Surge in demand for ‘dumbphones’ for children to curb social media use

There has been huge demand among parents for phones that offer little more than the ability to make and receive calls and texts
There has been huge demand among parents for phones that offer little more than the ability to make and receive calls and texts - VSTOCK LLC

Phone companies are experiencing a rise in sales of “dumbphones” as parents become more wary of the dangers of social media for children.

Increasing numbers of concerned parents are turning to the basic handsets for their children, industry experts say, as calls by campaigners grow for the Government to ban smartphones for under-16s.

Virgin Media O2 said it has seen a “notable increase” in sales of its brick phones, from brands such as Nokia and Doro, over the last six months.

Meanwhile, HMD, the company which manufactures Nokia phones, saw sales of its flip phones double last year compared with 2022, and told The Telegraph it expects demand to grow further this year.

Phone companies are also continuing to invest in the market as demand increases from both parents and young people themselves, with Nokia set to launch a Barbie flip phone, in collaboration with Mattel, in July.

Daisy Greenwell, who co-founded campaign group Smartphone Free Childhood, said she has seen huge demand among parents for phones that offer little more than the ability to make and receive calls and texts.

“There’s so much appetite for this in our community. Parents are desperate for a cool, good alternative to smartphones for their children, that their children are going to want to use,” she told The Telegraph.

Since its conception last month, Ms Greenwell’s WhatsApp community, which emboldens parents to hold off giving their children smartphones until they are at least 14, has gained well over 4,000 members.

“I think a lot of parents believe the choice is either no phone or a smartphone, and there’s definitely a step-by-step approach that you can take,” she said.

She encourages parents to start off with a basic children’s smartwatch or a brick phone – “so they can text and call and play music and play Snake and it’s a bit more of a gradual entry to that world rather than straight into the deep end with a smartphone”.

While her daughters – aged four, six and eight – are “not yet at the age where they need a phone”, she says she will definitely be joining the thousands of parents across the country who are choosing to buy their children a “dumbphone” when the time comes.

Another parent, Jo Campion, said she recently decided to buy her 10-year-old son a “dumbphone”, despite most of his Year 5 classmates owning a smartphone – and hasn’t looked back.

“We recently bought him a retro-phone because he wanted to get the bus to his piano lesson after school,” Ms Campion said.

“He absolutely loves having the brick phone,” she added. “He doesn’t want to have a smartphone, because he says he sees the impact it’s having on his friends at school.

“He says the kids that have got smartphones are more badly behaved, use worse language, and he thinks this is from social media.”

Ernest Doku, a telecoms expert at, told The Telegraph he expects to see an increasing number of hand-me-down devices reaching school gates as parents become more wary of the effects of smartphones for young children.

”Many adults will still have an older mobile device tucked away in a drawer, so we may see an increasing number of hand-me-down devices reaching the school gates, alongside added interest at mobile retailers.

“Children learn by example, so it’s important that the parents themselves have a healthy relationship with their phones and make a concerted effort to carve out dedicated screen-free time.

“Setting limits on how long children are allowed to use their phones for, as well as when and where, can help form good habits and protect children online.”

The Department for Education last month published non-statutory guidance instructing head teachers on how to ban the use of phones during lessons, break and lunch periods.

However, campaigners such as Esther Ghey, the mother of the murdered 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, are calling for a ban on smartphones for children.

Sophie Winkleman, the 43-year-old actress and mother, who is the daughter-in-law of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, has also called for children to be given brick phones instead of smartphones.