Mobile phones worse than smoking Rachel Moore

OpinionSmoking isn't socially acceptable any more. It's time mobile phones weren't either, says Rachel Moore Photo: Getty Images

Smoking isn’t socially acceptable any more. It’s time mobile phones weren’t either, says Rachel Moore Photo: Getty Images

Archant

Rachel Moore says mobile phones are ruining our children’s lives and making them incapable of eye contact.

Is she right?

Share[1]

When millennials see photos and films of people smoking at work, at restaurant tables, in the pub, the cinema and on planes, they can’t believe it was ever allowed. Public smokers have become such social pariahs – only 17% of adults still puff on GBP8 a pack cigarettes huddled outside in the rain. The people in those photos and films appear to be almost freakish, museum pieces of crazy times long gone, when madness allowed nicotine to fug up public spaces.

Young people visibly wince at the thought that we spent our working days in smoky hazes of offices, cigarettes burning in a central ashtray while we took phone calls between drags. One day, if we’re lucky, the mobile phone will be seen in the same way as fags – addictive, anti-social, harmful and no longer welcome in public places. Our addiction to our phones – a child-like reliance on them like comfort blankets – is destroying family time and communication so much.

Children’s communication skills are stunted as parents choose scrolling through strangers’ photos than babbling with their babies. Eye contact and conversation is alien to some children when they arrive at school. Staff at Frankie and Benny’s restaurant chain have clearly witnessed the effects of ignored children at their tables and has been offering free children’s meals if parents hand over their phones to be locked in box and actually talk to their children at the table.

Frankie and Benny’s phone-free zone trial ends tomorrow, but will make it a permanent thing if it’s worked. We’re keeping everything crossed. If mobile devices are given up, children aged up to 14 can eat from the restaurant’s children’s menu free with paying parents.

Brave move, but one that was crying out to be made. Its survey of 1,500 parents and children revealed that children wanted their parents to talk to them more and spend less time on their phones. Nearly half asked for their parents’ phone taken away to spend proper time together, and especially to not check their phone during meal times.

No wonder children’s language skills are wanting. It’s time that phones, like smoking, were declared bad for our health and persistent users are forced to go outside, in the cold, to mindlessly scroll if they can’t live without it. There’s no place at any table for a phone., or around babies and children.

They’re a distraction, thwart communication and are having a serious developmental impact. Babies and children’s development demands eye contact, stimulating chatter and to be read to, not to watch their parents staring at a screen at their expense. There’s only one sight sadder than a couple in a restaurant, both on their phones, not bothering to talk to each other because they’d rather drink in strangers lives’ minutiae than listen to their partners’ news or photos of dogs rather than looking at their partner – and that’s adults ignoring their children because their phones are far more fascinating and interesting.

Our addiction to social media to phones is muting the hub-bub in restaurants as diners stare at their phones instead of chatting or, the most annoying, watch YouTube, loudly. Taking in what other people look like, I now leave my phone at home on nights out with my partner. Sometimes, if we won’t need to call a cab, we both leave our phones behind.

It’s been weirdly liberating. I am obsessed with news updates, Twitter, instagram. He is not.

He has no truck with social media whatsoever and uses his phone, solely, to make calls. He can go days without realising he has a text. I joke that he’s in the vanguard of a phone backlash as slowly the message is seeping through about their harmful and anti-social effects.

How long can it be that public phone use becomes the 21st century equivalent of smoking in public places. Why do teachers get presents for doing their job? Teacher presents.

Just typing those words makes me shudder. Who decided, at one end of term in the last 20 years, that teachers deserved presents for doing their job? And, once it became a thing, to make it stupidly competitive with playground one-upwomanship driving the gifting?

An independent school (say no more) with termly fees of nearly GBP5,500, St Helen and St Katherine in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, has imposed a GBP50 spending cap on teacher presents this Christmas. Designer handbags and dinner vouchers for Michelin-starred restaurants were putting teachers in an “awkward” position, the head decreed. I’d say so.

Then to be given any gifts by parents – especially when it’s masqueraded as a child’s gift – must feel odd for teachers. They should all take a lesson from Buxton Primary pupils who say it’s not about the value of a gift but the reward of giving that’s important. Instead of teacher presents this year, the pupils will be making donations for the St Martins in the Field appeal for the homeless.

Teachers are making the donations too as the little Norfolk school does its bit to make the world a better place and share the real meaning of Christmas.

To make a difference is the greatest gift, and the most appreciated.

Designer handbags and posh restaurant vouchers says as much about its givers, sadly.

References

  1. ^ Share (www.edp24.co.uk)

You may also like...