I STILL have the Woolworths’ receipt for my eldest daughter’s first mobile phone. I promised she could have one when she started secondary school and honoured that.

A basic phone - smartphones were in their infancy back in 2007 - I was happy for her to have it for security more than anything else. The same applied to my youngest daughter a couple of years later.

As a basic tool, they used their phones to send occasional messages to me and call when they needed a lift, but that’s about it.

Had those same phones been the all-singing all-dancing affairs they are today, offering access to a world far beyond the confines of our home, there is no way I would have allowed them to have one at that age.

I was shocked to learn that one in four children aged five to seven own a mobile phone and horrified by the revelation, released in data provided by the government-approved regulator Ofcom, that three-year-olds use social media.

Giving a young child a mobile phone is like opening a door to everything parents try to educate their kids against. Of course parental controls exist, limiting access time and blocking certain websites, but from what parents have told me they are not easy to implement or to police.

I certainly wouldn’t trust any so-called control measures. I’ve come across age-restriction filters for mainstream TV channels that simply ask whether you are an adult: yes or no. There’s no way of verifying if you’re a six-year-old child.

The idea of young children tapping into all manner of internet sites is horrifying, and that includes social media. In spite of privacy settings these sites are fraught with danger. You don’t know who could gain access to your child’s account, yet, incredibly, parents are okay with kids having them.

More than third of children aged three to seven use social media, as do six in ten eight to 11-year olds and nine in ten 12 to 17s, according to the data, derived from a major study of children’s media behaviour in 2023. Nearly a third of five to seven-year-olds use TikTok, while more than a fifth use Instagram.

York Press: Many young children use social media. Picture: PixabayMany young children use social media. Picture: Pixabay

Scrolling through and posting on social media sets a child on an adult path. Kids should be doing kids’ things - playing with toys, reading kids’ books, climbing trees (heaven forbid, these days - far too risky), making dens - going out on bikes, not sitting indoors on the sofa scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, looking at what other people are doing.

Social media is a rabbit hole down which people of all ages get sucked. Young or old, once you tap into it hours can fly by. Spending so long glued to phones will, I am certain, affect a child’s ability to concentrate on other things, as well as adversely affect their ability to socially interact with others and the world around them. It can’t be good for their mental health.

I read recently that youngsters are so addicted to social media that without it they show physical withdrawal symptoms similar to those of drug users.

A social media ban for under-16s is among a raft of proposals set to be unveiled by the Government in the coming weeks. They are considering tougher restrictions for kids’ access to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Ministers will also consider banning children under 16 from buying smartphones, as part of a consultation on protecting the young online.

It’s not just about protecting them, it’s about giving them a life that’s altogether more healthy and enjoyable. The further away from social media we keep our children the better. It’s worrying that so many parents can’t see that.