Smartphones can be a portal to the world, a way to get information or socialize, but some parents worry when they get in the hands of young kids.
"Now children are starting to get them even in second grade, first grade, kindergarten, and it's happening earlier and earlier, and there's really no reason for a child that's 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-years-old, to have a phone,” said Brooke Shannon, a mother.
So she created Wait Until 8th, an online pledge for parents to sign agreeing they won't allow their child to have a smartphone until eighth grade.
"We just wanted to do it differently for our children,” said Shannon.
One of her daughters, Mercy, is in third grade and said some of her friends already have smartphones.
"Instead of hanging out with friends, they would rather be on their phone,” said Mercy Shannon. "I want them to be able to play longer, and then like be outside, and be stuff because when you're older you're not going to have that opportunity.”
Shannon worries about the amount of time young kids spend on smartphones and didn't want her daughter to be one.
"Instead of playing with friends, hanging out with family, enjoying a good book, they're spending hours and hours Instagraming, YouTubing, Snapchatting and really missing out on key elements on childhood,” said Shannon. "If you're spending that much time on the phone there's only so many hours in the day, what's getting lost, like what is getting sacrificed.”
The pledge has more than 3,500 families in more than 50 states.
"It started at just our little school and it's quickly spread, and it went from just being a local movement to be in every single state across the nation,” said Shannon.
After feeling the pressures of buying a smartphone for young children, Shannon said they wanted to “flip the script” and show parents there is support in this decision.
Courtney Moss, a mother of three kids, is one of those who signed the pledge.
"All of us know we don't want our children to have a phone, but no one wants to be the first person who says it,” said Moss.
She said there is strength in the numbers.
"We just weren't sure what people were going to think of it, and our concern was what if our children go to this large middle school and there's 500 kids, and they're one of 10 children without it, and selfishly I have to admit that that was one of my concerns that my kids would be the ones left out," said Moss.
"So when one of my daughters says, I want to get a smartphone, and I'm like we're going to wait a little bit on this, and they say I'm the only one that's waiting, actually you're not,” said Shannon.
Cathy York also signed the pledge and has already told her four kids 'no smartphones.'
"It's easier to say that your friend will be joining this pledge with you, instead of a mom saying 'we're going to be doing this on our own,'” York explained. "I was really shocked to know that so many parents were also on board with the same thought that we had in our family."
York said she’s teaching her children to use other resources to find information, like the library.
"I just wanted them to be able to connect with the environment, with their surroundings, and just be children," said York.
Moss said she wants to teach her children how to use a phone properly, how to be responsible and set boundaries.
"I don't want the first phone that I hand my children to be a smartphone, I want to start small, I want them to learn responsibility I think it's important for kids to have boundaries,” said Moss. "It's not that I'm saying you can never have it, or we think they're terrible, they're very very useful pieces of technology, but they can also be abused, and there's a lot of dangers that can come with it if you're not paying attention."
Allison Thompson's two girls go to another school where she is helping lead the efforts.
"I want them to enjoy their childhood, I don't want them to prematurely face the pressures of some of the challenges of social media,” said Thompson. "When I think about my girls and growing up, is they're going to have so many pressures, and does the smartphone and social media, does that contribute positively, I don't think it does."
She believes at the very least, the Wait Until 8th pledge will inform other parents.
"This is just a way that we're all aware what's going on, and how do we protect our kids,” said Thompson.
Erin Breitenbach took away her middle schooler's smartphone when he was in seventh grade.
"I had already seen the negative effects, socially, academically," said Breitenbach. "Withdrawing socially rather than really interacting with peers."
She said it was a difficult decision.
"I felt at the time that I really was the only one thinking in this direction,” said Breitenbach. "I thought in time, the sheer number of hours that were being spent on this thing and the fights about taking it away, the whole thing and I thought you know this is just, intervening in very negative ways, and I really did not see anything positive coming out of it."
Now, she’s glad she will now have support with her younger daughter.
"I was incredibly thankful to learn that other parents were thinking in this direction,” said Breitenbach.
Parents, who pledge to support each other in this tough parenting decision.
"For me, the biggest concern is childhood is changing and you can never get these years back so let's protect it for a little bit longer for our kids,” said Shannon.
This group understands there are situations where your child needs a phone to call you --- or 911 for an emergency.
They have a Pinterest page, where they put information about some of the simple phones you can get for your kids --- not a smartphone.
"A basic phone gets the same thing done, you get in touch with them, and you avoid a lot of the distractions and the dangers that come with the smartphone,” said Shannon.
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