Could you pledge not to give your child a phone until eighth grade?
If your child has a smartphone, you know the challenges they can create. Parents must constantly monitor screen time, what apps are on their child’s phone, and the whereabouts of the phone itself. Of course we want our kids to be accessible if we need them, but that can be accomplished with a device that simply calls and texts, without access to the internet.
That’s why one organization is challenging parents to wait to give their children a smartphone until at least eighth grade, and it’s hard to disagree with their logic.
The organization “Wait Until 8th” is asking parents to sign a pledge they believe will empower parents to join together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least eighth grade. Brooke Shannon, a voice for Wait Until 8th Parents, tells Scary Mommy their hope is that by having a group of families band together, it will “decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone.”
So why wait? For one, we all know smartphones are addictive. New research shows dependence on your smartphone can produce similar addictive brain responses as alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. Studies also show that if your child has a smartphone their grades are likely to suffer, along with their sleep patterns. It’s hard for them to “switch off” if their phone is within arm’s reach. The same goes for adults. If our phones are near us, it’s easy to check for texts or emails or grab it if we can’t fall asleep.
But the biggest impact seems to come from social interactions. We’ve all seen tables of teens at restaurants or in social situations and its rare if some or all of them don’t have their head buried in their phones. Their ability to socialize with no technology involved is becoming obsolete. It also increases their risk of being the victim of cyberbullying and the ability to seek out or become exposed to inappropriate content.
But the pressure to give our kids technology earlier and earlier is real. When I gave my daughter a smartphone at 12 (which I now regret), she was, according to her, “practically the LAST kid to get one.” A few of her friends who don’t have phones simply load their apps like SnapChat and Instagram on other people’s phones and check them at school or when they are away from their parents. Also, many middle schools are giving kids iPads as early as sixth grade for their schoolwork. They’re told not to download non-academic apps, but you can imagine how that goes.
By signing the “Wait Until 8th”pledge, parents are promising not to give their child a smartphone until at least eighth grade “as long as at least ten other families from your child’s grade and school pledge as well,” the organization explains. Once ten families have pledged, parents will be notified that the pledge is in effect. Some people would say, “Why wait for ten people? If I don’t want my kid to have a smartphone, they aren’t getting a smartphone.” And this is true. But it can take pressure off parents and kids if others in their area are doing the same.
Shannon tells us that to date, “more than 1,300 families from 42 states and 400+ schools have signed the pledge already in just the first few months.” The positive responses from those participating have been overwhelming:
“Wait Until 8th is a huge resource for parents. Thank you! My son has watched his friends get in trouble on social media since 4th grade. It’s been a great learning experience that he doesn’t need to follow the crowd and waiting is ok! Now he will have friends to wait with for a phone. Thank you!”
–Wait Until 8th Pledge Parent
“Schools need Wait Until 8th! Smartphones are such a distraction in the classroom and have no place in school! Get phones out of kids’ hands and let’s turn their minds towards learning.”
–Teacher supportive of Wait Until 8th
“We want every parent to know about the Wait Until 8th pledge at our school.”
-Elementary school principal
Whether a parent decides to take the pledge or not, waiting as long as possible before giving our kids smartphones makes sense.
After all, they’re only kids once.