A Tipping Point

By: Brooke Shannon

For a decade,  our culture has been racing against a rapidly accelerating hamster wheel of pace and pressure,  facilitated by the silky conveniences of smartphones.   In our struggle to keep up with the latest technology, we have given our lives over to a sense of futility that this is just the way it is.  

But as author Malcolm Gladwell offers in his book,  "Tipping Point," while the world "may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not, with the slightest push--in just the right place--it can be tipped. "  

And with the recent addition of powerful new voices, perspectives, and pledges, the Wait Until 8th conversation is flourishing--a beautiful illustration of the change that Gladwell describes. Parents are examining alarming recent research about kids, smartphones and social media. Moms and dads across the nation are asking why do so many young kids have smartphones? Why is the average age a child receives a smartphone 10 years old? Why are kids spending hours and hours on screens and really missing out on being a kid? Concerned families are wondering what impact this ubiquitous device is having cognitively, emotionally and physically on children.

The media are tuning in too. Good Morning America recently featured a segment about the Wait Until 8th pledge, and Wait Until 8th was on NPR for almost an hour with a host from On Point and Harvard clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair. Dr. Steiner-Adair offered a huge endorsement of the Wait Until 8th pledge and outlined why parents should delay giving their kids smartphones.

Technology executives are raising red flags too. Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society. He said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. Also, Sean Parker a former Facebook president recently said, "God only knows what social media is doing to our children." Melinda Gates wrote a piece in the Washington Post about how she spent her career in technology and was not prepared for the effect it had on her children. She wished she would have waited longer before permitting phones and she even waited until her children were 14.

Many parents are listening and saying yes to delaying the smartphone. More than 6,000 families from all 50 states have signed the Wait Until 8th pledge. There is strength in numbers. Active pledges are moving across the nation. An active pledge is when 10 or more parents from the same grade and school sign the Wait Until 8th pledge. We designed the pledge with community in mind. This path of waiting is easier to take with friends by your side. 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.

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Congrats to the many schools with recent active pledges including Tuscan Elementary in New Jersey, Nativity Parish School in Kansas, Colonial Elementary in New York, the Children's Day School in San Francisco, St. Agnes Catholic School in Kansas, Carlisle Public School in Massachusetts, Casis Elementary in Texas, and the Saint Bridget School in Virginia! 

You too can champion change at your school. Be an advocate for your child. Rally your community. It all starts with one pledge. Sign today at www.waituntil8th.org . 

 

Take 2: Smartphones for My Kids

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By: Dana Geiger

If I could write a letter to myself and send it back in time four years, I would tell myself not to accept that Candy Crush invite and it is not a great idea to give Blaine that iPhone4 for Christmas.

Like most parents, my husband and I want to give our children the world. As a bottom rung middle-class family, we strive for balance in what we can provide and what we know they should earn. In a way, that iPhone4 our son unwrapped on Christmas morning 2013 was exactly that.  Our kind, hard-working boy was conquering the dreaded transition to middle school with stride. So …when we learned of the conveniently timed Verizon upgrade allowing us to give him that ever-so-coveted smart phone for a small monthly fee and nothing out of pocket, we didn’t hesitate. Because we could, we never stopped to ask if we should.  Not once did we pause to question what impact this amount of technology could have on an eleven-year-old brain.

Lucky for us, Blaine had no interest in Instagram or Facebook. This phone primarily meant he could now continue his Clash of Clan battles during long car rides. He was responsible and appreciative, and we thought we were parents of the year.

Fast forward to 2017…Our son is now fifteen and his sister eleven. The iPhone has evolved 5 generations. Facebook and Instagram have too evolved beyond my usability and given way to the more popular Snapchat. As well as what I am sure amounts to countless other apps that a forty-one year old mom has no idea about.

I have read countless headlines involving technology and the role it plays perpetuating young people into compromising situations. I see how this addiction threatens the present moment for both children and adults, myself included.

And so when my daughter, now the same age as her brother when he began wielding that iPhone4, pleads for a smartphone, I feel a reticence that I only wish I had considered in 2013.

Like her brother, she is responsible and deserving of reward. But unlike four years ago, there is a loud subconscious hesitation within me.

Unlike her brother, she is not enthusiastic about Clash of Clans or Minecraft and is far more interested in Instagram and Snapchat. Who could blame her? All of her friends use it. It is fear of what I know I don’t know coupled with the horror stories about Finstagram that compel me to lend an apologetic “no” every time she asks.

(For those of you who have not heard this term... here is how Finstagram is defined by the Urban dictionary…Finstagram, finsta for short, is a mixture of Fake & Instagram. Kids get a second Instagram account along with their real instagrams, to post any pictures or videos they desire. The photos or videos posted are usually funny or embarrassing. Only your closest friends (which never include parents) follow this account). So while I trust my daughter, what I trust more is she and my son will always know more about smartphone technology and the applications available than I do. How can I protect them from something I don’t fully understand?

As is often the case when a topic plagues me, I find solace in sharing a bottle of wine and commiserating with my “people” – a core group of women that I regard more like sisters all of which have children of the same age.

So one Friday evening this past Spring, two bottles in, we made a pact to stand strong together when our relentless rising middle school daughters began pleading for a smartphone.

Not long after that wine infused pact I happened upon something on Facebook (oh, the irony) about the Wait Until 8th pledge

Wait Until 8th is a grass-roots awareness movement that promotes parents take a pledge to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade.  The idea is that banding together decreases the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone. 

When I learned of this movement, I felt relief and remorse in equal measure. Relief that my small sisterhood and I were not alone in this battle, and yes, sometimes it feels like a battle. And remorse that I didn’t have the good sense to ask more questions or have this conversation in the fall of 2013 before arming by son with that iPhone4. Needless to say, I signed the WaitUntil8th pledge and forwarded it to my mom squad (my daughter hates it when I say that) immediately.

I am a middle school mom fighting this battle. I can do it.  But I wonder if it would be a battle if society had approached smartphone technology with the same reticence and discerning questions as we do a newly recommended vaccine. 

This is an important conversation. I implore Virginia Beach Elementary and Middle schools lend their voices to it.  Surely there is room in those Tuesday folders to include one more flyer.

To the many parents like me that already fell down this rabbit hole: this movement in no way casts judgment or shame upon us. There is no scarlet letter S to be worn. In fact, I believe there are no better people to lead this conversation that the ones that have already blazed the trail. Or perhaps you will just commiserate with me, over a bottle of wine and say " if we had only known then, what we know now." I’ll take it.

I am a strong, vocal, and most of the time confident woman who is white-knuckling it through the decision not to allow my eleven-year-old daughter access to a smartphone or social media. I need a village to lean on.  Join me in taking the WaitUntil8th Pledge.

 

 

Come to the Table

By: Krista Boan

Like many modern parents, I can fluently navigate analog and digital realities--and value them both.  I love a game of Twister.  And I speak Minecraft.  I can find my way along a country road.   But I also love my GPS.  I know the value of sitting beside a suffering friend, holding her hand in silence.  But I have also experienced beautiful, genuine outpourings of love over Facebook.  And while one of my greatest hopes is that my own children will learn how to use technology for good, I am also concerned by the research coming out about the effect smartphones are having on their generation. 

When I first heard about Wait Until 8th, I breathed a sigh of relief.  There were other parents out there who shared my concern, and they had come up with an idea: a pledge designed to help parents band together to delay giving their kids a smartphone until at least 8th grade.  Such a simple concept.  So much potential to transform communities. Be still, my heart.

Dr. Natasha Burgert Joins Wait Until 8th

Wait Until 8th is excited to have Dr. Natasha Burgert join as a Voice for Wait Until 8th.

Dr. Burgert is an innovative pediatrician in Kansas City, MO and National Spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

In her full-time private practice, she strives to leverage the traditional values and teachings of medical science within today's digital health revolution. She does this through real-time media channels and innovative digital tools that allow her to add reputable impact to daily health care decisions. 

How One Community Said Yes to Waiting on the Smartphone

Wait Until 8th is spreading like wild fire! More than 2,900 parents from 49 states and 500+ schools are delaying the smartphone by signing the Wait Until 8th pledge. 

In the past month, CNN Headline News, USA Today, the Today Show, ABC News National, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Kansas City Star, Real Simple and numerous local broadcast stations have featured the pledge.

Stories are pouring in on how communities are rallying together around Wait Until 8th. We want to share one of these stories with our community of supporters.

Pam Perskie lives in the wonderful community of Little Silver in New Jersey. She and her husband Joe have taken the Wait Until 8th pledge for their two daughters. Pam championed the pledge in her small town to rally many families to delay the smartphone. We are happy to share her Wait Until 8th story with you! 

Kids and Smartphones: When FOMO Leads to Endless FOMO

Kids and Smartphones: When FOMO Leads to Endless FOMO

By: Brooke Shannon

Parents are buying their kids smartphones out of FOMO and this is leading to endless FOMO for their kids!

FOMO—fear of missing out—haunts children and adults alike.  The dictionary defines FOMO “as anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Wait Until 8th Smartphone Pledge Signed in 14 States and 40 Schools in First Month

By Brooke Shannon

Last month I launched the Wait Until 8th pledge along with several other committed parents who wanted to fight the mounting pressure in our community to give children a smartphone at an early age. 

The  pledge is empowering parents across the country to say yes to waiting on the smartphone.  Hundreds of parents from 14 states and 40 schools have signed the pledge at www.waituntil8th.org . 

Here is what some of the parents that signed the pledge are saying: 

"This is incredible! I am signing 100%.  My older two children got phones in 6th grade and it has added very little value and a world I don't want them exposed to."

"I love this! I’m so glad that you have initiated this effort on behalf of all of our kids and the community! It’s gained so much momentum.  I’m so excited!" 

"We had no idea how distracting and terrible the smartphone would be for our son when we gave him one in 6th grade. We absolutely are on board for waiting until at least 8th grade for our other two children."  

"As a middle school teacher, I have experienced what a negative impact smartphones have in the classroom and in the social arena. Thank you for standing up to this push for phones earlier in childhood."

A really famous parent - who knows a thing or two about technology - spoke out last week saying he doesn’t think children should have a smartphone until they’re 14. That is 8th grade! Thank you, Bill Gates! Bill and Melinda also put rules in place once their children have smartphones. Phones are not allowed at the dinner table and screen time is cut off at a certain point in the evening.

Bill Gates didn't let his kids use cell phones until they turned 14

While most young kids and teenagers spend hours upon hours glued to tablets and smartphones, Bill Gates' children had a markedly different experience growing up. During a recent interview with the Mirror , the former Microsoft CEO said that when his children were growing up, he limited their exposure to the addicting glow of digital screens.

What really astonished me is that a former Google manager on 60 Minutes warned America about the addictive nature of smartphones.  He compared smartphones to slots machines in children's pockets and said there's a whole playbook of techniques to get people to use the product for as long as possible because that is how the tech industry makes money.

Smartphones are addictive, distracting and sometimes even dangerous yet are widespread in elementary and middle school because of unrealistic social pressure and expectations to have one. Say yes to waiting on the smartphone until at least 8th grade at www.waituntil8th.org .

By signing the online 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.  Once 10 families have pledged to delay the smartphone, you will be notified that the pledge is in effect!

If you would like your child to have a basic phone that just calls and texts, you still can sign the pledge!  Every major carrier makes a basic flip phone that just calls and texts with no data plan.The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone. 

Let kids be kids a little longer. Childhood is too short to waste on a smartphone. Take the pledge at www.waituntil8th.org.