We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that we have received from our community. Parents and partners have been so grateful for what we are doing.
Like any social movement, we have our critics and while we can't address every naysayer, I do want to provide some background about why we are spending countless hours, working for free, to get this going, not only in Concord but in other towns as well.
Technology is an amazing tool that has definitely changed our lives in many positive ways. There is no doubt, I would have trouble getting things done without my smartphone. I received my first smartphone, as a gift, 10 years ago. At first, I was unimpressed. But as the years have ticked by, I have certainly become more reliant on it. I've gone from FaceBook to Instagram and back again. I have a twitter account but can't remember the password. I check email and texts in between car pools. Times have certainly changed from when these devices first came out. When the benefits were obvious, but the risks were not - except maybe “Blackberry thumb.”
Two years ago, I had a conversation with the Thoreau principal and she voiced concerns over childhood anxiety and so many kids’ apparent lack of responsibility. That was around the time Julie Lyncotth-Haimes spoke at the high school about How to Raise an Adult. The more research we did, the more we discovered that overuse of technology was interfering with kids abilities to gain skills necessary for social emotional intelligence and positive mental health. From the physiological effects of screens on developing brains to the anxiety that kids feel when their parents are distracted by their smartphone. It all pointed to device use.
In the last two years, so much more research supports this notion - that kids are trading important childhood experiences for time spent looking at screens. And as this research is coming out, the average age of smartphone ownership is going down (it's now around 10) and the average amount of time people spend on smartphones is going up (most recent statistic - 8 hours a day!). We felt that we had to do something.
Our first goal was to bring parents together through an on-line commitment to delay smartphone ownership until at least 8th grade. Our hope was that if enough parents signed up, we could eliminate the social pressure that causes many parents to give their child a smartphone. We wanted to shift our communities thinking around smartphones - that they’re not necessary for middle schoolers, that it’s not “social suicide” to protect your child from the dangers of smartphones. If less kids had them, it wouldn’t be such a thing.
But smartphones alone do not expose kids to these dangers - so we clarified this to include unrestricted internet access and social media.
This only just scratches the surface of what is going on with technology and our kids. We have since committed to not only supporting parents who promise to delay but also to planning educational events for ALL parents because whether you agree to delay or not, and as our children reach high school and college, we still need to stay informed.
We are also partnering with leaders in technology, healthcare and education. Really smart people who are studying this topic everyday. People who are willing to share their knowledge with us so we can share it with you. You can find a list under Partners.
We are expanding to other towns - Bedford has launched, we are talking with parents in Carlisle, Wayland and Acton-Boxboro.
We want our children to have the types of childhoods that we did. To learn those vital social skills through face-to-face human interaction - in the neighborhood, at the park and on the bus. To give them a hands-free, heads-up childhood.
There is nothing that smartphones, social media and unrestricted internet access can teach them that they can’t learn some other way. Like driving a car….super useful….when children are mature enough and their brains are developed enough to handle it.
We hope you will join the Promise. That you will support and respect each other regardless of your decision to join. And that as a community we will keep learning more and keep adapting based on the best information available.