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Irish Town Says 'No Smartphones' for Kids to Combat a 'Striking' Rise in Anxiety, Depression

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A large group of parents in the town of Greystones in County Wicklow, Ireland have united together, telling their elementary school children that they cannot have a smartphone until they are in middle school or high school. 

Even though elementary schools had already banned phones earlier this summer, parents' associations in the school district's eight elementary schools decided to institute a no-smartphone policy due to concerns about rising anxiety among children and exposure to adult material online, according to The Guardian

"It was just the striking results of the rising anxiety, depression and everything we noticed … of having a mobile phone, especially among young kids," Justyna Flynn, a clinical psychologist and a resident of Greystones who has three children in school, told Fox News. "The support this town got was incredible." 

"The brain is not developed {for children} … their use of the phone is associated with anxiety, depression, obesity, sleeping disorders, and many other health problems," she noted.

slider img 2The town's policy is voluntary, a promise made by parents to not allow their children to have smartphones at home, school, anywhere until they are promoted to the next level of their education. It is hoped that applying it to all the children in the district will help to lessen peer pressure as well as any resentment by other children. 

"Childhoods are getting shorter and shorter," Rachel Harper, the principal of St Patrick's school who led the no smartphone initiative told The Guardian. Nine-year-olds had started requesting smartphones, she said. "It was creeping in younger and younger, we could see it happening."

The Greystones parents' initiative has also attracted the attention of other parents' associations in Ireland. The country's health minister, Stephen Donnelly, has also recommended it become a policy nationwide, the outlet reported. 

Screen Time = Possible Developmental Delays?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, there's new evidence that screen time is harmful to children. A new study from Japan's Tohoku University published in the August journal JAMA Pediatrics examined communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal and social skills of children ages 2-4. Researchers began monitoring the children participating in the study at the age of 1.  

By the time the children reached the age of 2, the research team found the children who who used screens more often had developmental delays in all of the areas listed above. When the same children reached the age of 4, they continued to have delays in communication and problem-solving skills, WRTV reported. 

Screen time is the amount of time that individuals spend watching television, playing video games, and using mobile phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, according to the study. 

Tohoku University epidemiologist Taku Obara said, "The differing levels of developmental delays in the domains, and the absence of any detected delay in some of them at each stage of life examined, suggests that the domains should be considered separately in future discussions of the association between screen time and child development."

But researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) said exactly the opposite -- that screen time was not harmful, according to WRTV

"There's been a lot of societal concern about the supposed harmful effects of screen time for young children, and it has really scared parents," said Rebecca Dore, lead author of the OSU study. "These results suggest that we should stop demonizing screen media use and find better ways to support families and the education and development of children living in poverty."

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for parents that recommend limiting screen time for children, including a limit of 1 hour per day for children aged 2 to 5 years.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of