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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Too young for a smartphone?

The average child gets his or her first smartphone at age 10, but some parents are pledging to keep their kids smartphone-free till eighth grade, reports Kate Thayer in the Chicago Tribune.

The Wait Until 8th pledge — developed earlier this year by a group of Austin, Texas, parents — allows moms and dads to “rally together” so their children can look to other smartphone-free peers throughout elementary school, said Brooke Shannon, a former Chicago resident who now lives in Austin and leads the movement. The pledge points to the possibility that smartphones can damage a developing brain by interfering with sleep, serving as a distraction from homework, and putting a child at risk for cyberbullying.

Are smartphones really dangerous?

The American Academy of Pediatrics “notes that screen time in general should be limited and monitored,” writes Thayer.

Experts caution that banning phones completely for too long may harm social growth, as phones have become a way for adolescents to interact with their peers — an important part of development. Still, supporters of the pledge say smartphones can take away from active play, and a basic phone still allows children to text their friends and stay connected with their parents.

Overuse of smartphones can make kids lonely and depressed, argues psychologist Jean Twenge. “Today’s teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each others’ emotions and get that social support,” she tells NPR. Young people in “iGen” are “more likely than young people just five or 10 years ago to say that they’re anxious, that they have symptoms of depression, that they have thought about suicide or have even [attempted] suicide.”

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