Template letter for Secondary School Heads

Dear [ ]

I write together with the undersigned about the problem of smartphones in the lives of young people today, and specifically in the lives of your pupils.

We know how much pressure schools are under and are so grateful for all the work you and your staff team do to educate our children.  We are very much in support of the school and acknowledge that it is parents who purchase smartphones for their children. However, we believe that you have a crucial part to play to help parents navigate this area of our children’s lives.  

As [insert school] parents, we have joined a rapidly growing parent-led grassroots movement called Smartphone Free childhood. The movement’s aim is to empower parents to change the norm and delay giving smartphones until at least 14, with no social media until 16. 

We know that schools are in a very difficult position on this one, and we know that this is ultimately up to us as parents, rather than the school. However, we feel that support from you on this issue would make all the difference, and empower other parents to work together to change the norm. 

We believe that the only reason any child or young teenager needs a smartphone is because everyone else has one. A brick phone is all they need to stay in contact with parents and for safety on journeys. As we know, smartphones can affect brain development, impact self-esteem, trigger anxiety and expose children to harmful content. They also stop children and teenagers doing all the things they should be doing - whether it’s chatting to their friends, playing football or playing outside.

We know it is rare for UK schools to allow students to use phones in class and acknowledge how thoughtfully you and the rest of the school leadership will have weighed up your policies. [INSERT SPECIFICS] We are also aware that although bodies such as UNESCO have argued that smartphones should be banned from all schools, the UK government has given contradictory or ambiguous guidance on what is a fast-moving and sensitive subject.

However, unless smartphones are restricted in school and at home to a far greater extent than they are today, the crisis that we have sleepwalked into will only worsen. 

When smartphones first came out, we had no idea of their risks. Now, the evidence is overwhelming, and we need to do things differently. 

We have some clear requests for you:

  • Please consider a rule that insists that all phones must be kept in lockers during school hours. This has worked well in Australia, where Heads can approve exemptions on a case-by-case basis for students with certain exceptional circumstances such as reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils. 
  • Encourage parents to consider alternatives to smartphones (recommendations below), including minimal phones and tracking tags for the journey to and from school
  • Encourage parents not to buy a smartphone until their children are 14 and not to allow their children on social media until they are 16. At very least, help parents to enforce legal age on social media of 13 i.e. Year 9
  • Encourage delay via campaigns such as Smartphone Free Childhood and Delay Smartphones to allow those parents who are keen to act collectively and avoid the nagging power of their tweens
  • Help us in engaging feeder schools or local primaries to make it so that children are not joining the school already in possession 

If these steps were taken, we believe the positive impact on pupil wellbeing would be immediate. If schools and parents work together on this, we can change the norm. You can find out more on the latest empirical data on the negative impact of smartphones on kids (and some good alternative retro phones) here: smartphonefreechildhood.co.uk

We very much look forward to working with you on this, and hope we can arrange a meeting with you in the first instance. 

Yours sincerely,

[ ] 

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