We are experiencing a new digital pandemic, which is contributing to a devastating youth mental health crisis and changing the nature of human relationships and connection.

  • On average, children today are spending eight hours a day online. That is a total of 120 days a year lost to screens.
  • Studies have shown that one in four adolescents use their smartphone in a way consistent with behavioural addiction.
  • Research also suggests that the earlier children receive smartphones, the poorer their educational and mental health outcomes.
  • Moreover, most children own a smartphone by age seven – by age 11, 90% own one.

We are only just beginning to see the broad implications of the digital pandemic in our society: negative impacts to mental and physical health, increased divisiveness, weakened social connectivity, performance issues within the Gen Z and Gen Alpha workforce and a loss of critical life skills, and a global epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

Young boy offers an older boy a football as if asking to play. Older boy is sat down and engrossed in his phone - the light of which is shining onto his face - clearly ignoring the world around him.

Our vision is for childhood to be smartphone-free until age 14
and social media-free until age 16.

In the meantime, we must act now to combat digital addiction and safeguard future generations. Therefore, we are calling for:

  1. Increased attention and urgency from global health organisations, politicians, NGOs, business leaders, and the sport and entertainment world on the mental health crisis facing our children;
  2. A global campaign to ban smartphones from schools and classrooms to protect children’s learning and social development;
  3. Better education and resources for parents and caregivers to understand the developmental risks of digital device usage, to drive a global culture shift in the way we approach children and technology; 
  4. Stronger regulation of the tech industry, including requirements that they verify and enforce the age limits set on their own platforms, are held accountable for underage use of their products, publish warning labels about known developmental risks posed by their devices and applications, develop better and easier-to-use tools for parents to protect their children from excessive use or exposure to inappropriate content, and stop the collection and monetisation of children’s data, ensuring it is not used to develop potentially harmful AI; and
  5. Global support for wellbeing programmes that promote a screen-free, play-based childhood, full of meaningful real-life connections. 
We appreciate the great advantages which technological advances have given society, and we believe that all adults should have the ability to use technology as they see fit. 

However, children need safeguarding.

Just as we do not allow children to drive cars or gamble in a casino until they are old enough to understand the risks, we must similarly protect children from digital addiction which jeopardizes their healthy development.
Our children have the right to a childhood that enables them to develop the skills needed to thrive in a complex world, where they can learn genuine human connection instead of relying mainly on digital connectivity. 

We are working to implement changes that ensure a future where technology empowers children instead of isolating them.