Answering Some Reservations

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By: Erin Breitenbach

When I received an email this past spring from a parent at my child’s school asking parents to sign a pledge to not give their child a smartphone until the 8th grade, I signed it immediately. I was so relieved that someone actually was doing something. I had witnessed the negative impact of smartphones in my older son’s grade and was overwhelmed by the way this small device was fundamentally changing childhood for children.

The email was compelling, and explained the unrealistic social pressure to have a smartphone despite it being an immense distraction and potentially dangerous with exposure to sexting, cyber-bullying and sexual predators.  Also, the email explained how childhood is changing for children. Playing outdoors, spending time with friends, reading books and hanging out with family is happening a lot less to make room for hours of snap chatting, instagramming, and catching up on You Tube.

This parent was speaking my language, and I wanted to be part of the movement. Within a few days, I joined the Wait Until 8th pledge as a voice and started encouraging my friends to sign. News about the pledge spread quickly and one month later parents from 40 more schools and 14 states had signed the pledge.  Fast forward nine months later, and now more than 6,400 parents from all 50 states are delaying the smartphone for their child until at least 8th grade.

While many parents are saying yes to waiting on the smartphone, some moms and dads have some reservations about holding out on this technology for their children.

They ask, “shouldn’t children become experts in using a smartphone, since technology is here to stay?” Smartphones are arguably more easily navigable than a television, microwave oven, or a laundry machine. Learning how to use one takes very little practice. Remember? We all figured it out just fine back in the late 2000s. If a child never used a smartphone until they were 14 years old it would probably take them a day or two to master the device.

Others worry children will miss out socially, or won’t fit in. Maybe, but what’s the point if they end up lonelier and discontent? Research shows the more time children spend on social media the less happy they feel in all aspects of their life. Also, overuse of social media is linked to unhappiness, loneliness, depression, and even suicide. Children can use the time not on a smartphone to make more meaningful relationships.

Some parents protest children won’t be as safe without a smartphone. Worry instead that it will probably get broken, lost, or stolen before it keeps them safe. Know that the time spent teaching your child rural, suburban, or city survival skills without a smartphone will likely be more valuable than a smartphone will ever be.  If your child needs to reach you, and you would feel safer if you could reach them, buy a basic phone or a two-way calling watch instead of a smartphone. All of the major carriers still make a basic phone that just calls and texts. This avoids many of the dangers and distractions of the smartphone.  You can still sign the Wait Until 8th pledge if you go this route.

Other parents think children are doing educational games and so somehow they’re getting smarter using their smartphone? Not only does a regular pencil and workbook do the job just as well, but you also don’t then have to worry about the tangential distractions the smartphone so famously provides.

Children will have plenty of time to use a smartphone as an adult. Childhood is the only time they are truly free to discover themselves without the valuable tool yet inevitable distraction that is the smartphone. Think of how many hours they could be spending developing social, interpersonal, teamwork, survival, and problem solving skills. If you’re still wary, try one screen-free weekend with your child and let your family feel the difference.

Erin Breitenbach lives in Austin with her two sons and is a voice for the Wait Until 8th pledge. She has a PhD in Health Education from The University of Texas and works as an Associate Professor and Department Chair for a Doctorate in Health Education program and a Doctorate in Education in Health Professions Education program.

 

 

A Tipping Point

Wait Until 8th movement spreads

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,  "The 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. "  

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 good questions. Why do so many young children have smartphones?  Should I give my kid a smartphone? Why are kids spending many hours on screens and really missing out on being a kid? What impact does this device have on our children? 

The media are tuning in too. The Wait Until 8th pledge was recently featured on Good Morning America as well as NPR's On Point and All Things Considered. In the interview with NPR, Harvard clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair offered a strong endorsement of the pledge and outlined why parents should delay giving their kids smartphones.

Technology executives also are raising red flags. Former 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. He said his kids get "no screen time whatsoever."  Also, Sean Parker, Facebook's founding 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 delayed giving her children smartphones until 14 and wished she would have waited longer.

More than 6,000 families from all 50 states have signed the Wait Until 8th pledge, leading to a surge in "active pledge" celebrations.  This exciting status is achieved when 10 or more parents from the same grade at the same school have signed the pledge.  These communities are experiencing hope, encouragement, and power by banding together on this issue.  The pressure is off because they no longer have to fear  "What if we are the only ones who hold out?" 

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.