Why Jamie Oliver's Kid Can't Have a Cell Phone

Jamie Oliver with wife Juliette Norton and daughters Poppy and Daisy. Photo: WENNCeleb chef Jamie Oliver is against pink slime, school junk food, obesity — and cell phones, at least when it comes to his own kids having them. “Poppy’s the only girl in her class still not allowed a mobile,” Oliver, referring to his 11-year-old daughter, tells U.K. magazine Closer in an interview published on Tuesday. Oliver also says he bans Poppy and her 10-year-old sister, Daisy, from using social media sites, noting, “I found out my two eldest girls had set up Instagram accounts in secret, which I wasn't happy about and soon put a stop to.”

The Naked Chef and father of four — Oliver and wife Juliette Norton also have Petal, 4 and 3-year-old Buddy — explains that his girls have been given a hard time by peers in the past because of his fame and that he wants to avoid giving other kids opportunities to bully them online.

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The 38-year-old's admission comes on the heels of the American Academy of Pediatrics updating its policy regarding children and media use, which was released Monday. In the updated guidelines, the academy suggests moderation: less than two hours of passive screen time for kids daily, (with none at all for those under 2), plus strict rules for all Internet devices — including smartphones — such as keeping them out of a child’s bedroom. But the guidelines stop short of banning use by kids outright.

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“We really try to stay away from words like ‘never,’ ‘don’t,’ and ‘ban,’” Marjorie Hogan, pediatrician and co-author of the AAP’s new policy, tells Yahoo Shine. However, she sees nothing wrong with a parent choosing to impose a full ban.

“If it works for a parent to say that, then that is their media-use plan,” she says. “The policy tries to be supportive of what parents decide, and if a parent feels that’s what’s best for their child right now, then that parent’s decision needs to be respected.” Some parents, she adds, might choose to allow smartphones but with restrictions attached — no texting after 9 p.m., for example, or for emergency calls only. Hogan also notes that bringing children into the discussion, and perhaps allowing them some negotiating power for the future, is an important element in setting up the rules.

Oliver is the second celeb dad over the last month to admit that he doesn't allow his kids to have cell phones. He joins comedian Louis C.K., father to daughters age 8 and 11. “Just 'cause the other stupid kids have phones doesn’t mean, well, OK, my kid has to be stupid — otherwise she’ll feel weird,” he said on "Late Night With Conan O’Brien," part of what has quickly become a famous rant. “You know, I think these things are toxic for kids.” He added that smartphones chip away at empathy and admits that he, too, has been guilty of using his as an emotional crutch.

“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there,” he noted. “That's why we text and drive.”

Oliver, similarly, does not shy away from his gadgets: He is a heavy user of social media, with 1.4 million Instagram followers and 3.6 million people following him on Twitter. So does that, as some bloggers have suggested, make him a hypocrite? Not according to Catherine Steiner-Adair, clinical psychologist and author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

“Children are not adults,” she tells Yahoo Shine. “Just because an adult can do something doesn’t mean a child can do something. That’s like saying you’re a hypocrite if a kid can’t have a glass of wine.” And Steiner-Adair supports a parent like Oliver making tough decisions when it comes to technology use. What is hypocritical, she notes, is when parents set specific rules around technology use — no cellphone use at dinner, for example — and then break those rules themselves.

But keeping gadgets out of tweens’ hands is not a problem in and of itself, Steiner-Adair stresses. “I think you have to step back and think about what kind of a childhood you want your child to have," she says. "As soon as you give your child, at 10 and 11, the capacity to text, you risk not being the person they talk about their day to. You create a distance between you and your child.”

Steiner-Adair adds that “the fear of her being an outcast” should not factor into a parent’s decision and that a bigger worry should be “handing them a phone with no responsible-use conversation” to go with it. “The fact that you didn’t give your kid a smartphone at 10 is going to lead to … what?” she asks. “Kids, at increasingly younger ages, want access to the adult world, and it’s very easy for them to think that they need it. It’s our job to protect childhood.”

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