My oldest child is five, but I’m already having conversations with other moms about the big question: When will you let your child have a phone?
We seem to all agree on the dangers of smartphones (addiction, academic distraction, sleep impairment, anxiety and depression, cyber bullying, sexual content). But we also agree that if and when we choose to hold off, we’re going to be fighting an uphill battle because kids who DON’T have a smartphone are increasingly becoming the minority.
I remember back in middle school being the “only one” who couldn’t watch PG-13 movies. I made a pretty legitimate case to my parents, by dramatically slamming doors and crying, that they were RUINING MY SOCIAL LIFE.
For the most part, pre-teens just want to fit in. And it feels like having a cell phone is the way to do it.
Thankfully, a new initiative called Wait Until 8th is helping parents fight that battle.
Brooke Shannon, the voice behind the movement, said she and several other parents in her Austin, Texas community began noticing that kids in their area were getting smartphones earlier and earlier, even as young as 1st grade. When asked, many parents told her they’d just given in to the mounting pressure because “everyone had them.”
To combat that pressure, she and several other parents decided to rally together and “create a support network for those parents who would like to wait on giving their child a phone.”
Here’s how it works: when you take the pledge to wait to give your child a smartphone until the 8th grade, you include information such as your city and the school your child attends. When 9 other parents from your child’s grade and school sign the pledge with you, it becomes official.
This guarantees that if your family chooses to forego the smartphone until the 8th grade, your child won’t be the only one. Brooke says, “We made the pledge this way so you don’t have to fear ‘what if I am the only parent that signs this in my kid’s grade.’” If you sign, your pledge won’t go into effect until there are at least ten total pledges at your child’s school in his/her specified grade.
And while the majority of us survived middle school without a cell phone (thanks Coach Stewart for letting me use your office phone every day when I forgot my tennis shoes), Wait Until 8th recognizes that many parents still want a basic, talk-and-text-only phone for their child and says you can still make the pledge even if your child has a basic, data-free phone.
Since launching the movement in April, more than a 1,000 families from 42 states and 400+ schools have signed. “Parents have emailed us across the country saying they are so thankful for the pledge!” Shannon says, “Teachers have echoed this as well.”
“The one message we hope parents and kids learn from this campaign,” she explains, “is that childhood is too short to waste on the smartphone.”