(USA TODAY) -- Every parent with an older child eventually must confront the big tech question: When do I buy them their first smartphone?
Austin mom Brooke Shannon was among them. When her daughter started elementary school, smartphone use was confined to fifth-graders. But as her daughter got older, Shannon said she noticed even younger kids get their own devices.
"It was really interrupting play dates and birthday parties," Shannon told USA TODAY. "They were hanging out but not really present with one another."
Last fall, Shannon and a group of parents at her daughter's elementary school started a pledge. They wouldn't allow their kids to get a smartphone until the 8th grade.
In March, Shannon launched the website WaitUntil8th.org, serving as a resource for parents who want to wait longer before buying that first smartphone. More than 2,100 families representing more than 500 schools have participated.
"There are a lot of families out there that wanted to wait but felt isolated because everyone else was doing it," she said.
The pledge doesn't apply to basic phones that just text or make phone calls. It's only for smartphones. When you make the pledge, you select your child's school. Once 10 parents from that child's school and grade make the pledge, it becomes activated.
"We made the pledge this way so you don't have to fear 'what if I am the only parent that signs this in my kid's grade,'" said Shannon. "This takes the pressure off because the pledge only kicks in once at least 10 families sign from your grade."
The pledge started as a side project Shannon paid for herself while raising her three daughters, but as awareness rises among parents and educators, the initiative "has taken up a lot more time."
There's no clear answer on the right age to give your kids a smartphone, even among the biggest names in tech. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told The Mirror his three kids — ages 20, 17, and 14 — waited until they were 14.
A 2016 study from research firm Influence Central found the average age for getting a first smartphone is 10.3 years old, down from 12 in 2012.
The idea behind Wait Until 8th isn't to urge all parents to hold off buying a first smartphone, but providing support for those who do.
"Kids can wait on this," said Shannon. "They have their whole life ahead of them to use this technology responsibly."
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