Amanda Spielman says younger children having unlimited internet access makes her uncomfortable
The chief inspector of education watchdog Ofsted has suggested that children should not have smartphones at a young age.
Amanda Spielman was talking to BBC Radio 5 Live about how schools are trying to tackle the impact of influencer Andrew Tate, who has been detained while police investigate allegations of rape and trafficking, which he denies.
During a discussion about access to porn and adult content, she said there was a “great deal” that could be done to “really limit” the material to which youngsters are exposed.
“The first thing you can do is not give a child a smartphone when they’re too young,” she said.
“I’m very surprised when primary aged children have smartphones, for example, and even in early secondary school. It’s really hard to manage that.”
When asked whether she thought children under 11 should not have smartphones, she said: “I’m not comfortable with younger children having unlimited internet access.”
Ms Spielman also said it is the responsibility of parents and schools to “make sure that children can steer past all of these undesirable influences”.
Almost two thirds – 61 per cent – of UK children own a smartphone by age 10, according to Ofcom data.
Research has linked excess screen time with obesity, less time being active, sleep problems, poor socialisation skills and a negative impact on school performance.
A 2018 study of Japanese elementary school children found a correlation between increased screen time use and behavioural issues like hyperactivity and inattention.
San Diego State University researchers found that time spent on devices is a serious but avoidable cause of mental health issues. Just an hour a day staring at a screen can be enough to make children as young as two more likely to be anxious or depressed.
Researchers at the same institution also found last year that teens are lonelier at school now than 20 years ago because smartphones stop them talking with friends.
Ms Spielman’s warning comes as the Online Safety Bill is being hotly debated in Parliament, with campaigners pushing for tougher rules to protect children from online harm.