What’s The Appropriate Age To Get Your Kid A Smartphone? “waituntil8th.org” Pledges Parents To Wait
A new initiative is pledging parents to wait until 8th grade to give smartphones to their children. A lot of parents have jumped on board feeling that their kids are missing out on precious childhood time from spending their hours staring at a smartphone screen, even way past bed time. And the parents are just tired of policing.
But there’s a catch: You can’t just take a smartphone from your child if their peers are all equipped with smartphones and communicating over the internet. There’s this thing called “fear of missing out” (FOMO) and it’s more powerful than you can imagine.
And the kids aren’t the only ones who suffer from FOMO. It’s defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Even some parents feel their child is missing out if left without what their peers are equipped with.
And that’s why the solution to this problem requires parental solidarity which has taken the form of the “Wait Until 8th” pledge.
Keri Lucas is a mom who doesn’t like how her smartphone seems to take hold of her young daughter’s mind when she lets her browse through digital snapshots.
“I do notice it impacts her behavior in a negative way,” said Lucas, describing how it’s hard to pull her 7-year-old daughter away from the cellphone.
It got Lucas to thinking about when she’ll give her daughter her own smartphone — a device many adults didn’t have a decade ago but now seems ubiquitous, even among children. “This is new territory,” Lucas said. “As parents, we’re navigating something our parents didn’t navigate. Trying to figure it out as we go is hard.”
As kids head back to school, many parents are wrestling with a relatively new rite of passage: when to give their kids a smartphone. While the average child gets his or her first smartphone at 10, according to research firm Influence Central, some parents in Chicago and across the country are bucking the trend by promising to wait until their children are in eighth grade — when they’re typically 13 or 14.
Developed earlier this year by a group of Austin, Texas, parents — this pledge rallies moms and dads to to work together making their children feel comfortable among other smartphone-free kids. Brooke Shannon, a former Chicago resident who now lives in Austin is a the front of this movement.
The pledge points to the possibility that smartphones can damage a developing brain by interfering with sleep, serving as a distraction from homework, and putting a child at risk for cyberbullying.
More than 2,000 parents with children in more than 500 schools across the country have signed the pledge at waituntil8th.org since it launched in the spring, Shannon said, including more than 100 families in Illinois. “It’s been exciting to see there’s so many parents out there … to see we’re not the only ones.”
Once people have signed, they’re notified when nine other families from their school have also signed, and their school’s pledge officially goes into effect, according to the Wait Until 8th website.
Elementary school, they feel, is too young for smartphones but there is a need for children to learn the responsibility of having a phone before they hit high school. This is why the consensus was set at grade 8. Shannon reminds us that even Bill Gates had his children wait until 14 before they got a phone.
She said she’s encouraged by the success of the pledge, which could bolster parents’ resolve this school year when their children come to them saying they want iPhones like the other kids.
“The campaign from kiddos starts very early,” said Shannon, who has three daughters who range from preschool to fourth grade. “Even if your child doesn’t have (a smartphone), once one kid from their grade does … then the pressure is on.”
But some parents take a different view for their families, challenging that the end of middle school might be too late. In the end without solidarity, this initiative may never work out properly. One smartphone-equipped classmate is enough to sow the seeds of mania, FOMO, call it whatever.
And saying “No” to your kid might make you a good parent at home, but at school it’s as bad as being picked on for being the poor kid. Never underestimate peer pressure.