New Wait Until 8th campaign is spreading across Pelham

PELHAM—A campaign to delay when kids get smartphones called Wait Until 8th is starting to gain popularity as it spreads across the country and into town. The program involves a pledge parents take to not give their kids smartphones until eighth grade as long as at least 10 families from their child’s grade and school also pledge. 

Wait Until 8th came to Pelham after Colonial parent Mary Hefner “heard about it through a childhood friend from Texas.” It is all about smartphone safety and, among other things, works to prevent cyberbullying among children.

According to the Wait Until 8th website (, kids should wait because “childhood is changing for children. Playing outdoors, spending time with friends, reading books and hanging out with family is happening a lot less to make room for hours of Snapchatting, Instagramming and catching up on You Tube. With children spending anywhere between three to seven hours daily in front of a screen, many childhood essentials are pushed aside for online amusement.”

Hefner spread the word about Wait Until 8th using the Colonial PTA Facebook page. “This was simply to raise awareness and let parents know there are choices, and if they choose to not provide a smartphone to their children, they are not alone,” she said. She explained that kids can still be a part of the Wait Until 8th campaign and have cell phones. “There are many options aside from smartphones that are available that will allow kids to phone and text,” said Hefner. “Flip phones or gizmo watches are two great examples.”

There has been new research coming out about the effects of smartphones on kids.  A recent article in The Atlantic asked the question “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” and cited studies that teens today are more depressed, stressed, sleep deprived and spend less time with their friends then before.

“Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly,” according to the article by researcher and author Jean Twenge. 

“I think it’s tough,” said fifth grader Liam Ginsburg. “Lots of kids are mad but I think it’s worth Waiting Until 8th because of addiction,” he said.

Fellow fifth grader Josie Leff thinks smartphones in sixth grade are okay.  “It would be important to have a way of communication home.”

Along with the negatives there are positives to smartphones. Colonial mother Kristi Findikyan said, “What makes the Wait Until 8th decision so difficult is that smartphones are incredibly helpful. They are instant access to information—from news and other educational data to communication literally worldwide.”

Many parents have different views about the campaign. Nancy Kapplow, a mom of a fifth grader, wants to learn more about the program and believes kids should wait until eighth grade. “I think a few more years for kids to continue to learn, grow, build relationships and have fun without being tied to a smartphone is a good idea,” she said. “It is an important time period where brains are developing and maturing in ways that will help process and deal with information and situations kids will encounter when using a smartphone.”

However, parents Clay Bushong and Jai Nanda think differently. “I believe it is a good time to get a phone in middle school as this is a time that the student is starting to become more independent and will be staying at school longer or going to after-school events and it is a way for them to keep in touch with their parents to let them know where they are and when to expect them home,” Bushong said.

“Each family is different and has to make their own decision about what is best for their children,” Nanda said.  He gave his kids a phone in fifth grade but they couldn’t use it for texting until later.  

Some people already see social media as harmful, and a number of sites have a minimum age requirement of 13 or 14.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported a story about a girl from Texas whose life was changed by social media. Freshman Haley Tolbert was on the soccer team and used social media but then classmates started sending mean snaps and texts. “By Thanksgiving, Haley, normally headstrong and sure of herself, had a hard time getting out of bed,” the Journal reported “‘I’d never seen her so lethargic and hurt,’ her mother said. ‘It was gut-wrenching,’ Haley saw a counselor, took medication for anxiety and tightened her social-media circle. Ms. Tolbert said: ‘It changed the course of her life.'”

 “Social media can be fun and a great way to connect with friends and family, but it can lead to all sorts of unintended outcomes,” said Kapplow.

“Texts can easily be misconstrued so when you think you are being funny it doesn’t come across, and being left off of a friend-group text can really hurt your feelings,” Findikyan said.