My oldest kid is 7 going on 17. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t ask to look up stuff on my phone, like how far away China is or videos of ninjas. He asked for a smart phone for his birthday and my husband and I both held our laughter because what 7-year-old needs a smart phone? But as I look around, some of his friends have them. I’m not going to lie, I find that concerning.
When I saw an article appearing in my news feed the other day that asked parents to take a pledge called “Wait Until 8th” I was more than a little bit curious. The cornerstone of the idea is that “Childhood is too short to waste on a smartphone.” The group sites many examples as to why they believe smartphones are dangerous for kids.
In a convincing article on their website, Wait Until 8th say that smartphones are addictive, impair sleep, interfere with relationships, and set kids up for an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
“Several months ago, a group of parents from my daughter’s elementary school in Austin started to discuss the mounting pressure in our community to give children their own smartphones at an early age,” Wait Until 8th founder, Brooke Shannon tells Babble. “We started seeing children as young as first and second grade coming to school, play dates and birthday parties with the latest iPhone. We questioned why young children needed this technology.”
Shannon went on to describe the increased pressure parents feel to provide for their kids and how the exasperation of “but everyone else has them” convinced them to cave into social pressures and buy smartphones for their elementary-aged kids.
“Many of my friends said they wanted to wait as long as they could, but knew it would be an uphill battle. Out of this dialogue came the idea to rally together as a community by starting a pledge,” says Shannon.
The group has spread across the country with parents everywhere taking the pledge to wait until at least eighth grade before allowing their children to have a smartphone. These parents are encouraged to support each other and support their kids in having a childhood free of what they are being exposed to via smartphone.
Shannon points out how quickly excitement spread over the idea, “More than a 1,000 families from 42 states and 400+ schools have signed the pledge already in just the first few months! Parents have emailed us across the country saying they are so thankful for the pledge! Teachers have echoed this as well.”
As a mother, this idea of giving my kids the chance to just be kids a little longer through strategies like delaying access to the Internet through a smartphone appeals to me. I find myself having to hide my phone when I get home from work not only so my kids won’t ask to look stuff up, but so I won’t get distracted by it with a phone implanted in my hand.
In the end, our kids have their whole lives to access the world wide web, but they only get one childhood.