How to Keep iPhone’s AirDrop Safe for Your Teen

by Anna Hughes on June 20, 2018
“It seemed like a good idea at the time” might as well be the motto of Silicon Valley, that stands out in particular with Apple's AirDrop. AirDrop is designed to be a tool for people who own Apple products to quickly share files with each other through WiFi or Bluetooth. Essentially, if you own an Apple device and share a WiFi network with another Apple device, in theory you can share files with coworkers, friends, or even total strangers. Used properly, it's a handy productivity tool. Misused, you can wind up with sexually harassing images, viruses, or worse. So how do you keep teens from the risks of AirDrop?
Two teenage girls taking a selfie together.

Help teens be safe with their phones.

Shut It Off

First, you can use the iPhone parental controls to shut down AirDrop. Just go to Settings, then General, then AirDrop on any iPhone or iPad, and turn it off. Then lock down the iPhone with a parental control app. While you’re at it, you should do the same to your phone. Cruelty and misuse aren’t limited to teenagers, either. If your teen uses a Mac laptop, it will be a little more elaborate, since MacOS defaults to having AirDrop on. Go to the Applications folder, then Utilities, then Terminal. Enter this into the window:

defaults write DisableAirDrop -bool YES

Hit enter, and then log out of the Mac. Once you log back it, it won’t turn on unless you consent to it. If you or your teen need it for some reason, then you should configure the iPhone parental controls to only allow contacts and approved people to send files.

Teenage boy looking at his mobile phone.

Do you know what they’re getting?


If you don’t want to start with the parental controls, then start with education. Teens should already know not to accept files from strangers, and fortunately, AirDrop needs your permission before it will download a file. Sit your teens down and talk to them about the risks both to their devices and themselves about AirDrop.

If you have to leave AirDrop enabled, you should also talk to them about what to do if somebody tries to send unwanted images and files to them at school or at work, beyond declining to accept them. They should know who to talk to, when to confront and when to speak to authority, and how to get help if they feel unsafe.

Use Parental Control Apps

Another useful tool is parental control apps, which can lock down various aspects of a phone on a schedule or just lock off certain apps and behaviors altogether. This can do far more than just control files that arrive on devices, and it may be useful in situations where either teens need unfettered use of their devices, such as school or internships, or simply that you need to break a bad habit. The other bad side of AirDrop is that it’s also a method of “swapping notes” in class, which admittedly isn’t as harmful as the worst-case scenario, but teens need to pay attention in class!

If you’re concerned about AirDrop, the internet, social networks, and other ways teens can experience the dark side of the internet, Screen Time can help, and you can try it for free.

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The 10 most popular kids apps for Android

by Anna Hughes on June 18, 2018
With so much discovery to be made online, and so many kids' apps to choose from, it can seem near impossible for us parents to keep up with our kids’ digital habits. One day they are chatting to their friends on Snapchat, and the next they’re on Instagram sharing carefully edited pictures of their #breakfast.


Tween girl on a tablet

Photo credit: Patricia Prudente

As the summer break looms, now is as good a time as any to get app savvy before your kids disappear behind their devices. For example, it’s no good blocking their Minecraft app at ‘homework time’ if their new obsession is dodging trains on Subway Surfers.

So, in the spirit of being ‘down with the kids’ and keeping on top of our kids digital lives, we did a bit of digging into the apps that are currently being installed by Screen Time families. Then we split them into 3 groups of top ten apps – Entertainment apps; Social apps and Gaming apps. We found some of the results surprising. Check them out for yourself.

Top 10 most popular Entertainment Apps

It’s no surprise to see that YouTube is by far the most popular entertainment app among Screen Time kids. What is surprising is it has had 79% more installs than Netflix. And don’t forget, the Screen Time app allows parents to monitor kids tablets too. Even more interesting, the YouTube Kids app appears much further down the list at No. 6. A possible indication of a lack of awareness of a kids version of YouTube perhaps? (Never heard of YouTube Kids? There’s a handy parents guide to it here.)

  1. YouTube
  2. Spotify
  3. Netflix
  4. Bitmoji
  5. Amazon Kindle
  6. YouTube Kids
  7. Shazam
  8. Sandbox – Color By Numbering Pages
  9. Pixel Art – Color By Numbers
  10. Amazon Prime Video

Top 10 most popular Social Apps

Move over Snapchat, and make way for the more grown up social app contenders! Whatsapp is by far the most installed social app by Screen Time users, with a whopping 69% more installs than Facebook Messenger. And with Instagram bagging 25% more downloads by kids than any other social media apps, could this mean the end is nigh for Snapchat?

  1. WhatsApp
  2. Instagram
  3. Facebook
  4. Skype
  5. Snapchat
  6. Facebook Messenger
  8. Twitter
  9. Group Play
  10. Pinterest

Top 10 most popular Gaming Apps.

With Minecraft at the top spot, there is no great surprise here. But with Clash Royale and Subway Surfers only slightly behind, Minecraft might not stay on top for much longer.

  1. Minecraft Pocket Edition
  2. Clash Royale
  3. Subway Surfers
  4. Roblox
  5. Clash Of Clans
  7. Helix Jump
  8. Pokemon GO
  9. Rider
  10. Love Balls
Teenage girls on phone selfie

Photo Credit: Elijah O’Donell

So there you have it. If you wanted some extra guidance on the world of kids’ apps, you might find this post useful: 5 apps you need to talk about with your teenagers.

Remember, with the Screen Time app, parents receive a notification every time their child tries to download a new app. So next time you get a request to download one of the above, you can surprise your kids with your amazing app knowledge!

If you think you might benefit from having this feature, Go Premium today!


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Why Smartphone Addiction Is a Greater Risk for Teens Than Adults

by Anna Hughes on June 13, 2018
It's easy for us to trivialize addiction. We joke that we're addicted to TV shows, junk food, and a host of other products. But while addiction in a medical sense doesn't really happen outside of narcotics, addiction in a psychological sense can happen with anything and to anybody. And teens, in particular, may be vulnerable to smartphone addiction, among other dangers, unless parental control apps are deployed. But why? And how can we break the cycle?
Group of people sitting around a table using their mobile phones.

We all love our phones but are teens too attached?

What Is Smartphone Addiction?

Again, we need to qualify the term “addiction” here. If you take away a teen’s smartphone, they won’t go through a Hollywood-style medical withdrawal. The addiction we’re talking about here is more like the phenomenon called a Skinner box.

We all know the experiments of B.F. Skinner. He’s the psychologist who taught rats to ring a bell and get a pellet. What people often forget is that Skinner found that if the rat got a pellet every time, it would lose interest. But if it got the pellets at random, it would hammer the bell until it broke. It was the potential for reward, not the reward itself, that made the rat hooked.

Many smartphone apps, such as messaging apps and social media apps, operate, sometimes intentionally, on the same principles. They offer a dose of validation, of attention, or achievement, but not always, so you find yourself checking again and again. It’s an easy pattern to fall into, in part because our phones make it so easy to do. But teens are particularly susceptible to this because they both don’t understand how they’re being manipulated and their brains, particularly with understanding risk and reward, are still growing and changing in certain specific ways. If the habit forms early, it can harden into a problem much more difficult to break.

Two teens looking at a mobile phone together.

How do we encourage healthy smartphone use?

How Do We Prevent Smartphone Addiction?

The good news is that smartphone addiction is easily prevented with a three-pronged approach. The first is parental control apps. These apps will allow you to limit how much time your teen spends on their phone in the first place, control which apps are downloaded and used and when, and will allow you to block the re-installation of apps you’ve decided your teen needs to delete.

The second prong is education. Teens get hooked in part because they don’t understand how this feedback loop works. Once you grasp how it functions, it becomes much easier to shake it off. So, talk to your teens about these apps, their motivations, and how they need to approach them as products, not ignore what they can do to them and their friends.

The final prong is communication. You should talk with your teen about how they’re using their phones, concerns they might have about things they’ve found on the internet, problems they may be having with friends or bullies online, and any other issues they may have with their time online. They may not ask for help directly, but leaving the door open to help can often be a powerful tool.

Still, it’s best to trust but verify with your teen. To learn more about parental control apps like Screen Time, click here. 

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How to Keep Your Child Safe from Phishing

by Anna Hughes on June 6, 2018
When we think of hackers, we think of elaborate strings of code, ominously designed custom software, perhaps a little light electrical engineering. In reality, though, most “hackers” are just liars at an industrial scale. They write out a lie, such as your bank account is locked and you need to click this suspicious link to reactivate it, and blast it out to millions upon millions of people, in the hopes that one or two of them will fall for it. This is called “phishing” since that's more of less what they're doing; casting out a line and hoping to get a bite from a sucker. So, how can you keep your kids from being that sucker?
Teenager lying down in the grass using a tablet.

Protect them when they’re online.

Don’t Click

The most basic rule of internet safety is “don’t click.” If somebody sends a link, even a friend or a family member, kids should be taught not to click it. If a link is posted on a social media account, kids shouldn’t click it. If somebody is trying to bully you or cajole you into clicking a link, definitely don’t click it. In short, if there’s a scrap of doubt, adult or child, don’t click.

Teach Them The Signs

Beyond not clicking, education is the best weapon against phishing, and will be useful to your kids in the long run. So teach kids to spot the signs of phishing email. Does the email address itself come from an official account? Is the subject line properly spelled and grammatically correct? Does the email take a threatening tone or otherwise attempt to scare you? Is there a way to independently verify the email, such as an 800 number you can call? Are they told not to tell their parents? Sit kids down and show them phishing emails you get, and why they’re fake.

Girl with headphones around her neck and tablet in her hand.

Reroute Email

A very useful and effective way to prevent phishing is to simply route all communications online through you, at least in some cases. Just like kids need their own space as they get older, they also need their own space to some degree online, and trust is important between parent and child. At the same time, though, if you found a letter from a total stranger for your child in the mailbox, you’d probably want to know what’s happening. Email is much the same way. For official functions like school contact, kids should give your email.

Control Access

Unfortunately, even the smartest kids can make mistakes, or get fooled, just like their parents. So it’s also worth controlling what kids can click and otherwise access with parental control apps. These can be installed on any platform kids use and can control everything from the times the devices is available to the websites that device can access. Parental control apps can even prevent apps from being installed or used, which can be particularly handy with messaging apps where phishers lurk. Similarly, if you can afford it, you can have platforms strictly for the kids, with any sensitive information kept well-separate.

To some degree, we’re always going to be nervous about letting our kids on the internet. But with education and software, we can ensure it’s safe to be on. Screen Time is a good place to start. Learn more about it here.

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How to Keep Your Child Safe Online at Friends’ Homes

by Anna Hughes on May 30, 2018
When in your home, the rules are the rules, your iPhone's parental settings are ready, no arguments required. But kids don't spend every single day inside the house, and as sleepovers and other social events start gathering on the calendar, you might be concerned that your kids aren't following your rules. Here's how to ensure that when kids jump in the car to go to a friend's house, whether to study or to sleep over, the rules come with them.
Three teen girls lying down using their phones.

When they travel, make sure the rules come with them.

Get Everyone On The Same Page

To start with, you should discuss with your fellow parents what their rules are, especially around screen time. You might be surprised to discover that in fact the rules elsewhere are much more strict; in some cases, the tablet might need to stay at home. You should also ask if they use specific parental control software on their devices, or lean more toward using device settings, such as the iPhone parental controls. You might want to email over the necessary passwords, if doing homework and other tasks are on the table. But regardless, you should know the rules around screen time and make sure your kids understand them. They are guests, after all. You should also make it clear that just because they’re out of the house and under a new set of rules doesn’t mean they’re off the hook.

You should also discuss other points that are tied to technology, but aren’t software adjacent. For example, if you don’t allow your kids to play certain kinds of video games, have explicitly banned them from certain apps, or have parental control settings on your Netflix account that other parents don’t, that’s a good conversation to have.

Two teen boys playing video games.

Every sibling should have the same rules, even if they leave the house.

Set The Schedule

Once the rules are in place, you can set expectations and reconfigure parental control software to fit them. If, for example, your kids are working on a group project for homework that might take them past the usual amount of time you have allotted for homework, you can free up extra time in the app to let them get their work done. Also be sure to have your phone handy, if you’re using software that had a remote unlock.

Beyond that, keep a schedule locked into their devices, not just to enforce the rules, but also to encourage them to do things like talk to their friends. Be a little flexible here; if kids want to watch a movie together after bedtime, and it’s OK with you and the other parents, then go for it. Just be clear this is an exception, not a new rule.

Keep The Software Running

Finally, a good way to keep the rules in place is to have your software running. The reality is even good kids can egg each other on, and sleepovers are a moment where boundaries can be pushed, or at least kids will try. Parental control software on devices is a useful tool to trust, but verify, so that kids don’t try to access things you’d rather they not see.

If you need to have some parental controls in place before the first sleepover, sign up for Screen Time – it’s free!

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How to Keep Your Child Safe Online

by Anna Hughes on May 16, 2018
The internet is many things: A vast resource of human knowledge, a uniquely powerful communication tool that can expose us to cultures and beliefs around the world, a new frontier of commerce and research. And it can also be a complete cesspool rife with dangers. Since you can't keep your kids entirely away from the internet, how can you protect them from the worst of it?
Parental control software

The internet can be dangerous, if you allow it to.

Educate Them

First and foremost, teach them lessons about being safe online, whether to protect them against viruses or teach them how people try to manipulate them. Even kids in the most tightly curated internet monitored by the best parental control software need to learn how to spot and block abusive behavior from others. Sometimes this will involve awkward discussions, but better to be a little uncomfortable now than scared later, for both of you.

Talk To Them

Parental control apps like time limiters are incredibly useful, but they’re only half the picture. Kids often want to talk, especially if something has scared them online or made them uncomfortable, but they may not have an opening to do so. Or they may not realize what’s happening. Talking to your kids about where they’re going online and what they’re doing can be an invaluable way to keep tabs on what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.

Parental control software

Keep the internet a happy place.

Place Time Limits

Much like the best way to avoid crashing your car is to limit how often you drive it, limiting how much time kids spend on the internet is a good way to limit their risk. You should sit them down and work out a schedule and limits on where they can go on the internet. For example, an hour or two can be set aside for homework, with some strict limits on what sites they can go to, enforced with parental control software. Certain times, like bedtime, meals, and family time, should have the internet off-limits altogether. And leisure time shouldn’t be limited to the internet. One way to get a handle on-screen time is to make internet time a reward for completing chores or other tasks around the house.

Block Certain Apps

There are plenty of ways to excise certain apps from your life. Setting up separate profiles on your devices, downloading only kid-friendly versions of certain apps like YouTube, and password protecting certain features like in-app purchases, can work wonders not just for limiting screen time, but for protecting your kids in other ways. Also, make a point of adding apps on a case-by-case basis; if kids want a new game, make a rule they have to delete an old one, for example.

Enforce Standards

Finally, set standards and rules kids have to abide by, and if they don’t, have consequences in place. Consider that the most effective way to get kids to pay attention to rules is to control their “currency.” If breaking the rules means a favorite app gets deleted, or they lose screen time for a week, it’ll help keep the rules in place when all else fails.

Parental control software can help parents keep internet usage to healthy levels. To learn more, try it for free!

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How to Keep Your Child from Downloading Apps

by Anna Hughes on May 9, 2018
A virus can ruin your devices, invade your bank accounts or credit cards, and otherwise make your life miserable, and it often gets into our lives via apps. Adults used to the internet know better than to download viruses most of the time. But kids may not be fully aware of the risks of downloading sketchy software, or they might be tricked into it by a “friend.” Even legitimate apps aren't safe, as in-app purchases rack up massive bills for parents if they're not careful. So how do you stop your kids from downloading apps?
Parental control software

Apps can be great, but only if you and your kids are careful.

Education First

To start with, take the time to educate them about viruses and how they invade, and how the “Skinner boxes” of mobile games function. The truth is that the vast majority of viruses out there, just like most computer crime, are not propagated by master hackers. The signs of a would-be hacker are easy to spot. Apps with poorly translated descriptions, apps that are flagrant knock-offs of more popular apps, apps promising that you’ll get something for nothing, apps that help you cheat at other games, and apps that claim they help you get around parental control software are all examples of apps that can get your kids in trouble, so educate them about what apps are worth paying attention to, which emails to click and not click, and why they should never trust a link from anybody without verifying it first.

Similarly, explain the psychological tricks behind in-app purchases and teach kids to spot the signs they’re being exploited. Once they understand how it works, they’re more resistant.

Lock Off Downloading

It’s simple to shut off app downloading. In Google Play, simply open the menu in the upper left-hand corner, select “Settings,” then “User Controls,” and then set it so that to download an app, the user must enter a password. For iPhone parental controls, go into the Settings app, then General, then Restrictions, and then configure each app how you’d prefer it to function and enter a passcode. Make sure that passcode is something you’ll remember because if you can’t retrieve it, you’ll have to wipe your entire device and start over!

If you’d like more detailed control, or to limit more than just app downloads, look into parental control software that can lock devices at preset times and help you enforce punishments or agreed-upon restrictions. Trust, but verify, after all.

Parental control software

Have fun, and be safe, with smartphones.

Set And Enforce Standards

Once you’ve got Android or iPhone parental controls set, once the kids are taught, and once the parental control software is in place, make it clear what you expect of your kids and what they can expect if they try to get around the rules. Make it clear what they have to do to have an app downloaded, discuss how you’ve configured the device and why, and what they can expect if they break the rules. Also, if you refuse to download an app, explain why and make sure they understand.

We can’t protect our kids from absolutely everything. But we can ensure their time on the internet and using apps is healthy and smart. To learn more about making the internet and the app ecosystem positive for kids, sign up for Screen Time.

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How to Block Apps on Your Child’s Android

by Anna Hughes on May 3, 2018
Keeping malicious apps off your child's phone, or in some cases, keeping them from using certain apps, can feel like an intimidating task. But with Android, you can use a mix of the phone's features and parental control apps to control screen time and keep kids away from certain apps. Here's how to run a tight ship with an Android phone.
Parental control apps

You can put a digital lock on much of the internet.

Install And Set Up Parental Control Apps

Fortunately, Google makes this easy right off the bat. With a new phone or tablet, or even a current one, open the Google Play Store app. Open the main menu, which you can do by tapping the four-line icon in the upper left-hand corner. Select “Settings,” then “Parental Controls,” create a PIN if you don’t already have one, and then you can set the standards. This is tied entirely to industry ratings: For example, you can limit movie streaming through Google to G, PG, PG-13, R, or even NC-17. Keep in mind that this is only for Google and won’t impact other apps like Netflix, Chrome, or YouTube.

You can, and should, install separate parental control apps. Screen Time for example offers more granular control, such as locking off the tablet during certain times, blocking certain apps at certain times or just outright blocking these apps in the first place, blocking certain websites or classes of site, and other controls that are handy for parents. Whats more, with the Screen Time app,  parents receive a notification each time their child tries to download an app, so they can give the go ahead (or not) first.

Create A Profile On A “Family” Tablet

Another tactic is to create separate profiles on a “family” tablet, and have one or two tablets for the household, instead of one for everybody. Unfortunately, Android doesn’t apply this to phones yet, but it is useful for tablets and other at-home devices. A restricted profile lets you block certain apps and services right off the bat, everything from chat apps you don’t trust to games that want you to keep shoveling money into their till. If you regularly loan out your tablet, or you want just one tablet for the whole family to keep your eye on what kids are doing, it’s a useful tool. And limiting the number of tablets also limits the amount of screen time kids rack up.

Parental control apps

Put limits on the tablets.

Download Kids-Only Apps

Many app companies, well aware of parental concerns, offer kids’ version of their apps or more restrictive controls inside their apps. YouTube, for example, has YouTube kids, which keeps the more complicated and/or raunchy stuff away from kids using YouTube’s content rating system. Netflix has a similar system to Google Play, in that you can either keep kids to the kids’ profile, or set up account-level controls that demand a PIN for content above a certain maturity level. If an app doesn’t have a kid-friendly function, and you’re worried about it, just use your parental control apps to block it entirely.

The world of technology can be intimidating for parents, especially as tablets and phones are designed to be as simple to use as possible, so children can pick them up and start using them right away. But with the right controls put into place, and with the right software, you can fence off certain parts of the internet until your kids are old enough to understand them. Need help keeping an eye on your kids when they’re online? Sign up for Screen Time!

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Nail Screen Free Week with the Family Screen Time Pact

by Anna Hughes on April 30, 2018
Screen Free Week is great in theory, but asking kids to switch off their devices can be painful. Enter, the Family Screen Time Pact!

The Family Screen Time Pact

“But why?” – sound familiar? It’s great to have inquisitive kids, but those two words must pass our younglings lips more than any other.

We get constant feedback from parents about how beneficial the screen time app has been to their children and family as a whole. These compliments often come with: “After the initial arguments”.

So we are here to help. We have developed a fun way to help you, the parent, introduce Screen Time to the family. It comes in the form of ‘Our Family Screen Time Pact’ – a simple contract between parent and child on the use of mobile devices to help your children understand that small but complicated word – Why?

But be warned, it’s a two way street, what you ask your kids to do, you too need to adhere to.

It’s designed to be printed and stuck to the fridge, this way it will stay present as a reminder to all, during Screen Free Week and beyond. We’ll leave the penalty for breaking the pact up to you… and your kids!

Download the Family Screen Time Pact!


Or if you want to give Screen Time, Try it for FREE! 

Screen Free Week runs from April 30 to May 6 2018. Find out more here


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How to Keep Your Child’s Online Data Secure

by Anna Hughes on April 25, 2018
Identity theft is one of the most common problems many of us will face. It can range from somebody swiping a few pictures and pretending to be us on social media to taking out credit cards in our names and leaving us to deal with the fallout. And more and more, it's kids who are on the receiving end of would-be identity thieves. So how do we protect our kids when they're online?
Screen time

You love your kids, so protect them from identity thieves.


Once you understand how the vast majority of identity thieves operate, it becomes clear how important education is. Identity thieves are not brilliant hackers, as a rule; instead, they’re the digital equivalent of somebody who finds the spare key under the doormat and robs your house while you’re out. Simple digital self-defense, like never clicking on a link from somebody you don’t trust, and not sharing personal information with people you don’t know in real life, will stymie the vast majority of wannabe cyber-crooks. So walk your kids through how to protect themselves online.


You should regularly talk to your kids about where they go online, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with. Beyond just taking an interest in their lives, often you can help them spot the early warning signs of someone trying to get at their personal information. They also might be worried about the behavior of somebody they’ve met online, but aren’t sure how to find an opening to talk to you about it. And when major stories about identity theft or data breaches pop up in the news, that’s a great opportunity to talk to your kids about what happened and how to stop it.

Screen time

Kids live life online these days, but they need to know how to stop would-be thieves.


Another tactic is to simply take kid-hostile websites out of the equation with parental control apps. If you’re not satisfied with the privacy policy of some websites your children want to go to, or if you simply don’t trust them, then you can just block them and have done with it. The same is true of questionable online “friends” and even chat apps and other potentially risky apps in general. If you’re not happy with it, just install the software on any device they use to access the internet and that’ll be the end of it.


Finally, it makes sense, especially if your kids are dealing with somebody potentially abusing their trust, to just limit screen time altogether. Much like the number of miles driven in a car raises your risk of being in an accident, the amount of time you spend online exposes you to more risk of being scammed. So, have a screen time schedule, not just for the kids, but for the whole family. Modeling good behavior not only makes the rules easier for kids to follow, it’s also good for all of us to step away from crushing candies now and again.

Sitting down your kids and discussing internet safety is always a good idea, but even the smartest kid can be tricked if you’re not careful. To learn more about parental control apps, sign up for Screen Time.

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