WEEKLY COLUMN BY Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie

There is an international debate happening over the use of smart phones by children and how they can damage young minds.

By the age of 12, a staggering 97% of children have a mobile phone. Fears over what they can access on them from porn and violence to videos promoting self-harm or suicide are real and happening right now.

The mother of the murdered teenager Brianna Ghey has come to the debate too with great courage given what she has been through.

She believes mobile phones should be made specifically for children to protect them as her daughter’s killers accessed violence on their phones.

Many parents agree with her but it will take tech companies coming to the table if the existing non smartphone devices are not considered suitable.

I share parents’ concerns about the impact of smartphone use for those under 16 and I welcomed the government’s work to try to remove them in school classrooms.

I’m talking to teachers and schools and parents in Stroud about this. As a mum of two very little girls, I worry myself as I see they are already drawn to the glowing object that we are constantly clutching.

Mobile phones can now be banned in schools across England to stop disruption, online bullying and improve behaviour. New guidance came out last month to back headteachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day.

Many of our own schools were already ahead of the curve on this.

The concerns that screen time isolates children, damages eyesight and escalates mental health issues needs more research and monitoring but I think that we can observe the impact for ourselves on children and adults. .

Adults' use of mobile phones and headphones are off the scale.

I am not sure we always set the best example to our children when we spend so much time on them - even in Parliament during debates.

The smartphone genie is out of the bottle. It would take a lot of global muscle to force a children’s phone into homes and schools but the debate is an important one.

We must allow children the freedom to make decisions and mistakes online just like in the physical world and the internet is certainly a settled part of all of our lives now.

I am however interested in the ideas surrounding parents organising together to set the scene for an entire class of young children rather than just relying on schools or tech companies.

If no child in a class has a device, they are less likely to pester to have one.

New tech like this always creates as many opportunities as problems.

Please get in touch with your views as we all navigate this together.