UK Parents WhatsApp Group Grows Into Campaign For Children’s Online Safety

A U.K. WhatsApp group calling for a ‘Smartphone Free Childhood’, started by two mums concerned about online safety, has snowballed into a nationwide campaign after it quickly reached the 1,024 maximum member capacity within 24 hours of one of its creators promoting it on Instagram.

The group was intended as a space for parents with a shared concern over the prevalent norm and risks that come with giving young children and teens a mobile phone and access to social media.

Surprised by the public response after promoting it on Instagram, its creators turned it into a community and countrywide campaign, under which over 30 local WhatsApp groups have been started.

“We thought we had an extreme view and that’s why we wanted to have solidarity with each other, but what we’ve realised is that, actually, it’s like we’ve lifted the lid on something here by mistake and people really need to talk about this and a lot of people have been feeling like us but not feeling they could talk about it,“ shared one of its creators with The Guardian.

The campaign’s website outlines that children, particularly those who are 11 and younger, are especially vulnerable to a device that potentially “opens the door to porn, bullying, grooming and the anxiety machine that is social media.“

The community now has around 4,500 members and continues to grow.

It aims to connect parents in their local communities to make a pact not to give their children smartphones until they are least 14, or to allow them on social media before the age of 16.

The national conversation in the U.K. regarding online safety reform and the issues with the current status quo has been amplified in recent days, with the mother of murdered teen Brianna Ghey calling for a ban on social media access for under-16s.

The popularity of the WhatsApp group-turned-national campaign points to a shared need that a growing number of parents feel to collectively take matters into their own hands, when it comes to their children’s wellbeing and safety online.

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