Here’s how Papery thinks about tweens


Tweens fall roughly between the ages of 10-13, but there is overlap with other age groups, and 9-year-olds or 14-year-olds often feel perfectly at home in this group.

One of the things that can be difficult for tweens is understanding whether they are allowed to remain childlike or, conversely, whether they are allowed to leave childhood behind. As their roles in society evolve, they probably want a little bit of both, and most of all, they want to be able to choose for themselves when they can act as children and when they can act as teenagers.

(This struggle is of course echoed by the teen years, too, but teens generally face more responsibility and pressure than tweens do.)

Today more than ever the experience of being a tween can be disorienting. Tweens are computer-literate, often far more so than the adults in their lives, and they are able to access images and ideas that were completely denied to their caregivers at that age.

As caregivers, we can try to fight against media excess in children’s lives, and we should, but the truth is that unless internet watchdogs drastically succeed in the next few years (unlikely), this phenomenon will be practically impossible to change. The truth is that young people will always be more nimble and creative than we are; they’ll figure out how to access the things they want, especially when they are blocked.

A new approach

If we can find it in ourselves to accept that access to violence, pornography, and fake news is the norm in our society and not the exception, we can begin the essential work of finding new approaches to caregiving.

This isn’t easy for anyone, least of all for us. But it’s especially difficult if we assume that tweens are incapable of deciphering the difference between right and wrong.

At Papery, we believe that tweens are in fact very capable of understanding right and wrong. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation or a well-designed lesson plan to allow them to discuss moral nuances and explore their own “moral mapmaking” abilities. More often than not, when given the opportunity, young people will make startlingly elegant conclusions.

As we’ve described in our kids section, we believe one of the biggest disservices we can do to our youth is to give them with simplistic binaries about the world. Telling them repeatedly that sex or violence is universally bad while marriage and cheek-turning is universally good will do little to mature their moral compasses.

Instead, working with young people to understand that contradiction is a natural part of life will allow the confusion of growing up to feel a little more navigable.

(And of course, the best way to inspire kids is to lead by example. Easier said than done.)