What’s the right age for a smartphone? NJ parents take 8th-grade pledge
Could you wait until your child is in eighth grade before you let them have a smartphone?
Many of you may consider this impossible, or already have a fifth-grader with the latest iPhone, but a campaign gaining traction nationwide says it's not too late to change your mind.
More than 2,100 families from 49 states, including New Jersey, have signed up for the Wait Until 8th pledge.
The pledge was designed to "flip the script on peer pressure," according to Brooke Shannon, one of the voices behind the effort. One's pledge does not turn "active" until at least 10 families from the same grade and school are signed up. So the "but everyone else has a smartphone" argument won't hold.
"Our hope is to create a support network for those parents who would like to wait on giving their child a phone," Shannon said.
The pledge involves smartphones only. Parents are still encouraged to sign if their child has a basic phone that just calls and texts.
According to Dr. Steven Tobias, director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, eighth grade is still a bit young to be walking around with 24/7 internet and social media access.
Giving a smartphone to a young teen should come with rules and limits, and consequences if those guidelines aren't followed, he said. Parents should know any necessary passwords, for example.
"There really needs to be a very strong contract between parent and child," Tobias said. "The child needs to understand that it's the parent's phone that they're lending to the child; they're letting the child use their phone."
Tobias said ideally, one wouldn't own a smartphone until age 18, but that's unrealistic. Smartphones are "doing more harm than good" and "interferes with social skills," he said.
Addressing parents of a young child who already has a smart device, the Wait Until 8th campaign suggests "it is never too late to change your mind." The smartphone can be replaced with a basic phone, and the switch would be much simpler if several families are on the same page, as the pledge is designed.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.