Recently a group of parents and I started to discuss the mounting pressure to give our children their own smartphones at an early age.
We questioned why so many young children at school, sports, and parties are glued constantly to their smartphones. We wondered why on earth a first grader needed the latest iPhone 7. We agreed that the average age a child receives a smartphone—10 years old—is too young considering all the risks the device poses.
Smartphones are extremely distractive and addictive. The unrestricted access to the internet exposes them to sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual predators. Plus, children are not emotionally equipped to navigate tricky social media waters. Viewing someone else’s highlight reel on social media often leads youth to think they are missing out or are not enough compared with their peers.
Many moms and dads said they wanted to wait as long as they could but knew it would be an uphill battle. So many parents we knew wished they had waited, but gave their child a smartphone because they did not want their child to be socially isolated without one. Social pressure was the number one reason parents caved on the issue.
Out of this dialogue came the idea to come together as a community by starting a pledge. The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone.
Many people have asked, why 8th grade?
After researching the issue, we learned the longer you wait to expose children to smartphones the better. Experts varied on the exact age recommendation from 14 to 16 to even waiting until high school graduation.
Also, we learned many technology executives, including Bill Gates, wait until their child is at least 14 before they allow them to have a phone. Executives that flourish on the success of technology are protecting their children from the smartphone.
We decided we wanted to follow the guidance of many experts and leaders on this issue and delay giving our children smartphones until 14, which is 8th grade. We thought this was a good line in the sand to draw to at least help keep smartphones out of elementary school and most of middle school.
We designed the pledge to flip the script on peer pressure and use group momentum for good. A pledge becomes "active" once 10 or more families from a grade at a school sign. 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." This takes the pressure off because the pledge only kicks in once at least 10 families sign from your grade.
Also, the pledge is for smartphones only. If you would like your child to have a basic phone that just calls and texts, you still can sign the pledge. The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone. All the major carriers continue to offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans. Switching from a smartphone to a basic phone will help protect your child.
More than 2900 parents from 49 states and 500+ schools have signed the pledge at www.waituntil8th.org. Please join us in waiting until at least 8th grade. Childhood is too short to waste on a smartphone. Let’s let kids be kids a little longer.
Brooke Shannon lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three daughters. She is the founder of the Wait Until 8th pledge. The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least eighth grade. Learn more and take the pledge at www.waituntil8th.org.