By the time your child reaches the tween years, they’ve likely had plenty of exposure to technology. Most kids today seem born knowing how to use computers and smartphones.
Despite their skillful use of technology, tweens still need guidance learning how to use technology in healthy, appropriate, and effective ways. Read on for tips to develop your tween’s healthy use of technology.
Screen Time Limits
One of the biggest battles between modern parents and kids is over screen time. Kids want more, and parents want to limit it. Before discussing how much screen time is enough or too much, it’s essential to recognize that there are different forms of screen time.
For example, zoning out in front of YouTube videos or TikTok is different from playing an interactive game that involves problem-solving skills or using a phone to film and edit a video. Passive screen time is what parents need to limit more. When kids are using technology in a creative, active way, it’s not as damaging and can be beneficial.
According to the CDC, tweens spend anywhere from six to nine hours in front of a screen each day. The CDC recommends that kids spend no more than two hours a day on a screen. If two hours isn’t reasonable for your family, try to put some restrictions on what your kids are doing online, such as only one hour for passive screen time. Also, put some prerequisites in place - such as your kids have to spend an hour playing outside and time reading before getting on their screen.
Social media and tweens is a tricky subject. Technically, most social media requires that users must be 13 to create an account, but many tweens are already on social media. You’ll need to decide as a family when your child is ready to create accounts and how they’ll be allowed to use them.
Some kids may be mature enough for accounts, while others may need to wait until they’re in their teens. Some parents let their kids create accounts but only let them make private posts. You can also monitor your child’s friends and make sure they’re people they know in real life.
The tween years are also the perfect time to start talking about proper social media use. Discuss the dangers of giving out personal information to people you don’t know and the potential consequences of the things kids put online.
While most kids know how to use Google, many don’t know how to do proper research. Media literacy is a skill that will come in handy every time your child looks something up on the internet, not just for school purposes. We get so much of our information from the internet, so it’s crucial to be able to discern if a resource is reputable.
Start talking with your tweens about how to evaluate what they read on the internet and social media. Your child needs to know how to check several sources and find the right ones to verify the information. Kids also need to understand how to determine the agenda behind the media they consume.
When to Buy a Smartphone
In addition to the battle over screen time, the battle over the right age for a smartphone is another major fight between parents and kids. Kids want smartphones at younger and younger ages, and parents tend to be resistant to buying one too soon.
Some parents decide to get kids a “dumb” phone, which is a phone that can only make calls if they want their child to be able to get in touch with them. These phones are a good option until your tween is ready for a smartphone.
There’s no agreed-upon answer for when kids should get smartphones, but the range seems to be somewhere between 12-14, depending on maturity level. Another good rule of thumb is to hold off until around half the kids in your child’s class have a smartphone.
Technology is a fact of life. You can’t prevent your tweens from using technology, but you can help them develop healthy habits. One of the best ways to encourage safe and healthy use of technology is to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child, so you can help them through any problems they may face.