UK Considers Smart Phone Ban Until Age 16

A leak claims the British government is considering legislating to ban the sale of smartphones to under-16s has split the right between conservatives and libertarians, torn between trying to manage the increasingly apparent damage caused by new technology or stepping back and letting the market decide.

“As conservatives know, not all change is progress”, says a prominent Tory MP of the damage being done to a generation of young people by unfettered access to social media as claims emerge the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is working on a ban on selling smartphones to children under the age of 16. The government, for its part, offered a “non-denial” to the reported leak, saying only they would not comment on speculation, but that “Our commitment to making the UK the safest place to be a child online is unwavering”.

Influential Westminster insider blog Guido Fawkes, which originally splashed the news of the apparently in-the-works phone ban, derides the idea as “Orwellian… illiberal” and doomed to failure.

Naturally, the law could be easily circumvented, and most phones for children are already bought by their parents anyway. But as some observers in favour of the change note, the law is a valuable tool for building new norms and that smartphone usage is not appropriate for developing minds and the government could back that position by statute.

Conservative Party Member of Parliament Miriam Cates, who is firmly on the pro-family wing of the party, said despite negative perceptions among parts of the right when it comes to the government banning things, there is no real objection in the country to bans on having sex with children or against children being able to drive cars on public roads, demonstrating that it is widely understood some behaviours are self-evidently harmful.

She wrote of the potential prohibition: “Libertarians will naturally oppose a ban on smartphones for kids. But it should be music to the ears of conservatives… regulation is necessary to protect children… There is now so much evidence that smartphones [and] social media are causing unacceptable harm to kids — loss of vital developmental experiences, increase in suicide, anxiety & sexual abuse — that it would be reckless not to act. As conservatives know, not all change is progress”.

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