We reached out to Anne Bryan, CEO of Circle, a company that helps parents manage and monitor their children’s screen time, for suggestions of age-appropriate tech use for kids and tweens. Bryan is mother to four boys ages 17 and older, and also a former chair and current member of the Beaverton School Board. Here’s what she suggests.
Third to fifth graders
For kids who are 8 to 10 years old, it is important to establish screen time and device boundaries from the start. Sure, many families had to modify screen time rules in 2020. In fact, half of kids (48 percent) surveyed at the start of the pandemic were spending more than six hours per day online (a 500 percent hike since before the crisis). It goes without saying that kids will be online more now than ever before with school and most social activity happening online. But a consistent schedule for when your child can use their device for school, for social and entertainment needs — and when they should be off it altogether — will help set expectations for responsible use.
Set up device controls. Set time limits for screen time so your kids can stay on track throughout the year, while also taking interest in nondigital activities, like reading, playing an instrument or getting active outdoors for a more well-rounded day.
Build in some downtime. Taking digital breaks throughout the day is important for kids’ attention span and productivity.
Cyberbullying can start around this age. Look for signs they’re having a negative experience on their device, such as being emotionally upset during or after use, withdrawing from friends and family, or not doing well in school, and then have a conversation with them about their experience.
The tween years are when the pressure really starts for parents considering buying their kid a phone. With so many of us living in relative isolation, tech tools have taken on a whole new role in kids’ lives as they try to stay connected with their friends in healthy ways.
It’s natural for parents to be nervous about their young teens owning a smartphone. But there are benefits for both you and your kids when you decide the time is right, like quick communication and learning responsibility. In any event, whether it’s today or three years from now, it’s likely your kids will own a smartphone eventually. If you’ve had productive conversations with them and feel confident they’re ready to make smart choices with that responsibility, they can start to develop independence and good habits around their own screen time that will benefit them in the future.
There’s no magical age when kids are ready to have a smartphone. But if you’ve been actively addressing the topic of screen time and the dangers of smartphones with your son or daughter and they are receptive to your input, it may be time.
The real matter at hand is trust. Is there mutual trust between you and your tween? If you trust them, they can probably handle the responsibility of a smartphone. And if they trust you, they can come to you with any issues that may pop up. Of course, no matter how trustworthy or responsible your kid is, things can show up that they aren’t expecting. That’s why parental controls matter.
Because of sheer exposure and ease of access to screens, tweens are very susceptible to screen-time addiction, dependency and cyberbullying. Keep a watchful eye on their usage and utilize tools to limit access to sites and platforms where you see overuse happening. Tweens are going through important, and sometimes uncomfortable, social development and screens can amplify that experience. They rely on the adults in their life to help them set boundaries.
Wacom Intuos, a drawing tablet with a super-light pressure sensitive pen.
Jackbox Games, streaming games that can be played over Zoom.