There is a growing awareness in our society that media, in all its forms, produces harmful effects in children, perhaps the greatest loss being the dimming effect it has on the imagination and the ability to think creatively. While we, as adults, have the capacity to absorb and process the experiences we have online, children are not yet capable of doing so.
Childhood is a time to learn through activity, nature, playing creatively and integrating socially. It is in this spirit that we have recently partnered with Wait Until 8th, a movement that empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children smartphones until at least 8th grade. We wanted to support this movement so that every child can experience more of what our community experiences but on a national level. By banding together and showing our support, this will help to decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over kids having a smartphone.
Childhood is too short to waste on a smartphone. If you’d like to share this with your friends, so all can benefit, have them take the pledge at www.waituntil8th.org.
Mark Graziano, Executive Director
There is a reason why top Silicon Valley executives are saying no to the smartphone until high school for their children. In fact, there is a long list of reasons.
SMARTPHONES ARE ADDICTIVE
New research shows dependence on your smartphone may produce some of the same addictive brain responses similar to alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. 60 Minutes recently featured a former Google manager warning America about the addictive nature of smartphones. He compared smartphones to slot machines in your children’s pocket constantly persuading them to crave more. The tech industry intentionally designs smartphone apps and social media for people to use for long periods of time because this is how they make their money.
SMARTPHONES ARE AN ACADEMIC DISTRACTION
Elementary and middle school years establish the foundation for your child’s academic success. Children learn how to productively manage time, projects and homework. Introducing a constant distraction with a smartphone is paving a path for academic mediocrity. Studies show that after a child receives a smartphone the child’s grades are likely to suffer. Another study found that children who attend schools with smartphone bans did better on tests.
SMARTPHONES IMPAIR SLEEP
Studies show that the use of smartphones and other portable devices with screens affects the quantity and quality of sleep in children and teens. Adolescents are likely restless because they anticipate receiving texts and social media messages from friends, which affects their nighttime routine. Some children even wake up in the middle of the night to check texts or social media. Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, weakened immune system, stunted growth, and mental health issues.
SMARTPHONES INTERFERE WITH RELATIONSHIPS
Many parents regret allowing their child to have a smartphone because they have experienced the way the smartphone is destructive to relationships. The parent child relationship suffers. Children are often inattentive with the constant distraction the phone brings. Face to face relationships dwindle as children shift their time and energy to investing in their online “friendships.”
SMARTPHONES INCREASE THE RISK FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Children are not emotionally equipped to navigate tricky social media waters at such an early age. 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. Research shows that the more time someone uses social media the more likely they are to be depressed.
In addition, when children overuse technology, the constant stimulation of the brain causes the hormone cortisol to rise. Too much cortisol can inhibit a child from feeling calm. The loss of tranquility can lead to serious anxiety orders.
SMARTPHONES PUT YOUR CHILD AT RISK FOR CYBER BULLYING
Bullying is no longer limited to the playground or locker room. Bullies seek to harm children through social media and texts often making retreat for the victim impossible. The most common medium used for cyber bullying is the phone. Nearly 43% of children have been bullied online. Only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
SMARTPHONES EXPOSE CHILDREN TO SEXUAL CONTENT
Smartphones have enabled children to view pornography anywhere. Pornography marketers intentionally target youth online to lure them to dangerous images and videos. One study showed that 42% of online youth users have been exposed to online pornography. Of those, 66% reported unwanted exposure to pornography often through online ads.
Not only are children viewing sexual content with their phones but they are creating it as well. More and more children are “sexting” (sending sexual text messages and or explicit images). Also, various apps open the doors to sexual predators seeking to track, groom and harm our children.
TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVES BAN SMARTPHONES FOR THEIR CHILDREN
According to a New York Times piece, many technology executives wait until their child is 14 before they allow them to have a phone. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. If leaders of digital giants like Google, eBay, Apple and Yahoo are delaying the smartphone then should this not give us pause? Executives that flourish on the success of technology are protecting their children from the smartphone. Should we not do the same? Also, Bill Gates has spoken out in an interview recently saying he doesn’t think children should have their own smartphones until they’re 14. The move has been lauded by technology and parenting experts, who have argued that parents should resist the urge to indulge children in tech for as long as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why 8th grade?
Many experts agree that it is best to wait until at least 14 before exposing children to smartphones. Some parents wanted to wait even longer but thought this was a good line in the sand to at least help keep smartphones out of elementary school and most of middle school. Children are receiving smartphones now as early as first and second grade.
What is the difference between a smartphone and a basic phone?
A smartphone is a mobile phone that operates on an operating system, similar to a mini computer. A basic phone is a phone that is used for the basic purpose of making calls and receiving calls. It also allows users to send and receive text messages. The Wait Until 8th pledge is encouraging parents to delay the smartphone until at least 8th grade. 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.
My child already has a smartphone. Is it too late to be part of this movement?
No! It is never too late to change your mind as a parent. Please share with your child that many families in their grade have decided that it is better to wait to have a smartphone until at least 8th grade. You can discuss with your child the many reasons families in their community are waiting until children are older for the smartphone. If your family is used to communicating with the phone and cannot go back to no phone for the child, another option would be to replace the child’s smartphone with a basic phone that just calls and texts. All the major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA continue to offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans. Switching from a smartphone to a basic phone will protect your child from the many dangers of the smartphone.
My child’s sibling got a smartphone before 8th. How do I switch gears with this child?
If your child has siblings that have received a phone earlier than 8th grade, then you can explain to the child that each child and grade is special. Circumstances and community shape how parents make decisions for each child. You can articulate that after much thought you have concluded that it would be best to wait until 8th grade before they receive a phone. You can ensure them that other children in their grade are following the same path and they will not be the only person without a smartphone.
What about if I need to reach my child?
One reason many parents give their child a smartphone is to be able to reach them once they enter middle school.
The truth is that many families have navigated middle school phone free for decades. The school office phone is available for children when they need to reach you or for you when you need to reach them. Coaches and teachers have phones the child can use in emergencies. Yes, your children are reachable.
Still, some parents may think that at a certain point before 8th grade, they will need to get their child a phone to reach them. If this is the case, there are phones that strictly make calls and text. All the major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA continue to offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans.