Parents should be given official advice warning them not to give their children smartphones before they reach secondary school, a leading psychiatrist has warned.
Dr Jon Goldin claimed parents are being forced into buying the devices for their young children so they aren’t left out at school.
The vice chairman of the Royal College of Psychologists said government guidance on when to give smartphones to children would help parents stand their ground.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: ‘Children often say to their parents: “All my friends are [getting phones] and you are not allowing me to do that.”
‘I don’t think we can legislate [to restrict it to under 11s] but this guidance would back parents up when they were having conversations with their 10-year-olds.’ Dr Goldin also called on the government to recommend that children under 11 should be restricted to two hours a day on social media.
He said social media makes children anxious and depressed, and time spent online can leave them vulnerable to cyberbullying.
The psychiatrist called on social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to make it more difficult for young people to lie about their age and create accounts before they turn 13.
Dr Goldin’s comments come ahead of the publication of a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which assesses the damage caused by children spending too much time online.
It is believed almost four in ten children aged between eight and 11 own a smartphone.
But more than 40 per cent of parents believe young people under the age of 16 should be banned from owning the devices, a poll for the Priory found.
The survey also revealed 67 per cent of parents wanted government to decide how old a child should be before they are given a smartphone.
Out of 1,000 parents polled, the rehabilitation centre found 92 per cent thought the internet was impacting their child in a bad way.
Some were concerned their child’s smartphone addiction was affecting their sleep, while others thought time spent online lowered their child’s self-esteem.
Dr Goldin’s warning comes a day after a major report revealed the average adult looks at their mobile every 12 minutes.