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Community Conversation: Smart Devices & Kids: Should you wait or are you ready now?

by Melinda Kaufman, Lower School Director and Tim Campbell, Middle School Director


Sarah Davies, our School Psychologist, joined us to talk about when is the right time to get your child a smartphone or smart device and what a big decision this is for parents.  We recognize there will be peer pressure, and there are many good reasons backed by research to hold off.  Here is the Zoom recording of the presentation (22 minutes) and below are key takeaways from the conversation. 


What is “Wait Until 8th”?

  • Wait Until 8th is the parent-initiated concept of waiting until at least 8th grade, and more specifically until the age of 14, to give your child a Smartphone or Smart Device. It was founded by parents and is intended to be initiated by parents in any community. Several members of the McGillis parent community have reached out to us with wonders about a Wait Until 8th campaign, and we encourage parents to connect with each other.
  • We know that it is much easier for children and parents alike to wait until 8th if there is a shared commitment across the parent community to do so.  We also know from firsthand experience that Smartphones/devices are impacting the culture and well-being of our student community.
  • Peer pressure and the fear of your child missing out can make it difficult to hold off, but there are other parents who also want to delay the inevitable.
  • Additional resources:


Things to consider when deciding when to get your child a smartphone or smart device

  • How are your child’s social skills?  How does their social world impact their overall well-being?
    • Research shows that more time on social media equates to higher rates of depression, more frequent and intense social conflicts, significant issues with body image, and more.
  • How does your child respond to screen limitations?  Are they craving screen time and do they get upset when it gets taken away?
    • Smartphones are addictive. Pre-pandemic studies show that tweens (ages 8-12) were spending an average of 4 hours and 44 minutes daily on Smartphones and teens (13+) were spending an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes per day.
    • 75% of Americans consider themselves addicted to their smartphones. New research shows that dependence on smartphones may produce some of the same addictive brain responses similar to alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions.
  • What are your child’s sleeping patterns?
    • The use of smartphones affects the quantity and quality of sleep in children and teens, and sleep disturbance in childhood can have adverse effects on health.
  • Does your child spend time playing outside and without screens? 
    • Consider how your childhood is different from your child(ren)’s experience.  It is good for children to be bored; they learn to use their imaginations, to explore the world around them, to sit still and listen/observe.
  • Are you ready as a parent to responsibly monitor a smartphone?
    • Filters and monitoring systems are available for smartphones, as well as simplified devices such as the Gabb or Gizmo.  Parents should create a family media plan, model healthy digital behavior, and have discussions early and often with your child(ren) about technology use.
  • Does your child know how to use a smartphone safely and responsibly? Have you spoken to them about all of the topics they might encounter while online?
    • 1 out of every 4 children with a smartphone will experience cyberbullying, and one out of every 6 children has done it to others.  A study shows that 42% of young people online will be exposed to pornography, and of those, 66% were not seeking it out.


What if your child already has a smartphone/device and you’ve changed your mind?

  • As the parent, you can still take the device away - temporarily or permanently.
  • Find an alternative to meet your family’s needs - Gizmo, Gabb, Pinwheel, Light Phone, Wisephone are all examples of very basic phones with various family-friendly features and no internet, social media, etc.
  • Set parameters around using the smartphone/device.
  • Be willing and prepared to spend time closely monitoring your child’s activity and interactions on their smartphone/device.


How much screen time is OK for my kids?

  • There is no magic number that’s “just right,” and not all screen time is equal or for the same purpose; it also depends on your family’s values and lifestyle.
  • Depending on the age of your child, instead of focusing on the amount of screen time, it might be helpful to consider and talk about the value of the media being consumed. There’s a difference between screen time that’s teaching you something or giving you information and screen time that’s entertainment or social.
  • Additional resources:


One of the most important things parents/guardians can do is model healthy digital behavior for our children.  What does this look like?


Families are able to access additional resources on our Digital Citizenship Resources Canvas course.


Join us virtually for our next Community Conversation on February 9 for a discussion on Math at McGillis.