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My Teenager Gave Up Their Smartphone

May 23, 20243 min read

My Teenager Gave Up Their Smartphone

Mental Health and Digital Wellbeing

Written by Lucy smith, Founder & Director Inclusive change Ltd

What would you say if your 14-year-old came to you and asked you to take away their smartphone and replace it with an old-fashioned ‘brick phone’.

Don’t be ridiculous. That would never happen, surely not.

But it did. And when my now 17-year-old came to me a few years ago and asked exactly that. They no longer felt safe with a smartphone and wanted to reduce the impact it had on their life?

So what would you do?

I supported them wholeheartedly, as a parent, so we switched off the smartphone - for which they had just brought a fancy new case. After putting it in a drawer, we got a brand new old-fashioned Nokia.

But there was something much more emotional going on; they were struggling with their mental health and they could see that their phone had played a big part of it. We were fortunate - or not, depending on how you look at it - because we were already being supported through various therapies, so we had some professionals we could reach out to.

Not everyone has the support we did at that time, and with the recent inquest into the sad suicide of Molly Russell and the powerful 2022 drama, I am Ruth, featuring Kate Winslet and her daughter, Mia Threapleton, I felt angry, sad, and an overwhelming sense of being powerless.

As a parent, I was seeing my child struggling, and as a professional, I saw all young people trying to cope with an increasingly complex world of social communication whilst trying to work out who they are at an incredibly emotional and difficult time of their lives. I mean, did anyone find puberty easy?

I don’t like feeling powerless so I felt driven to take action. I started talking about this topic with Barbara Spooner and Andy Jarman, directors of Digital Safety Community Interest Company.

We discussed the inquest of Molly Russell and the impact online content can have on young minds. I was emotional when I heard that a coroner ruled that Molly died not from suicide, but from ‘an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content’. 7 years on now, and we found that online content has not improved, and not enough has been done to make it a safer environment for the youth.

Wanting to do more, I spoke to BBC Radio Bristol presenter, John Darvell, about online safety, algorithms, and how my eldest child gave up their phone at 14.

The talking has now moved on to doing. I am proud to be able to say that I am proud and passionate to be able to say that I will be part of a unique conference that aims to do more than talk. Digital Wellbeing for Young People, The Castle Conference, Leigh Court, Bristol, Thursday 25th April 2024.

I will continue to share our family story and explore challenging topics - from the impact of social media on development in children and teenagers, the impact on neurodivergent, young people, to suicide prevention, to digital minimalism and towns that agree mobile phone bans from primary children. We want to make policy changes, but we also want to give professionals and organisations tools and strategies to tackle some of these challenges.

Inclusive Change is an organisation that helps organisations and individuals learn more about neurodiversity so we can create a successful future workforce: inclusivechange.co.uk

Mental healthDigital safety
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Lucy Smith

Founder of Inclusive Change At Work CIC

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