Original Artwork by Middlesex School Senior Nina Huttemann. To learn more, click here.
Q: What is the Bedford Promise?
At its core, the Bedford Promise is a support network for parents who agree to delay the purchase of a smart phone for their child until at least eighth grade. Parenting is hard. We need each other's support. This will be a place to get it.
The Bedford Promise website will help parents keep up on the most recent statistics, data, and expert opinions about smartphones, as well as find a list of parents who have joined. 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.
The more parents who join the promise, the more effective it will be.
Q: How is the Bedford Promise different than Wait Until 8th?
Wait Until 8th is an important movement. But, its anonymous and its national. We believe a small, local support network is key to success. The Bedford Promise acts as a community platform where families can see other members. We know there is strength in numbers (especially when making the case to a child). The Bedford Promise allows parents to connect with other parents. It's difficult to have a successful movement unless we know who supports it.
Q: I'm hesitant to sign up. What if I change my mind?
The Bedford Promise is just that - a promise. If at any time, you feel the Bedford Promise is not working for your family, you can always 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.
Q: Why 8th grade?
To start, it’s technically illegal for children under 13 to use social media apps. So, if we’re going to come out with a movement, we thought it best to stick with the law. There is a reason social networking sites restrict usage to those younger than 13. Most experts, including child psychologists, internet safety leaders, technology executives and local community leaders agree that it is best to wait until at least 13 before exposing children to smartphones.
Q: Does joining the Bedford Promise imply that I must allow my child to have a smartphone in the 8th grade?
No! By signing the promise, you are agreeing to wait until AT LEAST 8th grade before you give your child a smartphone. Some families may think their child is ready for a smartphone in 8th grade and others may determine a basic phone is working just fine.
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 a two-way calling watch. The basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of a smartphone, including social media and Internet access. All major carriers offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans. The Bedford Promise is for smartphones only.
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 mini computer. A basic phone is a phone that is used for the basic purpose of making and receiving calls. It also allows users to send and receive text messages. A basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of a smartphone. 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.
Q: What is the difference between a smartphone and an iPad/iPod and other similar devices?
No one walks around with an iPad in their pocket. A smartphone is essentially a mini-computer in your child's hands throughout the day. Typically, an iPad is used within the home or for travel.
An iPod is a little different that an iPad. A child can walk around with an iPod in their pocket and an iPod is similar to a mini-computer. We have heard stories of children pretending their iPod is a smartphone.
The Bedford Promise is about delaying smartphone use only. With that being said, please be aware that children can still be exposed to the same dangerous content on these 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 full 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?
It is never too late to change your mind as a parent. We have designed the Bedford Promise to be 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 smartphone until 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 remove the data plan from your smartphone. Switching from a smartphone to a basic phone will protect your child from the many dangers of the smartphone.
Q: My child's sibling got a smartphone before 8th. How do I switch gears with my next child?
If your child has siblings that have received a phone earlier than 8th grade, you can explain to your child that each child and grade is special. Circumstances and community shape how parents make decisions for each child. You can articulate that after much thought, you have concluded that it would be best to wait until 8th grade before they receive a phone. Again, information is power. Have an open conversation and share information. Show your child the other families that have joined Bedford 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: What about when my child gets to middle school? It is so big there!
You don’t need a smartphone to communicate with your child. A basic phone or watch will allow you to easily communicate with your child via phone or text.
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 faced with these things. The same goes for smartphones.
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 the Bedford Promise. Our hope is to change the culture around smartphone use.
We live in a very affluent area and 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. 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.