Protect children from smartphones and social media

Thank you for contacting me about children and smartphone usage.

The Education Select Committee, which I am part of, recently opened an inquiry into how screen time can support and impact children’s developmental and educational outcomes. You can find the committee’s publications here

The Department for Education has published new guidance which backs head teachers in banning mobile phone use throughout the school day, including at break times, to tackle disruptive behaviour and online bullying while boosting attention during lessons. 

The new guidance says that schools should prohibit the use of mobile phones, but they will be able to choose how to do this. Schools will be supported to restrict mobile phone use in a number of ways, including banning phones from the school premises, handing in phones on arrival at school, and keeping phones securely locked away at school.   

As you mention, the online world should not be a refuge for encouraging self-harm or anti-social behaviour, and the Government is committed to ensuring that there are sufficient protections for children of all ages online. The Online Safety Act 2023 contains strong protections for children and will make the UK the safest place to be a child online.

As well as protecting children from illegal material, all services likely to be accessed by children will need to provide additional protection for those children. Those safety measures will need to protect children from harmful content and behaviours such as bullying, abuse and harassment, as well as content depicting or promoting violence.

I am aware that the media regulator, Ofcom, has published draft codes of practice. These include reconfiguring algorithms to filter out the most harmful content from children's feeds as well as forcing companies to perform more rigorous age checks and stronger content moderation. 

These new measures will come into force in the second half of 2025. Ofcom is seeking responses to its consultation on the draft codes until 17 July, expecting to publish final versions within a year.   

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.