by Olivia Botting
The Times reported on Monday that nearly half of primary school children have a mobile phone, and that figure climbs to 80% of children by the age of twelve. At risk of sounding like a miserly old person in a cardigan going ‘back in my day’ and pushing their false teeth back in, these technologically-informed people are children. I fear the day where I walk past a park and it is filled with tiny little faces bathed in the blue glow from the screen of an iPhone 19s or something, and no actual exercise or laughter. God. I’m freaking myself out now; I didn’t mean for that to sound so dystopian.
Being able to contact your children in an emergency is obviously a good thing, and them having a mobile phone makes this contact so much easier. Over 50% of parents stated this as the reason their children owned a mobile phone, and that is understandable. That said, I can’t get my head around the fact that many parents buy their 8-year-old a brand new iPhone, for them to basically use it as a glorified Gameboy. (Ah the halcyon days of the Gameboy.)
I understand where these parents are coming from – I received a mobile phone when I was around eleven and moved to high school, mostly so my Mum knew I’d actually gone. My parents however, weren’t going to bestow upon me the (then) unquestionably cool Motorola Razr, no. I had a silver and pink clamshell brick with an extendable aerial. Oh how my classmates laughed. I later discovered that this extendable aerial was rather useful because upon extension, it had quite a reach. I used this reach to thwack unsuspecting classmates from a foot away. It was great. But there was no risk of me becoming addicted to this phone because texting was a chore (it literally took 10 minutes to write two sentences) and there was no social media to dedicate my life to. Looking back I don’t particularly know what I did with my spare time.
It unnerves me that smartphones come with so many social media opportunities. Almost half of Instagram users are under 16, according to their stats, and many take no notice of the age limit, including my nine-year-old cousin, who mainly posts bad selfies and pictures of minions. She will look in ten years and weep.
I’m getting my granny knickers on now. I was recently in a shopping centre and there was a hefty clan of about 13-14 year olds in front of me. A line of iPhones and one lone Samsung were held aloft and all of them filmed themselves yelling at the camera for their Snapchat ‘stories.’ First of all, just why? Secondly, working on the deduction that these had mutual friends, the poor sods who weren’t present would have to sit through the same story about eight times before getting on with their lives and wondering why they weren’t invited.
We’ve raised a nation of over-sharers. Children’s playtime seems to consist of them taking photos of each other and posting them on Facebook. I’ve had enough. Next time I see someone under the age of 14 taking a selfie, I may shake them and yell “do something meaningful!” in their face. But then that seems a bit extreme. Maybe I’ll just tut and wrap my cardigan tighter around me like the old fogey I am.