Communicating with Your Child: Why We Wait Until 8th for a Smartphone

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By: Cady Audette, A Wait Until 8th Parent 

After our family signed the Wait Until 8th pledge and it became active in our community, an interesting question came up: how can we explain this pledge to our child when she sees other children with smartphones?

Many families use the phrase “different families make different choices” with children as young as toddlers. This is true, and effective to a point, if they accept it and move on. As they've gotten older though, my children have needed a deeper explanation to put an issue to rest.

I work at a progressive independent preschool where my children attended that is committed to following the research. I took this phrase and reasoning, and applied it to choices we make at home. Why do we eat vegetables, wear bike helmets and seatbelts, brush our teeth, go to bed “early,” practice gratitude, and avoid second-hand smoke? Our family follows the research. This line of rational has tremendously helped in my children's acceptance of our family’s decisions. “Scientists/researchers/doctors have found that this is the best choice to make, with the data we have.”

This is helpful for a few reasons. First, it’s not just my husband and me making a call and asking for their buy-in; we are putting that on professionals. Second, the research will evolve and change, and we will honor that. When my first daughter was a baby, we were told we could face her car seat forward at age 1. Now my third child is still backward facing at 18 months; the research and recommendation changed. So if in three years, new data supports that smart phones are most appropriate for 10th grade and up, we will adhere to that guidance. This reasoning allows us flexibility in decision-making and to feel confident we are falling back on the most recent recommendations. 

When I talked to my 4th grader about the pledge, I explained how researchers had found harmful effects on brain development if children spend a lot of time with screens when they're young. We talked about how they've learned that smart phones can be distracting and dangerous for children younger than 8th grade, and how they're continuing to learn more about smartphones because they are a new technology. We discussed the research on addiction, sleep impairment, and depression linked to smartphones. Finally, we talked about the recommendation to wait until 8th, and how we'd do that too. 

We continue to use both “different families make different choices” and “we follow the research” when it comes to explanations, but the latter is particularly helpful when it comes to health, wellness, and safety based decisions. As parents, we are constantly forming decisions, and it can be a relief to have fewer determinations to make by relying on research – and naming that.  

If you would like to to join Cady and more than 8,000 families in delaying the smartphone for children until at least 8th grade, sign the Wait Until 8th pledge today.