Is Wait Until 8th the Answer?

Like most school communities, the parent’s from my daughter’s elementary school are all members of a closed online Facebook group. On it we swap recommendations for babysitters, seek information on pediatricians, and solicit opinions on everything from allowance to smartphone policies. Recently, a fellow mother of a 10 year-old posted a link to Wait Until 8th as food for thought. Our daughters are friends and have begun hinting at wanting a smart phone and she, like most parents, is searching for answers.

While we all agree that it is an inevitability that our children will all, one day, own smartphones. The questions of when to introduce them and how to police them looms large in our minds. The post on Facebook garnered much debate whether it is more effective to set a grade level as the acceptable age to get a smartphone. Or is it better to wait until a child demonstrates an acceptable maturity level, regardless of grade, to own one? Some parents even said that they won’t give their child a phone until they can help cover the bill, an angle I hadn’t considered but I could see working.

Either way, the general consensus was that waiting as long as possible is the best-case scenario, which is where Wait Until 8th comes in. After viewing Screenagers and reading the myriad of research on the effect of smartphones on the teenage brain, waiting as long as possible to introduce a phone feels like the best way to protect them from all the negative side effects. So the founders of Wait Until 8th came up with a way for parents and children to be on the same page: together they take pledge that their child will not own a smartphone until 8th grade.

However, the question still remains, how do you continue to supervise your children once they own their own phone? Online predators, cyberbullying, and harmful content exist regardless of grade level. While Wait Until 8th starts the discussion and may delay smartphone ownership, the conversation about problem and risk areas must take place, and parental supervision must be ongoing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Latch Mobile is conducting a survey of Parenting in the Age of Smartphones. If you have grade school kids with or without smartphones, let us know why!