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How long should my 11 year old be on her phone?

In today’s digital world, smartphones have become ubiquitous, even among pre-teens. As a parent, it can be challenging to decide how much screen time is appropriate for your 11 year old. While there are no hard and fast rules, there are some guidelines you can follow to help ensure your child’s use of technology is balanced and healthy.

The Risks of Too Much Screen Time

Excessive smartphone and social media use at a young age has been associated with a number of potential risks:

  • Negative effects on sleep – The blue light emitted from screens can disrupt natural sleep patterns.
  • Impacts on mental health – Increased risk for anxiety, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem.
  • Reduced physical activity – Screen time is sedentary time, replacing more active pursuits.
  • Poor academic performance – Associated with lower grades and standardized test scores.
  • Exposure to inappropriate content – Possibility of viewing violent, sexually explicit, or false information.

While concerning, these risks mainly arise when screen time is excessive, uncontrolled, or inappropriate. With reasonable limits and supervision, smartphones do not have to be detrimental to pre-teens’ well-being.

Recommended Limits for 11 Year Olds

Many experts suggest the following screen time limits for 11 year olds:

  • 1-2 hours per day on school days
  • A maximum of 3 hours per day on weekends and holidays
  • No screens at least one hour before bedtime

These are not hard limits, but rather guidelines for limiting recreational use of phones and other devices like tablets, computers, video game systems, and TVs. Schoolwork and video chatting with friends and family do not need to count toward the time limits.

Screen Time Limits by Expert Organization

Organization Recommended Limit for 11 Year Olds
American Academy of Pediatrics 1 hour per day of high-quality programming
American Heart Association 1 hour or less per day
World Health Organization 2 hours or less per day of recreational screen time

While there is some variability, most expert guidance for this age group falls within 1-2 hours per day, with an emphasis on limiting entertainment media and ensuring adequate sleep and physical activity.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

When deciding on age-appropriate screen time limits for your 11 year old, it is important to take into account both expert guidance and your individual child’s needs. Here are some tips for setting reasonable expectations:

  • Involve your child – Discuss guidelines and come to an agreement together.
  • Consider their activities – Make allowances for schoolwork and other productive screen activities.
  • Be consistent with limits – Enforce rules consistently during the week and weekends.
  • Set device curfews – Establish technology-free times, especially before bed.
  • Provide tech-free alternatives – Encourage outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and social interaction.
  • Model healthy use – Let your own screen habits set a good example.
  • Monitor content – Use parental controls and keep tabs on what your child accesses.

The goal should be balancing screen time with other activities important for health, learning, creativity, and social-emotional development. Limits help achieve that balance.

Mitigating the Risks of Screen Time

While screens do pose risks at this age, there are steps you can take to help minimize the potential downsides of your 11 year old’s technology use:

Promote Physical Activity and Exercise

Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day to reduce sedentary risks. Encourage participation in sports, plan active family outings, and limit screen use during daylight hours.

Establish Device-Free Zones and Times

Keep phones and devices out of your child’s bedroom overnight and during family mealtimes. Institute tech-free times in the evenings and weekends.

Monitor and Discuss Online Behavior

Talk with your child about cyberbullying, privacy, and avoiding inappropriate content. Monitor texts, social media, and web browsing to ensure safe habits.

Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits

Ensure your child avoids screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime. Sleep is critical for physical and mental health, so prioritize it.

Set Parental Controls

Use parental control software, app limitations, website filters, and device settings to restrict access and block inappropriate apps and content.

Focus on Balance

Aim for a healthy mix of screen time and offline pursuits so technology does not dominate your child’s attention and interests.

Signs Your Child Has Too Much Screen Time

How can you tell if your 11 year old’s technology use has crossed into excessive territory? Watch for these signs:

  • Declining grades and difficulty focusing at school
  • Abandoning previous hobbies and activities
  • Wanting to constantly be on their device
  • Arguing with parents about limiting screen time
  • Trouble putting devices down before bedtime
  • Becoming more moody, irritable, or withdrawn
  • Complaining of headaches or eye strain
  • Obsessively checking devices and social media

If you notice several of these issues, it may be time to further restrict your child’s technology privileges. Enforce daily time limits, institute tech-free times, or even consider a “digital detox” weekend to reset healthier habits.

Tips for Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

Managing your 11 year old’s technology use takes patience and perseverance, but these tips can help:

Involve Your Child

Have your child help draft a Family Media Use Plan outlining guidelines and expectations. Giving them input and ownership helps motivate cooperation.

Model Good Habits

Be mindful of your own technology use. Your behavior sets the example your child will follow.

Use Apps to Monitor and Limit

Apps like Screen Time (iPhone), Family Link (Android), and third-party options provide monitoring, time limits, and content controls.

Set up Charging Stations

Charge devices in a central location overnight, not your child’s bedroom. This makes it easier to enforce limits.

Plan Tech-Free Family Time

Institute regular device-free family time when everyone focuses on conversing and shared activities.

Offer Alternatives

If your child feels bored without their phone, suggest outdoor play, reading, board games, crafting, or joining a sports team or club.

Follow Through on Limits

Being consistent shows you are serious. Calmly enforce the rules and consequences you set up together.

Using Parental Controls and Settings

Parental controls, device restrictions, and built-in monitoring tools can help manage your 11 year old’s technology use. Options include:

Content Filters

Filtering and blocking inappropriate websites, apps, videos and search results. Can be configured on devices, browsers, and wifi routers.

Time Limits

Restricting daily or weekly time allotted for apps, websites, or overall device use. Available through device settings and third party apps.

Purchase Blocking

Disabling in-app and other purchases requiring credit card info to avoid unapproved spending.

Text, Call, and Contact Management

Blocking unwanted numbers, restricting communication to approved contacts, and monitoring texts.

Location Tracking

Tracking your child’s location via built-in Find My Device features or third party apps.

Remote Management

Remotely restricting permission access, suspending accounts, setting time limits, or viewing device activity.

The right controls can curb mindless scrolling, block inappropriate content, prevent unwanted purchases, monitor communications, deter cyberbullying, and more. But avoid being so overly restrictive that your child feels the need to find ways around the limitations.

Fostering Healthy Screen Time Habits

To help your 11 year old develop healthy technology habits:

  • Discuss online safety and responsibility
  • Remind them how tech should not replace offline activities and sleep
  • Suggest ways to limit distractions during homework
  • Inquire about their online experiences and relationships
  • Explore educational apps and games
  • Encourage physical activity or reading if boredom leads to overuse
  • Let them discover non-screen hobbies they enjoy
  • Demonstrate your own ability to put devices down

With guidance and alternatives, your pre-teen can learn to use technology responsibly without letting it dominate their attention and time.

Signs Your Child is Using Technology Responsibly

While no child’s habits will be perfect, watch for these signs that your 11 year old’s technology use is moving in a positive direction:

  • Accepting when devices are turned off or put away at your request
  • Following agreed upon screen time limits and device curfews
  • Balancing screens with offline responsibilities and interests
  • Paying closer attention to face-to-face conversations
  • Reading, playing, or partaking in non-screen activities more often
  • Experiencing less moody outbursts when separated from devices
  • Voicing interest in new hobbies, activities, or pursuits

Seeing more of this type of behavior means your efforts to instill healthy habits are paying off. While vigilance is still required, you can loosen the reins somewhat as your child shows they can self-regulate their own use.

Prioritizing Health, Learning, and Development

Childhood is a precious time. As much as possible, we want our children focusing on positive interests and activities that nurture their physical, mental, social and emotional health. While smartphones and devices are part of their world, they should not be the dominant element.

By setting reasonable limits, finding balance, using controls judiciously, monitoring use, offering alternatives, and fostering awareness of healthy habits, we can help ensure our 11 year olds are growing into capable individuals who use technology wisely. With care and wisdom, parents can guide pre-teens through this digital landscape while preserving their well-being.


Determining appropriate screen time for your 11 year old involves evaluating expert recommendations, considering your child’s needs and activities, mitigating potential risks of excessive technology use, noticing signs of overuse, employing parental controls and restrictions, promoting healthy habits, and prioritizing developmental needs over entertainment. With reasonable limits, balance, and ongoing guidance, smartphones and devices can be used responsibly at this age. The goal is ensuring they enrich your pre-teen’s life instead of overly dominating it.