The organizers of the campaign don’t seem to have a problem with children owning a basic cell phone, since the site mentions that all major characters sell basic models that aren’t the fancy pocket computers smartphone are to satisfy any parents who “believe [their] child will need to get in touch with [them] before 8th grade.”
In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine parents not wanting a way either for a child to be able to get in touch with them or for them to be able to get in touch with their child in some type of emergency.
I don’t know that my parents would have let me have a smartphone until after I graduated high school, that is, if smartphones had even existed way back then. I went to school during the era of the big bag phones that had to be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter. I got my first bag phone when I was about 16, a sophomore in high school. But those phones literally were only phones: no apps, no camera, not even a simple, basic calculator tool. And texting? There was no such thing at that time.
A phone was a phone and that’s all it could do, thank you very much.
Smartphones, on the other hand, allow for texting, photography, web browsing and a slew of other activities that could put kids in serious jeopardy if there’s no supervision or parental guidance.
But the “Wait Until 8th” campaign seems to be more about keeping children from being mezmarized too early by the technology, potentially robbing them of their childhood of playing outdoors and being social with friends face to face rather than screen to screen.
Multiple stories that have interviews from multiple child psychologists seem to echo the same thought: there’s no magic age at which all children can safely have a cell phone.
“It has to do with the maturity of the child, it has to do with how the cell phone is being used, and it has to do with the parent’s ability to understand how the child is using the phone,” one expert told Digital Trends back in 2016.
They also seem to share a belief that the earlier a child is handed a smartphone, the worse the impact on the child.
“All agreed later was safer because smartphones can be addictive distractions that detract from schoolwork while exposing children to issues like online bullies, child predators or sexting,” the New York Times reported.
But the reality of the situation is that children are getting their hands on tablets before preschool. A former co-worker of mine used to marvel at the fact that his four-year-old grandson knew how to download apps onto his parents’ tablet when the co-worker could barely figure out his own phone.
I like what the “Wait Until 8th” campaign is trying to do, but I don’t know how practical it is to try to hold off smartphones for kids when their friends have them years earlier.
It seems like a better idea to launch a campaign to have parents pledge to be more involved in what their kids do with their phones — no matter what age they receive them. It involves a lot of work, a lot of follow-up, even some spying. But the dangers out there, it seems to me, more than warrant that parental guidance.
What age do you think is too young for a child to have his or her own smartphone?
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.