‘This is not cute’: Social media expert warns parents about the Wait Until 8th project

Parents and lawmakers across the country are trying to find a solution to protect young Americans from the dangers of social media and smartphone use, according to Fox News Digital. One prevalent solution is for parents to wait to give their child a smartphone until the end of eighth grade.

However, social media expert Melanie Hempe claimed that “there could not possibly be a worse time for social media exposure in a child’s life.”

‘We are giving our kids one of the highest dopaminergic devices during the most vulnerable stages of development when their guard is the lowest and the most harm can be done.’

“We cannot afford to keep getting this wrong. This is not cute. It is not to be taken so lightly. It is serious, and we should not rely on a rhyme to parent our kids,” she said.

The Wait Until 8th movement is a growing one across the U.S., where parents have pledged to refrain from handing their children a smartphone at an early age. According to the project’s website, it is meant to “empower parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least the end of 8th grade. Let’s protect the elementary and middle school years from the distractions and the dangers of a smartphone.”

“Banding together helps decrease the pressure to have a phone at an early age,” the statement continued. “Ten years old is the average age children get their first smartphone. You can change this!”

Hempe noted that the Wait Until 8th movement is running parallel to the “greatest adolescent mental health crisis” in the country. Hempe, who is also a registered nurse, claimed that eighth grade is not a good time to introduce smartphones and social media, per the report.

She emphasized that there is an incongruency in brain development for students in the eighth grade that could make the introduction of social media more harmful in the long run.

“The accelerator is working before the brakes,” she said. “And what this means is they are taking higher risk before the frontal cortex, the judgment center of their brain, is developed. So their emotion center is developing before the frontal cortex or the reasoning center.”

“By eighth grade they are searching for content that is more provocative,” she continued. “They’re searching for content like anxiety and depression and mental health diagnoses because all their friends have one, so they’re trying to figure out what theirs is. And then the algorithms kick in and they get exposed to the worst content at the most vulnerable stage and impressionable stage of their development.”

The CDC recently published a research paper that stated suicide is among the most common causes of death in high school students. Consequently, suicide and suicidal behavior is considered a public health concern.

“Among high school-age youths aged 14–18 years, 1,952 suicides occurred in 2021, making suicide the third leading cause of death for this age group (2021 rate = 9.0 per 100,000 population). Suicide accounted for approximately one fifth of deaths (18.6%) among this age group,” according to the paper.

Hempe also called attention to the prevalence of addictive behaviors forming in adolescent children, saying: “Suicide interest in attempts are peaking, addictions are peaking and forming, the brain becomes what it does.”

“So the teenage brain is the most susceptible to addiction. We know that 90% of all adult addictions start in adolescence. Just because your child is intelligent doesn’t mean they’re mature enough to handle or wise enough to handle a smartphone.”

“We are giving our kids one of the highest dopaminergic devices during the most vulnerable stages of development when their guard is the lowest and the most harm can be done.”

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