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Wait Until 8th - Let Kids Be Kids a Little Longer
March  2023 

Smartphones are quickly changing childhood for children. Playing outdoors, spending time with friends, reading books and hanging out with family is happening less to make room for hours of snap chatting, instagramming, and You Tubing. With children spending anywhere between 3 to 7 hours daily in front of a screen, many childhood essentials are pushed aside for online amusement.
Smartphones are  widespread in elementary and middle school  partially due to social pressure and expectations to have one. Parents may feel powerless in this uphill battle to delay the ever-evolving presence of the smartphone in the daily lives of children.

This Snapshot explores the Wait Until 8th initiative that invites parents to wait until at least eighth grade before children are given a smartphone. 

Smartphone vs Basic Phone
A smartphone is a mobile phone that has access to an internet browser and an App Store. The majority of problems associated with smartphones are due to this access.  A basic phone is a phone that is used for the  purpose of making and receiving calls and texts. The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone. 
It is understandable that kids younger than 8th grade may need to be able to  communicate with family and friends. When you are considering what communication device is best for your child, it is important  to ask what is the purpose of the device; why does my child need a phone? If calling and texting is all that is needed a basic phone or a smartwatch may be an acceptable alternative. There are basic communication devices that you can consider before getting your child a smartphone. 
The Xplora Smartwatch and Lil Tracker Smartwatch are  developed specifically for kids. Services not appropriate for children such as internet access, social media and most game-related applications have been removed but sill allows kids to stay safe and connected.

The Pinwheel Phone - Helps you guide your child from their first phone to independent, responsible use of technology. Start with only text and talk and add functionality as they mature.
Review of Pinwheel Phone
The Wisephone is a youth‘s first smarter phone with training wheels to get them ready to transition to a more fully functional smartphone as they digitally mature.

*Note: the product information provided is for your convenience only, and does not imply endorsement or recommendation by the Greater Victoria School District. Please do your own research on theses products.
Why Wait?
Smartphones are addictive. 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. 

Smartphones are an academic distraction. Elementary and middle school years establish the foundation for your child's academic success. Children learn how to manage time, projects and homework. Introducing a constant distraction with a smartphone makes these tasks more difficult. The early results of a study on brain development show children who spent more than two hours a day looking at a screen got lower scores on thinking and language tests.
Excessive Smartphone use is altering children's brains. Initial results from a study reveal that MRI's found significant differences in the brains of children who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than 7 hours a day. Children who spent an excessive amount of time on screens were found to have a premature thinning of the cortex. That's the outermost layer of the brain that processes information from the five senses.
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.
Screen time impacts behaviour. Research indicates that children who spend more time on screens have a higher likelihood of developing disruptive behavior disorders, with social media having an especially strong influence. Social media use was most likely to be linked to conduct disorder, while other forms of screen use—such as watching videos, playing video games, and texting were more likely to be associated with oppositional defiant disorder. 
Smartphones 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 social media often leads youth to think they are missing out or are not enough compared with their peers. A report demonstrated that adolescents’ psychological well-being decreased the more hours a week they spent on screens.
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. 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.”
Smartphones expose children to sexual content. Smartphones have enabled children to view pornography anywhere. 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.  Also, various apps open the doors to sexual predators seeking to track, groom and harm our children. 

Smartphones put your child at risk for cyber bullying. Bullying is no longer limited to the playground or locker room. The most common medium used for cyber bullying is the phone. 
About one out of every 4 children has experienced cyber bullying, and about one out of every 6 children has done it to others. Only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. Recent research indicates that children who receive smartphones in elementary school versus later in childhood are more likely to be involved in cyber bullying. According to the researchers, the increased risk of cyber bullying related to phone ownership could be tied to increased opportunity and vulnerability.
But What About ...?
What is the difference between a Smartphone and an iPad? Is there really a difference in allowing a child to have a smartphone and permitting them to have an iPad? There is a distinct difference. No one walks around with an iPad in their pocket like a smartphone. The smartphone is essentially a mini-computer in your child's hands all day, every day. Typically an iPad is used within the home or for travel. 
But Smartphones are so big in middle school! One reason many parents give their child a smartphone is to be able to reach them once they enter a larger middle school. The basic phone or smartwatch allows you to connect with each other. Generally, the school office phone is also available if you need to reach one another. 
In addition, part of growing up is learning how to make decisions without the constant direction and input of parents. It's part of the equipping process that prepares your child for adulthood and navigating the real world. Each situation the child handles without a direct line to parents builds confidence and paves the way from childhood to adulthood.
How do I know if my child is ready for a smartphone? If you have a child over the age of 7, it’s likely they have asked you for a smartphone already. When is the right time to say, “yes,” to a smartphone for your child?

We must talk to our children about difficult things before they are ready for a  smartphone. These include sex, pornography, sexting, cyber-bullying, suicide, and body image. If you have educated your child about these issues, here are some key questions you may want to consider...

You may also want to consider independence milestones—ways your child has demonstrated they are ready for a smartphone. Here are some milestones to consider:
  • Making lunch without help
  • Walking home from school alone
  • Spending a brief time home alone
  • Babysitting a younger child for short windows of time
  • Riding public transit independently
  • Organized with homework
If your child is demonstrating independence in many of the above milestones, they could be ready or ready soon. If not, you can consider setting progressive milestones for your child to work towards to demonstrate readiness.
 If want to give my child a smartphone is there a way I can monitor the apps my child downloads?  Yes, you can prevent your child from you can prevent your child from installing apps, deleting apps, making in-app purchases, and more.
The key message of Wait Until 8th is the longer you delay giving your child a fully functioning smartphone the better it is for everyone. With this powerful technology comes great responsibility for the child and the parent. Parents must be careful and committed to teaching a child how to appropriately use a smartphone. This takes discipline. This takes time. This takes consistency. Are you as a parent ready for this commitment?
To learn about the Wait Until 8 Pledge for parents click on the button below. 

Resources and Sources
For more information on children and social media you can refer to previous Snapshots below. 
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Every month FamilySmart hosts free  events for families. The March topic is:
 A Conversation for Families About Digital Wellbeing & Mental Health

As parents It's not easy to know how much time on technology is too much and how to set boundaries that don't create conflict.
Join them for a conversation with a digital wellbeing expert to learn some practical solutions to our everyday concerns and challenges around our kids' use of screens and their mental health.
Click here for dates, times and to register
Free of Charge 
Wait Until the 8th
Wait Until 8th Family Guides (Let's Talk About Purpose, Let's Talk About Phone Fundamentals, Let's Talk About Texting)
Protect Young Eyes
Is My Child Ready for A Cell Phone
Parental Controls
Common Sense Media
Media Smarts

In cased you missed it... last month's Snapshot was on sibling rivalry!

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The content provided through the Snapshots is for information purposes only. The Snapshots include information that is general in nature and cannot address the many individual child rearing challenges parents and caregivers may experience. Therefore it is the readers‘ responsibility to determine the suitability of the information for their specific needs.

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