Tween Smartphone Usage: Insights & Alternatives for Parents

Tween smartphone usage presents a tough issue for parents all over the world. Tweenagers are constantly begging for smartphones, claiming they’re essential for school, staying in touch, and keeping up with friends. Before making the decision to purchase one for your child, consider the following insights and advice from experts about the potential risks and dangers associated with smartphones and social media, as well as some smartphone alternatives.

Delay, Delay, Delay – When to Introduce Smartphones

A former middle school teacher and current screen-time consultant, strongly advises parents to delay giving their tween a smartphone and access to social media for as long as possible. Many parents she has talked with express regrets about introducing smartphones too early, as it becomes tough to take the technology back once it has been given. (Source)

Introducing a device early on, even if just a tablet for education, can set up a habit that’s difficult to break later. Research shows that the dopamine-triggering nature of smartphones, social media, and video games can create difficulties in managing a child’s screen time and maintaining their interest in other, non-digital activities.

girl watching behind boy holding smartphone

Understanding and Addressing Parental Fears

Parents might feel that their child needs a smartphone for safety reasons, especially as they become more independent and move around town without supervision. However, Cherkin argues that these fears may be misplaced and that the dangers of smartphones often go underestimated by parents. For example, disturbing content, inappropriate messages from strangers, and harmful online influences are all potential risks of smartphone & app usage. These issues can have a significant impact on a child’s mental health and overall wellbeing.

Smartphone Alternatives for Tweens

Instead of giving your child a smartphone, consider the following alternatives:

  • Share your phone with your tween so they can call and text friends.
  • Give them a “dumb phone” that only allows calling and texting. These phones are less likely to expose your child to dangerous content and social media addiction.
woman holding phone smiling

Monitoring App Usage on Smartphones

If you decide to get your child a smartphone, be prepared to monitor their app usage closely. Parental control apps can help, but many kids can find ways around these blocks, making it challenging to stay ahead of their tech-savviness. In summary, giving a tween a smartphone may lead to an increased level of parenting and monitoring responsibilities.


1. What is the main advice experts give about introducing smartphones to tweens?

Delay giving your child access to a smartphone and social media for as long as possible.

2. What is one risk associated with introducing a device early on to a child?

It can establish a habit that is hard to break later in life, such as expecting screen time after school.

3. Are parental controls apps foolproof in monitoring a child’s smartphone usage?

No, children can often find workarounds and access restricted content or apps through alternative means.

4. What is a “dumb phone”?

A dumb phone is a phone that only allows calling and texting, with no internet or social media access.

5. How can a parent stay informed about what their child may encounter on social media apps?

Create a test account with their child’s age and use it for a few weeks to see the content being suggested and the potential risks.

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