Q: What is the Concord Promise?
Concord Promise is a support network for parents who agree to delay the purchase of smartphones for their children until at least 8th grade, as smartphones provide unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the Internet and social media. We also welcome parents who are on the fence. Parenting is hard. We need each other's support. This will be a place to get it.
Our website and Facebook page provide the following:
Research and statistics from our Partners, so that parents are armed with the information they need to make the right decisions for their family. Added as published.
Relevant articles published from newspapers and medical journals. Added weekly.
Event listings. Through community-wide events, roundtables and working groups, Concord Promise is committed to providing our community with quality programming as it relates to the risks and responsibilities of internet and social media usage. Added when relevant.
A list of Concord Promise Members. Having a clear list of who supports this initiative will provide parents with a support network of other parents who are also facing these same challenges head on in their own family. It also helps to be able to show our children that they are not the only ones who aren't getting smartphones. The more parents who join Concord Promise, the more effective it will be.
Q: How is the Concord Promise different than Wait Until 8th?
Wait Until 8th is an important movement and many Concord Promise members have also signed Wait Until 8th, including our founders. Concord Promise is not competing with Wait Until 8th; instead, we hope to augment and expand upon that movement. Wait Until 8th is national and its anonymous. We believe a small, local support network is key to success. Concord Promise is public so that families can see they're not alone and it is local so that we can plan events to support and educate our community. There is strength in numbers. By seeing other members, parents can connect with other parents and look to them for support.
Q: What is Your Promise?
Your Promise was initially developed to support communities outside of Concord that wanted in on the action. We see this as a sign of the success of the movement. After talking to community leaders outside of Concord, we decided that it would be more appropriate to establish a separate organization to support these communities. We also decided that giving Concord Promise the freedom to support Concord would strengthen the movement in Concord. Enter Turning Life On.
Q: What is Turning Life On?
An extension and expansion of Concord Promise, Turning Life On is a collection of community-based support groups who care about healthy and safe technology use by children. These groups are made up of parents, professionals and other members of a community who care for and work with children. The mission of Turning Life On is to unite, inform and empower these groups to make smart choices about technology use by children.
Turning Life On will continue to support Concord Promise while Concord Promise will support the Concord, MA community.
Q: What if I change my mind?
Concord Promise is just that - a promise. If at any time, you feel the Promise is not working for your family, you can always contact us and we will remove your name from the list. We are, first and foremost, a support network. You know what is best for your family and we will support your decision, whatever it may be. We are also committed to educational events for all parents, so even if you don't join the Promise, you can always attend our events and use our resources.
Q: Why 8th grade?
This is a question we get a lot. And there's no clear answer. First, we need to make a few things clear.
IMPORTANT: Although The Promise is a promise to delay until AT LEAST 8th grade, we do not advocate children getting a smartphone, social media or unrestricted internet access in 8th grade and we highly recommended parents educate themselves before making this important decision. There is no clear science around the right age in which to give a child a smartphone. And most healthcare professional and technology leaders agree that it’s less about age and more about your kid’s maturity level.
Excessive device use gets in the way of kids learning essential life skills. That is why it is important that your child develop these skills before you decide if they are ready to use a smartphone, the internet, and social media responsibly and safely. Among those skills are responsibility, empathy, and resilience. Most children don’t develop these skills until well into their high school or even college years. Common Sense Media and Families Managing Media offer some great advice in this area.
Although there is no conclusive evidence to indicate what age is the right age, there is some neuroscience related to brain development that could be applied to this situation. To learn more, check out this slide from Families Managing Media.
Ok, so why did we settle on 8th?
Child privacy laws restrict websites from collecting personal information from children under 13 which is the reason why social media platforms have minimum age requirements or require parental consent. But as parents, shouldn’t we be protecting our children’s information from companies and advertisers? Should this concern end at 13?
Some technology executives, like Bill and Melinda Gates, didn’t allow their children to have smartphones until 14 and even then set strict limits on usage. Learn more: here.
For some children, giving a child a smartphone in 8th grade gives them a year to learn to use it before they enter high school.
Q: Does joining the Concord Promise imply that I will give my child unrestricted access to social media and the internet in the 8th grade?
No, we definitely don't advocate this! By signing the promise, you are agreeing to wait until AT LEAST 8th grade before you give your child unrestricted access to the internet and social media via mobile smart devices, such as smartphones. As always, families must evaluate if their child is ready for the responsibilities that come with smartphone use or if they are getting along fine without one.
Q: What if I need a way to get in touch with my child before 8th grade?
Consider buying your child a basic phone or "dumbing-down" an old iPhone by removing safari, YouTube and other social media apps and restricting the app store. A basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of unrestricted access to the internet and social media. All major carriers offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans. Concord Promise is about delaying unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the internet and social media.
Please be aware that while we support a parents decision to provide their child with a "dumbed-down" iPhone, in most cases, children are still able to "break" their phones and gain access to the internet and app store, often times without their parents knowledge. Sticking with a basic phone removes this possibility.
Q: What is the difference between a smartphone and a basic phone?
A smartphone is a mobile phone that operates on an operating system, similar to a computer. A basic phone is a phone that is used for the basic purpose of making and receiving calls and text messages. A basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of unrestricted access to the internet and social media. We're all about #makingflipphonescoolagain, or as Justin Timberlake might say #werebringingflipphonesback.
Q: Where do I find a basic phone?
Please visit our Resources page. We have included lists and articles about basic phones and watches. In fact, Concord Promise has partnered with Lightphone, a company working hard to release a very cool, very basic phone with capabilities appropriate for kids - call, message, alarm and more. Lightphone II will be released in April 2019.
Q: What is the difference between a smartphone and an iPad/iPod and other similar devices?
A smartphone is essentially a mobile mini-computer which gives your child unrestricted access to social media and the internet throughout the day - at school, on the bus, at their friends' houses. Typically, an iPad is used within the home or for travel, as it is bulkier than a smartphone.
An iPod is the same size as a smartphone and has all the functions that a smartphone does, except for the ability to make phone calls. An iPod needs wifi in order to work. We have heard stories of children pretending their iPod is a smartphone. Children are savvy and can access the internet through WiFi in many places, including school.
Concord Promise is about delaying unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the internet and social media via mobile smart devices, such as smartphones, until at least eighth grade. We trust parents to use their best judgement about what devices their children can use and when.
With that being said, please be aware that children can still be exposed to the same dangerous content on other devices as a smartphone. There are ways to disable internet access and limit app usage which will help with preventing children from downloading apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat. But nothing is fool-proof. Many of the dangers associated with smartphone use do transfer to other devices and these devices should still be monitored in the same way a smartphone should be monitored.
As always, having a device is a family decision and parents should use their best judgement when considering if an iPad/iPod or similar device puts your child at risks in the same way a smartphone would. Please visit our resources page to learn more about monitoring your child's device usage.
Q: My child already has a smartphone. Is it too late to be part of this movement?
As a parent, it is never too late to change your mind. Concord Promise is only public so that families can see they’re not alone. Use our Resources page to share the available data. All of it conclusively supports the decision to delay the purchase of a smartphones that provide unrestricted access to the Internet and social media until at least eighth grade.
Food for thought: when studies concluded that smoking had significant health ramifications, people recognized that they should stop smoking to protect their health. Children need to understand that sometimes the rules change because we learn something we didn't know before.
Also, visit our Resources page to find viable smartphone alternatives or how to "dumb-down" your smartphone by removing safari, YouTube and the app store. Switching from a smartphone to a basic phone will protect your child from the many dangers of a smartphone.
Q: My child's sibling got a smartphone before 8th. It doesn't feel "fair" to change the rules now?
When smartphones first hit the market, we didn't have the information we have now and so we made decisions based on that information. The data is clear now. Smartphones are not a smart choice for young children's whose brains are still developing. Our job as parents is to protect our children and keep them safe because we love them. This should be why we are making our decisions, not because of peer pressure or because our child wants something. Protecting our children's mental health is just as important as protecting their physical health. Times change - we now use seatbelts and helmets, because they keep us safe. Please have talk with your child about this decision and the data and research that supports it. Information is power. Show your child that other families have joined Concord Promise, so they see they’re not alone. Encourage them to get involved with the movement. Have an open conversation and share the statistics available on our Resources page.
Q: Doesn't it make more sense to get our children smartphones at a younger age, so we can teach them how to use it?
Signing the Promise shouldn't put the conversation about smartphones on hold in your home. Just like other major life choices your child will face, it is important to keep the conversation going.
Take opportunities to discuss not only the dangers of smartphones with your child, but also when and where it is appropriate to use a smartphone and why, texting etiquette, social media, cyber bullying, the risks on on-line porn, etc.. Most parents today know the importance of discussing sex and alcohol with their children long before they expect their child to be experimenting with these things. The same goes for smartphones.
As your child learns important life skills and mature, he will be better prepared to use a smartphone on his own with less help from you.
Q: I'm afraid my child will feel like a social outcast if I don't get them a smartphone. Isn't this just as dangerous?
This is a real concern for many parents and one of the top reasons parents give in and get their child a smartphone. And this is one of the primary reasons we have formed Concord Promise. Our hope is to change the culture around smartphone use.
We want to give our children the best of what is out there. Smartphones have given us access to things we could never access before. But they are not without significant danger. Research not previously available is now conclusive. We know the statistics and they're staggering. Teen depression, anxiety and suicide have risen substantially since smartphone use has become more wide spread. Smartphone and gaming addiction is real and widespread. Executives in silicon valley heavily restrict device use by their children.
Should smartphone ownership really dictate our social standing? We are at a crossroads here and it is time to make a change. We need to unite together to make this change because it is the right thing to do for the health of our children. Local experts agree. The time is now. Join the Promise for your children and the children in our community.