Parents pledging to not give kids smartphones until 8th grade

(AP file)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Wait Until 8th is a pledge to not allow children to own a smartphone until 8th grade. The movement started in early 2017 in Texas, after a group of elementary school parents began to discuss the mounting pressure to give children their own smartphones at an early age.

“The parents questioned why young children needed this technology,” said Wait Until 8th’s Brooke Shannon. “As we started to ask around, many parents said they eventually caved on the smartphone because ‘everyone had them’ and they did not want their child to feel left out.”

Shannon and others decided to use group momentum for good, and started the Wait Until 8th pledge. The pledge becomes active once 10 or more families from a grade at a school sign an agreement to not give their kids smartphones until 8th grade. Basic phones, for calls and texts only, are recommended. Wait Until 8th cites data showing smartphones are distracting, addictive and expose children to cyberbullying.

A 2016 survey found, on average, children get their first smartphone at age 10.

“Everyone has them,” says 12-year-old Julia Garcia. She and her 11-year-old sister, Olivia, each received smartphones last Christmas.

She and her 11-year-old sister, Olivia, each received smartphones last Christmas.

Their mother, Liza, says she’d planned to ban smartphones until her girls were in high school but she says she talked to therapists, and did a lot of research, and changed her mind.

“That’s what their generation sees as a communication tool and as a socialization tool – their phones – so I don’t think they’re all bad,” said Liza. 

She explains that there are strict rules in place for technology use.

“We can’t use the phones after 8:30 p.m., and we can only use technology once homework and our chores are done,” said daughter Olivia.

Sheila Vaske of Tampa sheepishly admits her daughters have had smartphones for years, but says she’s tried to educate them about online safety.

“Hopefully I’ve done a good enough job that they understand the phone can be hurtful, but it can also be a great thing, and to use that tool as something positive,” said Sheila, adding if it’s not, the phones will be taken away.

Her daughter Ambrosia seems to have taken her Mom’s lessons to heart.

“A lot of bullying can go on online, I’ve seen it before on Snapchat. But I always try to stick up for people that are being bullied,” she said.

While the Garcia and Vaske families won’t be signing the “Wait Until 8th” pledge, a lot of families have. According to Brooke Shannon, more than 3,700 families in more than 50 states have signed the pledge.

Learn more about Wait Until 8th at this link.

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