5 important reasons to keep kids away from smartphones

Victoria S.
November 15, 2018

smartphone with chat app opened sitting on a table next to a tablet keyboard

Smartphones are everywhere, and parents are feeling pressure from their kids and the people around them to give phones to their kids at younger and younger ages. While phones provide your kid a way to contact you, they do a lot of other things that can harm your kid or expose them to things they aren’t ready to see. We talked to Brooke Shannon from Wait Until 8th, a movement empowering parents to keep phones out of kids hands until at least 8th grade, to bring you the top 5 reasons not to buy your kid a smartphone.

1. Smartphones change the childhood experience

When kids have smartphones, it distracts them. The result is a very different childhood from the kind we experienced growing up. Kids play outside less, choose YouTube videos over reading for pleasure, and spend more time on apps and less time with family. Kids are spending up to 7 hours a day on screens, and that doesn’t leave enough room for the healthy activities that make childhood special.  

2. Smartphones get kids hooked

Using a smartphone stimulates dopamine – a brain chemical that makes us happy, and the same chemical involved in various addictions. Not only does the brain crave the activity that stimulates happy-chemicals, it gets cranky when we’re away from the stimulus. That is the root of screen addiction and the dreaded tantrums many of us have experienced when trying to put an end to screen time at home. App developers know this – the more time our kids spend on phones, the more ads they see and the more money gets made. We have to look out for our kids well-being so they aren’t taken advantage of.  


3. Smartphones and school don’t mix well

There’s no need for a reminder of how important your kid’s K-12 education is for their knowledge, time management, and responsibility, as well as their developing social skills. Smartphones get in the way of all these things. They’re correlated with poorer grades and test results and prevent kids from socializing in person as much. As well, getting a kid a smartphone before they have developed their time management skills makes them much more vulnerable to smartphone distractions.

4. Smartphones disrupt kids’ sleep

Not only do phones emit sleep-disrupting blue light, but the addictive quality of apps and games can prevent kids from wanting to go to bed at appropriate times. That influence is even stronger if kids keep their phones in their bedrooms at night. This technology-based sleep deprivation can affect cognitive performance in school and at home as well as impact kids’ health, affecting their immune system and mental health.  

5. Smartphones stunt kids social skills

Face to face interactions are how kids learn, develop, and practice their social skills and build relationships. Even something so fundamental as the parent-child relationship can suffer when our kids become withdrawn, spending isolated time with a phone in front of their face. In mild scenarios, kids will form shallower friendships and relationships with family. In extreme circumstances, their social skills may never develop to their full potential. There’s some good news at the end of all the warnings and risks – you don’t have to take on all the negatives that come with a smartphone to keep in touch with your child. You can even keep track of them with GPS, all with no apps and no screens. Relay was created by parents as a screen-free smartphone alternative that keeps kids safe and communicating until they are ready for a phone of their own.  

  The Wait Until 8th pledge started with a few parents in Texas and a simple idea. If we rallied together, we could reverse the power of peer pressure as smartphone ownership invaded our elementary schools. This local grassroots initiative quickly grew into nationwide movement asking parents to wait until their kids were in at least 8th grade to grant smartphone privileges. Now close to 15,000 parents across the country are delaying the smartphone for their children until at least 8th grade.   

Notable Replies

  1. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I gave my son a smartphone when he was 4. He didn’t pay much attention to it until he was ~7. By the time he turned 8 the fascination had worn off. Now it mostly just sits on the charger in the couch storage compartment. It gets ~15 minutes of use per week.

  2. That’s encouraging to hear! I’m glad your son is having that experience. It’s definitely worth considering what happens when smartphones are “old news.” What kind of activities does your family enjoy?

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