At what age should parents give their children smartphones?
For modern parents, it’s an important question. Now, an online movement claims to have the answer: eighth grade.
The movement’s website asks parents to pledge not to give their children smartphones until at least eighth grade—and to ask other parents to do the same.
“By signing the pledge, you promise not to give your child a smartphone until at least 8th grade as long as at least 10 other families from your child’s grade and school pledge as well,” the page reads. “…Once 10 families have pledged, you will be notified that the pledge is in effect!”
The Wait Until 8th organization has spread its message quickly through sites like Pinterest and Twitter.
Parents seem to be responding to the message, which is grounded in solid science, with enthusiasm.
Research suggests that smartphones can be detrimental to a healthy upbringing. A 2017 study from the University of Michigan found that about half of parents said that technology interrupted time with their children three or more times per day on average. The research also indicated that when young children have smartphones, they’re more likely to misbehave.
There’s also evidence that smartphones disturb natural sleep patterns, particularly when used around bedtime. According to the National Sleep Foundation, young children aren’t getting enough sleep regardless of phone usage, so adding a smartphone to the equation certainly seems problematic.
Of course, the Wait Until 8th pledge aims to fight a seemingly unstoppable trend. A 2016 survey found that most children receive their first cellphones between ages 10 and 12.
The Wait Until 8th website notes that in taking the pledge, parents can still give their children basic phones that don’t have “smart” capabilities (in other words, a phone that can only call and text).
Some parents worry that this type of pledge will ostracize their young kids, as their peers often have access to smartphones and other tech.
ABC News recently reported on a ninth-grade girl, Sophia Chigounis, whose parents waited to give her a smartphone until her 14th birthday. Her parents admit that their approach wasn’t always easy.
“It would have been easier for Sophia if she hadn’t been the last person in her grade to get a phone,” Constantine Chigounis, Sophia’s father, told ABC News.
“I think she would have felt less excluded. For me, as a father, it would have reduced the conflict in my mind between her feeling socially isolated and protecting her from all of the negative effects smartphones have on young kids.”
Still, the family says that they’re confident in their decision.
“She reads more, still plays with Legos and is more active and imaginative than I think she would be if she were immersed in a virtual relationship with a screen,” Constantine said.
By asking parents to spread the pledge, the Wait Until 8th movement hopes to limit the social isolation that might come from growing up without a smartphone. As the organization’s website notes, their idea isn’t new.
“Many technology executives wait until their child is 14 before they allow them to have a phone,” the site reads. “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?”
Learn more and take the pledge here.