The Smartphone Debate :: Wait Until 8th, or Embrace Smartphone Use?

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Do you ever feel like you are bombarded by a topic repeatedly — so often and from so many directions — that you have to take notice? This week, for me, it was technology and its effects on child and adult minds. I wasn’t looking for the information. In fact, in my household, we already have what I feel is a well-balanced media plan.

For example, my children have limited screen time during the week. Phones, iPads, and television are off limits during waking hours every weekday. The kids stay active outdoors — at the playground or as part of sports teams, and indoors there is homework, violin, piano, and reading. During the weekends there is screen time. (Last year I tried to severely limit our weekend screen time, but I was met with too much resistance from my husband to make the limited time a reality. I feel badly about this, even though I grew up watching hours of televisions every night.)

So, what collection of messages did I encounter this week? Here they are:

  • A “Wait Until 8th” flyer sent home via my kids’ backpacks
  • A CNN special, “This Is Life,” highlighting the effects of social media on our young adults
  • A podcast episode featuring Dominick Quartuccio and the concept of “drift”
  • A birthday request from my stepson, who we’ve worried about since he received a smartphone recently

Let’s explore.

The “Wait Until 8th” pledge

What if I told you that Silicon Valley executives are holding off on exposing their own children to smartphones until they reach age 14? Would it give you pause?  

The Wait Until 8th movement was made to diminish the pressure felt by parents and students to jump into the smartphone buying cycle. Parents are able to sign a pledge stating that they intend to wait until at least the 8th grade before sending their child to school with a smartphone. Flip phones and smartwatches are OK.

The movement cites the addictive nature of cellphones. Approach any group of people, and you can witness the effects of this trance-like addiction when you see 80% of the adults gazing into the phones in their palms. The Wait Until 8th movement cites the increase of cyberbullying and the casino-like features app developers use to entice adults and children to repeatedly check their notifications.  

CNN’s “This Is Life” special

My husband noticed that a CNN Special was coming on and made a plan for us to watch it. Even knowing what I thought was enough about the issue of screen time, I was in disbelief after this special. It’s difficult to know whether cyberbullying, dark and depressing Finsta accounts, sex addiction, and decreased social interaction are pervasive enough that many teens deal with these issues, but I felt the need to protect my kids regardless.  

It seems as though the introduction of smartphones into students’ lives happens when the potential for lasting damage is highest. Once their phones have more access to their thoughts and attention than their friends, teachers, or even you — their parents — the relationship is already showing signs of imbalance.  

Is there such a thing as balanced smartphone use? Is this something we can teach our children, especially if we are unbalanced in our own use? Once you decide to use these products, when and how do you begin this teaching?

“Drift” by Dominick Quartuccio

I heard Dominck Quartuccio talk about the concept of “drift” recently. The concept is much deeper than cellphone use. It is an ancient issue — and it is based in the deep and complex inner workings of neuroscience. Our brains drift, to some extent, to help us automate functions, but often times we stay in drift states for far too long. I relate it to living your life on autopilot, letting life “pass you by,” not being “awake” or “present” in your day to day life. This type of living is the opposite of what is necessary for success, for reaching goals, for making dreams come true. I loved the talk, and after receiving the Wait Until 8th flyer, I tagged Dominick Quartuccio in a post about it. He responded and also sent along this resource for further exploration. 

A time-sensitive birthday request

My stepson was turning 12. We had asked him many times what he might want, but there was nothing he could think of. Recently, he has been entranced with Fortnite, and because he doesn’t live with us, there isn’t much we can do about it. But here is the thing. This week, right after we had heard about casino gaming methods being used in app and game development, my stepson called us out of the blue. “Dad,” he said, “I know what I want, and I only have 14 more minutes to get it.” He wanted a $60 kevlar vest for a Fortnite character. Big money. Fake item. Countdown timer. Fear of missing out. Not based in reality. So many thoughts ran through my mind, but in that moment, it all became very real for me. This issue needs more of my attention.

So, my final stance on the issue?

The intersection of the flyer, the CNN special, the podcast and articles shared above, and a personal experience with my stepson came together to help me form my opinion on the topic. I, personally, am taking a stance.

I will sign the pledge, and we will wait until 8th. 

 

 

Timika was born and raised in Massachusetts. She grew up in the South End of Boston, attended school in Brookline, and eventually lived in Dorchester prior to college. After leaving the north to attend The University of Virginia, she realized she missed Boston, and she eventually found her way back to a small suburban town on the south shore. She is married to Ryan, and together they have three of the nicest, funniest kids you’d ever meet. Timika embraces the term “Jack of All Trades”. She is literally interested in the most eclectic bunch of subjects. She loves planning activities with her children, she is a certified lactation counselor, a school nurse, she owns a lice clinic in Medford, she has completed a marathon (and has plans to do one more), and she (currently) enjoys learning to paint and computer code.