Would you sign the no-cellphone pledge? Are smartphones ruining a generation?


Before cell phones were so prevalent, friends got together to hang out.

Today I found several sources talking about a pledge that thousands of parents are signing–the “Wait Until 8th” pledge to hold off giving kids cellphones until they are 13 or 14. Apparently, it’s hard for parents to say no to their kids and they don’t want to be the only family in the neighborhood to ban smartphones. By banding together and signing a pledge, they aren’t alone and they are getting more parents to support this idea.

I heard about the pledge here at a CBS station online:

SUMMIT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Making your child wait to get a smartphone could feel impossible, but it might be a huge relief, and many parents are doing it.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, thousands have signed the ‘wait until 8th pledge’ — agreeing not to give their child a smartphone until 8th grade.

The Chicago Tribune covered it as well in “What age is too young for a smartphone? ‘Wait Until 8th’ pledge asks parents to delay tech for kids” by Kate Thayer:

Oak Park mom Keri Lucas doesn’t like how her smartphone seems to take hold of her young daughter’s mind when she lets her browse through digital snapshots.

“I do notice it impacts her behavior in a negative way,” said Lucas, describing how it’s hard to pull her 7-year-old daughter away from the cellphone.

It got Lucas to thinking about when she’ll give her daughter her own smartphone — a device many adults didn’t have a decade ago but now seems ubiquitous, even among children. “This is new territory,” Lucas said. “As parents, we’re navigating something our parents didn’t navigate. Trying to figure it out as we go is hard.”

As kids head back to school, many parents are wrestling with a relatively new rite of passage: when to give their kids a smartphone. While the average child gets his or her first smartphone at 10, according to research firm Influence Central, some parents in Chicago and across the country are bucking the trend by promising to wait until their children are in eighth grade — when they’re typically 13 or 14.


You may ask what the point is in not giving your child a cellphone? They are a great convenience, they give you the ability to check up on your child at any time and know where they are. But in a lengthy article from The Atlantic Magazine called “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” author Jean M. Twenge cites decades of her own research that shows cellphones are negatively impacting our kids. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen. I’ve posted a few paragraphs of the article below:

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

The allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.

I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.

If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.

I find it interesting that Prof. Twenge cites the years 1995-2012 as the iGen—because my youngest falls in that group and is on her phone all the time. My oldest is a couple years older, and although he’s always been into technology, my daughter makes fun of him for “being too old” for social media. He’s more comfortable on FaceBook like us old folks and doesn’t use SnapChat and rarely Instagram. It’s fascinating there’s such a big difference in their connection to their phones. In high school, he was spending time hanging out with his friends as often as he could–just like we did back in the day. My daughter spends time communicating with her friends over her phone. She does get together with them, but her downtime is spent tapping away on her iphone.



Friends climbing rocks, jumping through waves–no cell phones around.

What do you think about the 8th grade pledge? Does the research about increased depression and anxiety affecting the iGen kids who grew up with cellphones alarm you? What type of rules do you have with your kids about cellphones?



2 thoughts on “Would you sign the no-cellphone pledge? Are smartphones ruining a generation?

  1. Personally, if you can’t say “no” to something, you need to take a good hard look at why. Is the cart leading the horse? People may hate this, but parents need to be a parent, not a friend. Your kids are going to hate you a lot of the time, no matter what you do. It’s part of the teenage years and learning how to survive on your own.

  2. I agree. I was talking to my son a few minutes ago. He had read the same article in The Atlantic Journal about how different the kids born from 1995 to 2012 are with their cellphones compared to his age group. He was born in 1993. He agreed that he wanted to hang out with his friends in person, not via cellphone. “But you never let me!” he said. “You were so strict.” That’s not quite true, but it made me smile because we said “no” a lot!

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