Smartphones: Making a Case for Waiting Until 8th
Kids these days. This phrase has been uttered by each generation as they progress into adulthood and reflect back on their own childhood. When I think of my own, I remember playing outside until the streetlights came on in the summer. My neighborhood friends and I were kept busy building forts, climbing trees, and exploring the world around us. Children are growing up in a different world than the one experienced by past generations. Technology use is now a given rather than a luxury. Smartphones have become constant companions.
The full impact of being constantly connected has yet to be ascertained, but there are several distressing effects that have come to light in recent years, including the negative impact on the mental health of our children. Early social media use is a contributing factor, as it allows kids to dwell on what their friends are doing without them.
One common pressure faced by families at increasingly younger ages is the question of when to get your child their first cell phone. The day before I left for college, I purchased my first cell phone because I wanted an easy way to keep track of friends and family. Today, students as young as elementary school begin making this request of their parents. You might hear about how everyone already has one, and how your child doesn’t want to be the only one who doesn’t. The word unfair might be thrown in for good measure.
According to a recent survey given to parents of students in grades 5-12 in Hutchinson Public Schools, 81.7% of parents believe that students should receive their first smartphone between grades 6-9. Just over 31% of parents feel that it is appropriate to introduce smartphones in Grade 6, and 50% of parents wait until their student is in grades 7-9 before purchasing their child a smartphone.
The decision on when to give your child a smartphone is a deeply personal one based on many factors, but typically revolving around the need to be connected. Kids today are busy, and parents need a method for knowing both where their children are and when they might need a ride. This issue alone tips the scales in favor of a cell phone purchase for many families.
There has been a push in recent months for parents around the country to sign a pledge to “Wait Until 8th.” This grassroots movement encourages parents to band together in support of letting kids be kids by delaying the purchase of a smartphone until Grade 8. They argue that smartphone use in childhood is altering the typical childhood experience because kids are choosing to be on devices instead of hanging out with friends, playing outside, or reading.
No matter what each family decides, it is important to weigh all options and avoid the early purchase of a smartphone due to the convenience of adding a child to the family plan. It’s more work to find a flip phone than it is to take advantage of a free smartphone offer, which may be what’s best for the wireless provider but not the child. To sign the pledge and learn more about the potential negative effects of smartphone use in children, visit www.waituntil8th.org.