NEWBURYPORT — The city’s Youth Services Department has partnered with an area nonprofit organization to promote healthy technology use among local children.

Parents from nearly 50 local families have signed on with Turning Life On Newburyport either as public supporters or “promise members,” the latter of whom pledge to delay giving their children smartphones at least until eighth grade.

Turning Life On was founded in Concord and has spread to more than a dozen communities throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where groups of parents have promised to create boundaries for their children’s technology use. The Newburyport chapter of the program was created this summer and has gained several local partners, including Newburyport school Superintendent Sean Gallagher, Bresnahan Elementary School Principal Kristina Davis and River Valley Charter School Director Jonnie Lyn Evans.

Andrea Egmont, executive director of Newburyport Youth Services, said she hopes the program will connect local parents concerned about putting smartphones in the hands of their children at a young age.

“For us, it’s about how parents need to not feel alone in making decisions they feel might go against the norm,” Egmont said. “If you’re a parent and you decide to go against something you feel everyone else is doing, it’s very hard. So we’re trying to connect parents who are like-minded so they can feel support from the community. 

“For some people, there are concerns about social media and the ways it affects how people are treated. It’s also about how smartphones can be a distraction,” Egmont said, adding that some parents are concerned about smartphones giving their children early access to pornography or certain information they are not old enough to understand.  “Parents have different reasons to want to set those boundaries, but the earlier young kids are exposed to things, the more problematic they can become,” Egmont said. “The ultimate goal is to have kids go out and connect in real life.”  For more information on Turning Life On Newburyport, visit https://www.turninglifeon.org/newburyportma  

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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