In last week’s article, we discussed how to properly introduce your child to technology, and touched upon the topic of responsibility. This week we’re expanding on that subject, with a focus on tweens.
Children are spending a lot more time online than in years past. A 2015 Common Sense Media study found that tweens use about six hours of media a day, excluding school-related work or homework.
Smart device ownership by tweens and teens is also on the rise. A 2018 study by Pew Research Center revealed that 95% of teens age 13-17 own or have access to a smartphone. Compare this with their findings of 73% in their 2013 study.
Being a Tween is Already Tough
The tween years are a difficult time to navigate for young people. On one hand, they’re no longer in elementary school and are thus expected to act more mature. On the other hand, they’re still treated like small children. Tweens also have to deal with factors such as puberty, peer pressure, budding sexual identity, and a desire to be more independent.
Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until around age 25. This is the part of the brain related to good judgment, rational thought, and consideration of long-term consequences. Unsupervised online use then is especially risky for this age group. Reckless online behavior with no thought for repercussions can lead to uncomfortable, even possibly dangerous situations.
Tips on Responsible Internet Use
Parents can guide their tweens on being safe, responsible internet users. Here are some helpful tips. We’ll focus on smartphones because those are the devices most commonly used/owned by this age group:
Recommended Parental Actions
- Consider delaying your child smartphone ownership until age 13. You may even take it a step further and pledge to “Wait Until 8th”.
- If you feel that your child really needs a phone, get a simple flip model with no “smart” features.
- Have your child work for their smartphone. For example, they can pay a small amount per month to rent it, or earn part of the money to pay for it.
- If your child does own a smartphone, hold them responsible for any damages. They can either pay for the damages or work off their debt.
- Designate “no-tech” locations and times in the house. For example, no phones at the dinner table; no internet time after 9 PM.
- Create a family technology contract and put it in a visible location in your home. You can even have your child sign it.
- Take part in Screenagers’ hack challenge of minimizing screen time.
Online Safety Tips for Tweens
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t look at your phone while crossing the street or walking in a sketchy neighborhood.
- Never give out any personal information online. Your “new friend” may actually be a sexual predator.
- Similarly, don’t post photos revealing your neighborhood, house, school, etc.
- Don’t attract identity thieves by posting pics of your passport, Social Security card, bank card, ID, etc.
- Don’t text/post/send incriminating photos of yourself, because the internet never forgets.
- Show respect to others online. Don’t bully, harass, troll, or spread gossip and false information.
- If anyone threatens you or makes you feel uncomfortable online, tell a parent or another trusted adult right away.
By the time a child enters the tween years, he or she is an internet veteran. However, parental vigilance increases as tweens face new responsibilities and online dangers. The above tips should help alleviate these digital stresses and hurdles parents and tweens will face.
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