Children under the age of 14 should not be allowed to use smartphones because they may be exposed to pornography, according to a German government adviser.
Julia von Weiler, who leads the German chapter of Innocence in Danger, a nonprofit group that works to prevent the sexual abuse of children online, compared the regulation of smartphone usage to social ills like drugs or excessive drinking.
"Just as we protect children from alcohol or other drugs, we should also protect them from the risks of using smartphones at too early an age," von Weiler told a German broadcaster on Friday.
Her recommendation comes at a time when parents, child advocates and tech industry critics are increasingly worried about social media platforms being used to manipulate or exploit underage users.
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates for child health in the face of rapidly changing technology and media, has put forward a plan to promote meaningful digital literacy, give consumers more control over what they consume and expand research on the impact of digital addiction.
Some experts have cautioned against a blanket ban on smartphones for children.
“A law restricting the age for using smartphones would possibly be a quick and apparently simple solution,” Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, Germany's independent commissioner for child sexual abuse issues, said, according to the German broadcaster.
However, he added that such a ban would not address the fundamental problem of a lack of protection on the Internet.
Smartphones are altering children's lives. A study from Common Sense Media found that 72 percent of teenagers feel as though they must immediately respond to notifications on their phone, while 59 percent of parents feel that their children are addicted to their mobile devices.
In addition, a study published by the American Psychological Association found that smartphones are changing how young people consume information: Sixty percent of high school seniors said they read a book, magazine or newspaper every day in the 1970s, compared with only 16 percent in 2016.