would like to see Hampshire do the same.

“We heard evidence screen use has been found to start as early as six months of age and one in five children aged between three and four years old have their own mobile phone – something I consider utterly inappropriate.

“This increases to one in four children by age eight and to almost all children by age twelve.

“And the hours of use continue to rise too. It was nine hours in 2009 and then up to 15 hours per week in 2018.

“I cannot but help feel children in this smartphone age have unwittingly been used as guinea pigs in an experiment that has had huge consequences for their mental health, social skills and attention spans.

“They have also had access to hardcore violent pornography, violence and self-harm videos not to mention bullying. It is a sad state of affairs.

“The key is to recognise it has become out of control and look to limit smartphone use in schools and give guidance to parents for the home.”

The report strongly supported tougher guidance on keeping phones out of the classroom and break times that the Department for Education issued in February. 

The committee recommended formal monitoring and evaluation of this approach by the next Government with the possibility of a statutory ban if needed. 

It also concluded that screen time should be minimal for younger children and better balanced with face-to-face socialisation and physical activity for older ones.

It added parents need clear guidance from Government on managing children’s screen time.

It explained the Online Safety Act 2023 would play a role in keeping children safe from online harms as it is implemented but it found 79 per cent of children have encountered violent pornography before the age of 18, with the average age that children first see pornography being 13 years old. 

Some 81 per cent of girls aged 7-21 have experienced some form of threatening or upsetting behaviour, and online sexual crimes committed against children online has risen by 400 per cent since 2013.