The Doctor Is In – The ‘Wait Until the 8th’ pledge

A problem countless parents face – kids spending too much time on cellphones and tablets, watching YouTube and texting friends. Some experts warn parents should keep children away from cell phones until at least eighth grade.

Doctor Sonny Saggar visits KPLR 11 News at Noon to discuss the ‘Wait Until 8th’ pledge.

1. What is the 'Wait Until 8th' pledge?
The wait until 8th pledge was started by a group of parents and it is designed to empower all other parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone.

Smartphones are distracting, dangerous and detrimental for children yet are widespread in elementary and middle school because of unrealistic social pressure and expectations to have one.

Parents feel powerless in this uphill battle and need community support to help delay the ever-evolving presence of the smartphone in the classroom, social arena and family dinner table. Let`s band together to wait until at least eighth grade before children are allowed to have a smartphone.

Parents are divided and conquered with the “but all my friends have one” and “you’re so mean - no other mom/dad is like you” and words like that. United we stand, however.

Every major carrier makes a basic phone that just calls and texts without a data plan if you believe your child will need to get in touch with you before 8th grade. The wait until 8th pledge is encouraging parents to delay the smartphone. If you would like your child to have a basic phone that just calls and texts, you still can sign the pledge! The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone.

Childhood is too short to waste on a smartphone.

2. Are smartphones addictive? Can you really compare them to drug abuse?
New research shows dependence on your smartphone may produce some of the same addictive brain responses similar to alcohol, drug and gambling addictions.

Smartphones are like slot machines in your children`s pocket constantly persuading them to crave more. The tech industry intentionally designs smartphone apps and social media for people to use for long periods of time because this is how they make their money.

3. Are smartphones an academic distraction?
Elementary and middle school years establish the foundation for your child’s academic success. Children learn how to productively manage time, projects and homework.

Introducing a constant distraction with a smartphone is paving a path for academic mediocrity. Studies show that after a child receives a smartphone the child`s grades are likely to suffer. Another study found that children who attend schools with smartphone bans did better on tests.

4. Do smartphones impair sleep?
Studies show that the use of smartphones and other portable devices with screens affects the quantity and quality of sleep in children and teens. Adolescents are likely restless because they anticipate receiving texts and social media messages from friends, which affects their nighttime routine. Some children even wake up in the middle of the night to check texts or social media. Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, weakened immune system, stunted growth, and mental health issues.

5. Can smartphones interfere with relationships?
Many parents regret allowing their child to have a smartphone because they have experienced the way the smartphone is destructive to relationships. The parent child relationship suffers. Children are often inattentive with the constant distraction the phone brings. Face to face relationships dwindle as children shift their time and energy to investing in their online 'friendships.'

6. Can smartphones actually increase the risk for anxiety and depression?
Children are not emotionally equipped to navigate tricky social media waters at such an early age.  Viewing someone else`s highlight reel on social media often leads youth to think they are missing out or are not enough compared with their peers. Research shows that the more time someone uses social media the more likely they are to be depressed.

In addition, when children overuse technology, the constant stimulation of the brain causes the hormone cortisol to rise. Too much cortisol can inhibit a child from feeling calm. The loss of tranquility can lead to serious anxiety orders.

7. Do smartphones put your child at risk for cyber-bullying?
Bullying is no longer limited to the playground or locker room. Bullies seek to harm children through social media and texts often making retreat for the victim impossible. The most common medium used for cyber bullying is the phone. Nearly 43% of children have been bullied online. Only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.

8. Do smartphones expose children to sexual content?
Smartphones have enabled children to view pornography anywhere.  Pornography marketers intentionally target youth online to lure them to dangerous images and videos. One study showed that 42% of online youth users have been exposed to online pornography. Of those, 66% reported unwanted exposure to pornography often through online ads.

Not only are children viewing sexual content with their phones but they are creating it as well.  More and more children are 'sexting' (sending sexual text messages and or explicit images).  Also, various apps open the doors to sexual predators seeking to track, groom and harm our children.

9. Do technology executives ban smartphones for their own children, while promoting them to everyone else?
According to a New York Times piece, many technology executives wait until their child is 14 before they allow them to have a phone. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. If leaders of digital giants like Google, eBay, Apple, and Yahoo are delaying the smartphone then should this not give us pause?  Executives that flourish on the success of technology are protecting their own children from the smartphone.

Should we not do the same? You can start now by taking the pledge to wait at least until 8th grade here at waituntil8th.org.