Unsurprisingly, time spent outdoors, playing with friends, reading books and participating in sport has declined materially among children. Rates of childhood obesity have increased year on year and and are now at an all time high – according to NHS figures, over 25% of our 10 and 11 year olds are now obese.
We do not claim that smartphones are responsible for the totality of these issues, but we also cannot ignore the reality that rates of adolescent depression, loneliness, self-harm, mental health issues and suicide have risen sharply in the era that teenagers have routinely owned smartphones.
The portability of smartphones, constant connectivity and perpetual access to information, and design features intended to promote frequent and repetitive interaction have caused these devices to become addictive for hundreds of millions of users, many of them ever younger children – by the age of 10, 61% of the UK’s children now possess their own smartphones. On average, those children spend three hours and 20 minutes of each day on their devices.
Yet ranged against the safety and wellbeing of children are the financially-driven interests of many of the biggest corporations in the world: smartphone manufacturers and retailers, phone and data service providers, app developers, social media platforms, search engine operators, and advertising agencies.