Mobile phones are wreaking havoc with the lives of children and young people, while retailers sell toxic vapes to kids. But parents are responding and public officials are taking notice.
A group of suburban Sydney parents who have formed an alliance to stop their children using smart phones and social media has attracted attention from around the world.
As reported in The Catholic Weekly, the growing group of families from Kingsgrove’s Our Lady of Fatima Primary School and St Ursula’s College, has been inundated with global support for their stand due to concerns over the harmful effects of mobile technology on children.
Addiction, academic distraction, impaired sleep, increases in anxiety and depression, exposure to sexualised content and increased risk of bullying are among the many negative risks adults want to stamp out.
Some of the world’s leading experts including Steve Biddulph AM have endorsed The Heads Up Alliance while the NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns is hoping to introduce it in as many schools as possible within his Kogarah electorate in southern Sydney.
Thousands of people also commented and registered their support ironically via social media for the seemingly “herculean task” of delaying smart phone usage in children with scores wanting to know how to get it started in their school community.
“It’s a huge relief and a breath of fresh air to see parents take a strong stand against this movement of allowing young children access to mobile and tech devices.”
An Adelaide mother of two wrote “I read about your alliance in The Catholic Weekly and all I can say is thank you so much for this important initiative, it’s so easy to feel alone”.
While a father of three from the United Kingdom commented “it’s a huge relief and a breath of fresh air to see parents take a strong stand against this movement of allowing young children access to mobile and tech devices, I wholly support your cause and believe it should be an international campaign that all parents who share a similar view can join”.
Head of Student Wellbeing at a Sydney girl’s school said “I can tell you that most of the issues I deal with in my role begin on smart phones.
“They are so detrimental to the mental health and well-being of our young people.
“I hope and pray that this initiative will support many parents to challenge the social norms for the sake of our children. Well done and thank you.”
Heads Up Alliance members make a commitment to each other to delay giving children smart phones and social media until at least Year 9, supporting each other through mutual accountability.
Through these commitments, they hope it will not only decrease feelings of isolation felt by kids who say they are the only ones in their peer groups without access to a smart phone as well as empower parents as a group to say no.
Every three months, members receive emails of support as well as the details of other parents in the group who they can network with.
The Head Up Alliance founder Dany Elachi said he was “completely overwhelmed” by the enormous support he had received which he felt demonstrates the level of disquiet that existed among parents.
The father-of-five said scores of people from around the world had asked how they could establish the alliance in their local school community in a bid to protect their children’s all too fleeting childhoods. “The fun, magic and innocence of childhood is just too precious and that’s what we are trying to protect,” he said.
“We have received so much positive feedback from The Catholic Weekly article, with countless emails of support from all over Australia and incredibly overseas.”
“Even though many parents feel uneasy about smart phones in young hands, our children’s incessant pleading can cause us to doubt our decisions.
“By rallying like-minded parents and forming The Heads Up Alliance, we are finally able to see in a very focused way that there are many families just like ours who have decided to delay social media and smart phone use.
“We have received so much positive feedback from The Catholic Weekly article, with countless emails of support from all over Australia and incredibly overseas.
“Many, many people offered to start up Heads Up Alliances in their own schools and we’ve had to ask them to be a little patient while we establish the program on a broader scale.
“We have a number of academics willing to assist us with this, so we are very excited to be putting our heads together to see what we will come up with.”
Steve Biddulph, one of the world’s best known authorities on children whose books have sold millions worldwide, said he has been making the plea for everyone to be on the same page in not getting kid’s smart phones until later high school years.
He said for reasons from bullying, porn exposure and simple stress overload, he applauded The Heads Up Alliance for starting a movement to normalise “holding out” against the tech invasion which was robbing kids of their childhood.
“Parents are keen to have that kind of peer support to make a stand, it’s a focused but important shift,” he said.
“Thoughtful parents, who trusted their gut feelings, have done this ever since phones were invented, but they’ve been in the minority.
“The response to The Catholic Weekly story which I shared on my social media channels was at the large end of what we get, maybe once a month something like that really takes off but we’d never received as many comments as this.
“Most parents just rolled over to the latest technology or platform, because, well, we’re a herd animal and “what can you do”?
“Raising happy and strong kids takes more than that, including sometimes making them quite cranky with you and it helps if they are not the only ones – and so The Heads Up Alliance helps get us all on the same page.”
“mOST PARENTS JUST ROLLED OVER TO THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY OR PLATFORM, BECAUSE, WELL, WE’RE A HERD ANIMAL AND ‘WHAT CAN YOU DO?'”
NSW Labor Leader and Member for Kogarah Chris Minns is another singing the alliance’s praises.
After meeting with the founders at Parliament House, he now plans to visit the principals and P&C’s of more than a dozen schools in his electorate to encourage each to take the idea back to their school communities.
He is confident that when more parents realise they are not alone in wanting to restrict their children’s access to smart phones and social media, the proposal will gain even more support.
“I hope that this will be the start of something that can be embraced by other parents right around the state,” he said.
“The work The Heads Up Alliance is doing to protect kids from the dangers of smart phones is important and exciting and I was pleased to meet them and offer my support.
“Our kids are the first generation to grow up immersed in technology and we don’t fully understand what this means for their young and developing minds.”
“Like all parents, my wife Anna and I are concerned about the impact of smart phones on our children.
“We worry about the effect of too much screen time on their behaviour and cognitive development.
“Our kids are the first generation to grow up immersed in technology and we don’t fully understand what this means for their young and developing minds.
“I am keen to work with the parents in The Heads Up Alliance to introduce their approach to other schools in my electorate of Kogarah.”