It was a quick shift — the moment when smartphones went from a device most commonly found in the hands of working adults, to one that some children expect to receive while still in elementary school.
The impact of early access to smartphone technology and the accompanying pitfalls are still something that educators, parents and mental health professionals are trying to understand, even as the benchmark age for when it is appropriate to have a smartphone is seemingly younger and younger with each passing year.
In Sag Harbor, a group of parents and educators have banded together under the national “Wait Until 8th” movement, localizing an important conversation about early access to smartphones and offering a support system to those parents who are concerned about the impact that the technology can have, countering growing peer pressure.
The “Wait Until 8th” campaign offers a simple premise and pledge for parents: To protect a child, wait until at least eighth grade before giving him or her a smartphone offering access to a multitude of social media, apps and games.
Certainly, there are a number of apps that can aid in schoolwork or offer children other avenues to explore their creativity and intellectual pursuits. But there are others. At the same time, social media offers unrealistic representations of life and, in some cases, are places where predators seek out potential victims under the guise of being children themselves.
Addiction to smartphones is also not uncommon — for children, teens and adults. With access to a clearly alluring device that offers unlimited ways to be constantly entertained, how could one expect a child to develop interests in sports, the arts, reading for pleasure, playing outside and exploring the natural world?
Are there children who have access to smartphones and are not negatively impacted by them, can keep clear to boundaries and find a healthy balance? Of course. But watch a group of children who have smartphones in hand interact with each other socially: Often the interaction occurs through or with their devices rather than directly with each other. Much is lost in that moment.
Childhood is short enough as it is. It’s not unreasonable to “Wait Until 8th.”