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Keeping kids safe: 'Wait Until 8th' pledge aims to empower parents to resist smartphones for children - Joggingvideo.com
20 C
New York
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Keeping kids safe: 'Wait Until 8th' pledge aims to empower parents to resist smartphones for children

Over 45,000 people throughout the United States have signed a pledge saying they will hold off on giving their kids a smartphone until the eighth grade — at the very least. 

The “Wait Until 8th” pledge was born in 2017, after a group of elementary school parents in Austin, Texas, became concerned that they felt pressured to give their young children smartphones, said Brooke Shannon, executive director and founder of Wait Until 8th. 

“We started seeing children as young as first and second grade coming to school, play dates and birthday parties with the latest iPhone,” Shannon said in a statement to Fox News Digital. 

INCREASED USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES MENTAL HEALTH TOLL ON TEENS

“We questioned why young children needed this technology,” she added.

After talking to other parents, many told her they “caved” and bought their child a smartphone, as “everyone had them” and their child was feeling left out. 

The "Wait Until 8th" pledge began in 2017 after a concerned group of parents felt as if they were under pressure to get smartphones for their young kids.

The “Wait Until 8th” pledge began in 2017 after a concerned group of parents felt as if they were under pressure to get smartphones for their young kids. (iStock)

“Many of my friends said they wanted to wait as long as they could but knew it would be an uphill battle,” said Shannon. “Out of this dialogue came the idea to rally together as a community by starting a pledge.” 

The pledge’s aim is to “empower parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least eighth grade” and to “create a support network for those parents who would like to wait on giving their child a (smart)phone,” she said. 

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“Every family has various circumstances and dynamics that will shape this decision,” said Shannon.

By creating the Wait Until 8th pledge, Shannon hoped to “flip the script on peer pressure,” with an emphasis on using “group momentum for good.” 

Once a parent signs the Wait Until 8th pledge, the pledge is not “active” until 10 or more families from a grade at a school have signed on, she said.

The purpose of the pledge is to empower parents to stand together in delaying smartphone purchases for their children — and "flip the script" on peer pressure, noted the Wait Until 8th founder.

The purpose of the pledge is to empower parents to stand together in delaying smartphone purchases for their children — and “flip the script” on peer pressure, noted the Wait Until 8th founder. (iStock)

“We made the pledge this way so [parents] don’t have to fear, ‘What if I am the only parent that signs this in my kid’s grade?'” said Shannon. 

“This takes the pressure off because the pledge only kicks in once at least 10 families sign from your grade.”

The Wait Until 8th pledge only applies to smartphones, said Shannon. 

Parents who sign the pledge are free to give their child “a basic phone that just calls and texts.”

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Shannon added, “The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone.” She also said, “All the major carriers continue to offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans.” 

“As parents, we would do anything to protect our kids.”

Plus, “there are several two-way calling watches out there with GPS tracking,” which can function as an alternative to a smartphone while still enabling a parent to be able to contact their child, she continued,

Fox News Digital spoke to two families who have taken the Wait Until 8th pledge. 

Concerns over social media use and potential cyberbullying are two reasons parents decide not to give their children smartphones, parenting experts and parents themselves say.

Concerns over social media use and potential cyberbullying are two reasons parents decide not to give their children smartphones, parenting experts and parents themselves say. (Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Carley Hower, an Indiana-based mom of four children aged 11, 9, 6 and 4, told Fox News Digital that she took the pledge along with a handful of her friends. 

Some of her 11-year-old’s friends have started to get smartphones, she said — and while her son has mentioned the issue, he “knows that we won’t give him one.” 

“We have lots of ongoing conversations about being smart with technology,” she said.

“It’s helpful when parents do it together so our kids aren’t the only ones without a smartphone.”

Hower said a friend introduced her to the pledge — and they both decided to sign it.

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“It’s helpful when other parents do it together so our kids aren’t the only ones without a smartphone,” she said. 

By keeping her children away from smartphones, Hower is hoping, in part, to protect them against cyberbullying.

North Carolina parenting expert John Rosemond told Fox News Digital that social media apps act as a "stage" for teens to act out.

North Carolina parenting expert John Rosemond told Fox News Digital that social media apps act as a “stage” for teens to act out. (Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images))

“As parents, we would do anything to protect our kids,” she said. “This is just another way to protect our children.”

Hower has a friend who is a first responder, she also said. The friend has “been called many times when 12-year-old kids have committed suicide, often the result of cyberbullying, among other issues.” 

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None of Hower’s children have non-smart phones, either. 

She said that while each family is different, “we don’t have any reason to give our kids a phone.” 

“My husband and I decided upon this pretty much at the beginning, the first time the conversation about phones for the kids came up.”

She added, “I think peer pressure or fear of missing out is a push for some kids” to get a phone. 

As for safety, Hower’s family has “used walkie-talkies when the older kids go to the neighborhood park” — and the family still has a home phone if the kids are ever home alone. 

There are non-smartphone ways to keep track of children, such as walkie-talkies, one mom pointed out.

There are non-smartphone ways to keep track of children, such as walkie-talkies, one mom pointed out. (iStock)

“It’s important to teach our kids to be smart with technology, and not just avoid it altogether,” she said. 

“Then, when they do have a smartphone, they can make good choices and use their phones with integrity in mind.” 

Nichole Lanthier of Lake Charles, Louisiana, is another believer in delaying smartphone use for as long as possible. She has five children, ages 14, 12, 9, 6 and 1. 

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“My husband and I decided upon this pretty much at the beginning, the first time the conversation about phones for the kids came up,” she said. 

Lanthier’s 14-year-old daughter now has a Gabb phone, she said. 

Gabb phones look like smartphones but do not have an internet browser, social media apps, app store or games. 

People who take the Wait Until 8th pledge say they will not give their child a smartphone until at least the 8th grade. 

People who take the Wait Until 8th pledge say they will not give their child a smartphone until at least the 8th grade.  (Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Some versions of Gabb phones are able to download a limited number of pre-approved apps, including apps for education and spirituality, its website notes. 

Fox News Digital reached out to Gabb for comment. 

“She doesn’t need to have the internet with her everywhere she goes.” 

Lanthier said that her daughter’s friends have smartphones and “it’s such a struggle.” 

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“They’ve had them for years,” she said. 

“She goes back and forth,” Lanthier said of her daughter’s thought on the cell phone ban in the home. 

“On the one hand, she does see our point and she knows why we are doing it. But she’s at that age where her friends hold so much influence.” 

Each major cell phone carrier has phones that do not require a data plan, Brooke Shannon, founder of Wait Until 8th, told Fox News Digital. 

Each major cell phone carrier has phones that do not require a data plan, Brooke Shannon, founder of Wait Until 8th, told Fox News Digital.  (REUTERS/Phil Noble )

Lanthier is not sure why other parents are so quick to buy their young children smartphones, she said. But she thinks perhaps they “do not realize there are options that are not smartphones.” 

She added, “Getting my oldest a Gabb phone has made things much easier with her going here and there. But she doesn’t need to have the internet with her everywhere she goes.” 

Parents should strive to teach their children safe phone usage.

Lanthier has witnessed firsthand the negative effects of smartphones on her daughter’s generation. 

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“Her friends will come over and they start off hanging out, but inevitably they all end up huddled around one of the kid’s smartphones, watching YouTube or TikTok,” she said.

“It’s really frustrating. I wish al the parents were on board with holding off on smartphones.” 

Parenting experts who spoke about the pledge to Fox News Digital had mixed views.

Studies have shown that excessive social media usage in kids is dangerous for mental health, Fox News Digital reported. 

Studies have shown that excessive social media usage in kids is dangerous for mental health, Fox News Digital reported.  (iStock)

California-based parenting expert Stef Tousignant of ParentingDifferenty.com told Fox News Digital that “Wait Until 8th” is “just a new cultural ‘expectation’ that privileged parents are pushing onto all families.” 

Tousignant, based in the Bay Area, acknowledged that while evidence suggests that social media usage does have an impact on anxiety and depression rates in preteens, “possessing a cell phone does not equate directly to social media.”

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Instead, parents should strive to teach their children safe phone usage, she said. 

“Smartphones pose a danger to the emotional development of adolescent and especially early adolescent children, girls in particular.”

“If we want to teach our children the skills of owning a phone, we can start with just the phone and be prepared to teach; to provide boundaries (try the Circle app) and natural consequences just like any other new situation,” she said. 

“This is just another dividing line that privileged parents are drawing in the sand instead of learning more about their child’s unique needs and sticking to boundaries,” said Tousignant. 

"On the one hand, she does see our point and she knows why we are doing it," one mom said of banning smartphones for her kids. "But she's at that age where her friends hold so much influence." 

“On the one hand, she does see our point and she knows why we are doing it,” one mom said of banning smartphones for her kids. “But she’s at that age where her friends hold so much influence.”  (iStock)

“Teaching a child ‘our family, our rules’ with phones is a simple way to start the deeply needed conversation around other preteen peer-pressure issues like drugs and alcohol,” she added. 

Another parenting expert is in favor of the idea, albeit with even more restrictions. 

TEEN GIRLS DEALING WITH MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS NEED ‘CONNECTION’ MOST, DOCTORS SAY

“My advice to parents is, ‘Don’t get started down that road (of smartphone usage),'” John Rosemond, a North Carolina-based psychologist and author of 18 books on parenting, told Fox News Digital. 

“The girls in question — by the time their parents get in touch with me — have become depressed, anxious and even suicidal.”

“Inform your child, early, that he/she will not be allowed a smartphone until (a) they can pay for it and the monthly bills on their own, and (b) they no longer live at home,” he said.

Parents who compromise on the issue of smartphones “need a backbone,” he added.

“My experience has been that smartphones pose a danger to the emotional development of adolescent and especially early adolescent children, girls in particular,” he said. 

Ten families must agree to sign the "Waittil8" pledge before it is enacted in a community, said Brooke Shannon, executive director of Wait Until 8th. 

Ten families must agree to sign the “Waittil8” pledge before it is enacted in a community, said Brooke Shannon, executive director of Wait Until 8th.  (Getty Images/Reuters)

In his experiences, smartphones and their various apples “become ‘stages'” upon which “middle-school-age girls create, act out and participate in personal dramas,” he continued.

“The girls in question — by the time their parents get in touch with me — have become depressed, anxious and even suicidal,” he also said. 

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The same is not true, he said, of teens who do not have smartphones. 

“I have also talked with a good number (albeit a minority) of parents who have not allowed smartphones into their teenagers’ lives,” he said. 

“In most instances, the child in question complains of being the only kid in his/her peer group without a smartphone … But in every instance, the child in question is not experiencing any untoward emotional issues,” he also said.

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“Obviously, these devices and platforms have a potentially toxic influence,” said Rosemond.

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