Frequently Asked Questions….and Answers.
Below is a list of questions we often get, so we answered them here for you. If you’re still curious, please reach out. We are here to help!
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.
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.
Relevant articles published from newspapers and medical journals.
Event listings. Through community-wide events, roundtables and working groups, Turning Life On is committed to providing our communities with access to information from leaders in the field and support from other parents as it relates to the risks and responsibilities of internet and social media usage.
A list of Turning Life On Communities and their Public Members (Promise and Supporters). 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 families.
Promise Members have agreed to delay giving a smartphone to their child until at least 8th grade. It 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 the Turning Life On Promise, the more effective it will be.
Public Supporters are not willing or able to sign the promise but are still concerned with healthy and safe technology use, which goes beyond smartphones.
Q: What happened to Concord Promise?
Concord Promise is going strong in Concord, MA and is a successful model for other communities.
Concord Promise was initially launched as a support platform for parents in Concord, MA who were committed to delaying smartphone ownership for their child(ren) until at least 8th grade.
Very soon after CP launched, other communities wanted in on the action. We also quickly learned that parents’ concerns and struggles go beyond smartphones. Though we tried to support these other communities on the Concord Promise website, we ultimately decided that giving Concord Promise the freedom to support Concord and creating Turning Life On to support communities outside Concord was the right move.
Turning Life On will continue to support Concord Promise while Concord Promise will support the Concord, MA community.
Q: How is Turning Life On / Concord Promise different than Wait Until 8th?
Wait Until 8th is an important movement and many Turning Life On members have also signed Wait Until 8th, including our founders. Turning Life On is not competing with Wait Until 8th; instead, we hope to augment and expand upon that movement. Wait Until 8th is national, anonymous and only connects parents who choose to delay.
We have always believed small, local support networks that are inclusive of all parents are key to success. Turning Life On is public so that families can see they're not alone and it is local so that we can plan and promote events to support and educate our community. Every community has different needs and we seek to support those needs. There is also strength in numbers. By seeing other members, parents can connect with other parents and look to them for support.
Q: What is a TLO Community?
TLO (or Promise) Communities are community-specific support platforms for parents who decide to delay and parents who are seeking support. By joining your TLO Community as a Promise Member or Public Supporter, your name will be added to your community’s TLO page hosted at turninglifeon.org. Here, you will be able to see other parents in your community who have joined your town's TLO Community. We will also try our best to post relevant events in your town to your page. Better yet, if we have a Champion from your community, that person can communicate events to us, plan events, and help spread the word. Interested in being a TLO Champion? Let us know! Feel free to browse other TLO pages to see what's happening in those communities.
Questions related to joining as a Promise Member
Q: What if I change my mind and decide to give my child a smartphone?
Turning Life On / 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 or move you to the Supporter column. 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 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 recommend 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, gaming 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.
It’s not brain Science…Or is it?
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.
Q: Ok, so why did you 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.
With all this being said, middle school is possibly the worst time to give a child not only a smartphone but social media. Click here to learn why.
Q: Does joining the Promise imply that I will give my child a smartphone, 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 a smartphone, unrestricted access to the internet and social media. 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. A basic phone avoids many of the distractions and dangers of smartphones. All major carriers offer basic cell phones that do not require data plans.
Please be aware that while we support a parent’s 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.
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, Turning Life On 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 also needs WiFi in order to access the internet and texting. 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.
Turning Life On is about delaying smartphones which provide unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the internet, social media and gaming 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, we all know the dangers of having a smartphone have nothing to do with it’s capacity to make phone calls. Even if kids are using that phone to make prank calls! Children can still be exposed to the same dangerous content on these devices as on 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, SnapChat and games. But nothing is fool-proof. Many of the dangers associated with smartphone use relate to apps and internet access and transfer to other devices. These devices should still be restricted and 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 pages to learn more about monitoring your child's device usage.
Q: Can I still sign the Promise if my child has an iPad or iPod?
As long as your child doesn’t have a smartphone, you can technically still sign the Promise. Our concerns with smartphones are not with it’s ability to make phone calls. Many of the dangers associated with smartphone use - unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the internet, social media and gaming - transfer to iPads/iPods. We trust parents to make informed decisions regarding use of these devices. It is the parent’s choice if they feel comfortable signing the Promise. If not, you can always join as a public supporter and stay informed so you can help your child make healthy and safe choices regarding technology use.
Q: What about a dumb-downed smartphone? Is that ok?
Many of us have old iPhones and have considered passing these down to our kids. Without a SIM card and data plan, these iPhones can be used just like an iPod.
Again, many of the dangers associated with smartphone use - unrestricted, at-your-fingertips access to the internet, social media and gaming - transfer to dumb-downed iPhones. We trust parents to make informed decisions regarding use of these devices. It is the parent’s choice if they feel comfortable signing the Promise. If not, you can always join as a public supporter or subscriber to stay informed so you can help your child make healthy and safe choices regarding technology use.
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. Turning Life On is public so that families can see they’re not alone. Use our Resources page to share the available data with your child. All of it conclusively supports the decision to delay smartphones 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 Smartphone Alternatives 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.
If you don’t feel you can go back, that’s ok. Join us as a Public Supporter or Subscriber and stay informed. Parents who’s children have smartphones need support, too.
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 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 a talk with your child about this decision and the research that supports it. Information is power. Show your child that other families have joined the Turning Life On 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 Why Delay? page. For more suggestions, see our blog.
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 them to be experimenting with these things. The same goes for smartphones.
As your child learns important life skills and matures, he will be better prepared to use a smartphone independently.
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 / Turning Life On. 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, self-harm 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.