The new thing now is teams are looking for 02 in 8th grade and 03 to form full season teams, the parents of 03 think their kids are elite jump at it cuz if little johnny fails they can say they are playing up and also can tell people that their kid was too good for the 03 its a win/win for the parents to keep justifying paying more money.
Ummm, it isn't new. It's the primary driven behind the "U" designation that started first with the girls many years ago and then with the boys four years ago. There used to be the stigma your referring to that kids playing up were being pushed by their parents. In reality, some kids are just ready sooner, physically and otherwise.
I moved my kid to U14 when he was 12 going on 13 because he was big (still is) and was getting contact to the head penalties from just going into the corners against smaller kids. He did fine. I never pretended he was "super elite" because he played "up."
When he was 14 he started playing U18, meaning he was playing against kids the same age as he plays against in HS. It just made sense - for him.