What the kids say about Screen Time

by Anna Hughes on February 15, 2018
It may come as no surprise that kids aren’t our biggest fans.

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

And who can blame them? If it weren’t for Screen Time, their parents wouldn’t be able to set daily screen time limits; instantly pause their devices remotely, or set schedules to ensure they’re unplugged when they’re supposed to be.

One day our children will realise how awesome their parents are for using Screen Time to guide them towards a healthy online/offline balance. Because no one wants their entire childhood to be remembered as one long game of Minecraft. (Do they?)

Until then, the kid’s reviews of Screen Time will continue to appear. And they ain’t pretty. But some are too good not to share.

Here’s one of our favorites:

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How to Limit Time on the iPad

by Anna Hughes on February 14, 2018
How much time on the iPad is too much time? This is the fundamental question when it comes to parental control of iPad and other tablets. And just how much is too much can vary from family to family, but there are some solid rules about when the tablet should be put away any family should have in place.
Parental control

How much tablet time is too much?

“Hard” Times

“Hard” in this case refers to times that kids shouldn’t be on tablets, like bedtime, meal times, school, and other scheduled times where they need to focus on what’s happening or simply need to not look at the screen. These can be a bit flexible, of course; if kids are up late and don’t have anything else to do, you should have the discretion to let them play a game or read a book. But once they’re tucked in, the tablet should be firmly under parental control, either out of the room or locked down.

Work Times

There are other situations where tablet use is appropriate, but only in certain ways. For example, kids might need tablets when they get home from school to research book reports, to use as calculators for complex math and science tasks, or other homework-related chores. It’s OK to loosen up the parental control a little bit for these tasks. Just be sure to sit down with your kids before the school year starts and lay out what the rules are and what the consequences will be. You might also consider setting a specific control for “homework” time that only allows certain sites or apps to be allowed, or to have a tablet that’s solely for homework, with no apps other than ones that get tasks done.

Parental control

Play is a good thing, but there’s always too much of a good thing to consider.

Free Time

Then there is, of course, free time, which kids are free to spend as they want. Here is where you can really loosen up, as long as they understand that free times doesn’t sprawl over into work or bed. Here, the best guide is to be a role model. If you’re spending your free time staring at a TV or playing with your own tablet, then they’re likely to imitate. But if you do other things with your free time, that’ll help kids understand that just because they have a tablet doesn’t mean they have to use it all the time.

Setting Schedules

Once you know what all these times are, sit down with your kids and write out a schedule. Put it down and talk about why these rules are in place. Make sure they understand the rules, both the why and how, and establish some consequences for breaking the rules. For example, if they throw a fit about a game or refuse to stop playing it, they should understand that deleting it off the tablet for good is on the table.

Be sure to revisit these schedules regularly, especially when their schedules shift, like over the summer. If kids understand that they’ve got a say, they’re more likely to go along. Need help instituting parental control? Screen Time Labs can help. Try it for free!

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Kids’ Mobile Device Use Worldwide: How Do Yours Compare?

by Anna Hughes on February 7, 2018
References are often made in the media about whether the US is “lagging” or “further ahead” of Europe or Japan or another nation. And if you look at the raw numbers, it can feel a bit surprising; the older an American child is, and the more affluent they are, the more likely they are to own a smartphone. But is that a bad thing? And is that really the whole story?

Screentime

Culture Matters

The first point that needs to be considered is that every culture has different approaches to smartphones and other devices. For example, in Italy and the UK, according to one survey, kids were expected to shut off their phones and didn’t use them in school. In Denmark, schools made use of smartphones extensively. But the US is well behind South Korea, a nation where most children have a smartphone by the end of grade school.

It’s important to look at the different cultures and expectations, here. Asia is a good example: Singaporean children often get their homework assignments via app, for example, and often classes use educational software on phones to enhance lessons, such as working out complex equations and helping students understand how they function, or to teach calligraphy without wasting paper. But the American educational system, as any parent who’s had to look up Common Core and how it works knows, is very different in its approach.

There’s also the question of “addiction,” although we should be careful about using such a loaded term to describe behavior. Kids have less self-control, and as a result, there’s one thing universally agreed on, by parents, teachers, and device manufacturers alike: Parents need to set boundaries, and parental control apps can help parents enforce those boundaries fairly and consistently.

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Family Matters

Just how much screen time is too much screen time depends on both what your children are using the screen for. Research for homework and checking notes for assignments can’t really be classified as part of “smartphone addiction,” after all. And many parents see phones not as toys but as lifelines; busy kids especially need to be able to call for a ride or for help. Clearly, parental control apps can’t interfere with legitimate smartphone uses.

The first question to ask starts with the rest of the family. Parents need to lead by example; if you’re playing games and goofing off on screens all day, kids take note of that and will follow your lead. They’ll also likely angrily point out the “do as I say, not as I do” nature of banning phones for them while you indulge.

The second question is the hard boundaries. These are moments like bedtime, school hours where a phone isn’t necessary, and other blocks of time where the phone isn’t needed. These should be imposed clearly and everyone should understand why these rules are in place. Again, the right parental control app can be an excellent backstop for keeping boundaries in place and consistent.

Finally, you should deal with the grey areas, like using phones to help with homework or reading times where kids use a screen instead of a paper book. Talk about these grey areas and set clear, fair standards as well as consequences for trying to sneak in a few rounds of Candy Crush. And if you need help setting boundaries, learn more about Screen Time. Screen Time Labs understands that parental control apps, used by caring, conscientious parents, can help keep phones useful and fun, without allowing devices to take over too much of kids’ lives.

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Parental Control Software Advice When Your Child Loses Their Phone

by Anna Hughes on January 31, 2018
“Mom, where's my phone?” might be the most chilling words a parent hears in a given week. It means overturned couch cushions, retracing steps, and probably a few tears over the lost phone, and then definitely an absolute flood of tears over the consequences of losing it. It's enough to make you forget that technology in many ways makes parenting easier. So, when a phone vanishes, what should you do? Can parental control software help out?
Parental control software

Sometimes a phone is gone for good.

Confirm It’s Completely Gone

The first step is to confirm it’s completely gone. All bags should be checked, all homes should be called, all steps should be retraced. Often, as parents quickly learn, what’s thought vanished forever has just taken a short reprieve inside the couch cushions. But sometimes it really is lost, or temporarily vanishes in such a way that it’s not coming back, such as a visit to the inside of the tub.

Remotely Wipe It

With any lost piece of electronics, but especially phones and tablets, you’ll want to use a remote access app to wipe the device completely. This will ideally delete all apps, all passwords, all personal information, all contacts, and any usage history from the device, but you should check with both your service provider and the device’s manufacturer to see what gets cleared out and what doesn’t. Even if it’s not complete, though, a wipe will ensure privacy and safety. And remember, in the case of phones, to disconnect or transfer the number as appropriate.

Change Passwords

Also, make a point of changing all the passwords connected to the phone. Ideally, you’ve limited these to a few things, like a streaming video account, that won’t be a big deal if they’re temporarily breached. But if there are credit cards connected, you may want to place alerts on those and change your password access to them via the internet as well, just to be safe.

Parental control software

RIP iPhone. Now do you get your child a new one?

Discuss Consequences

The next step won’t be fun, but it will be necessary. Simply put, there needs to be some sort of consequences of losing the device. It can, of course, depend on the situation; if their phone was in their bag when it was stolen, or if it got knocked out of their hand by accident, there’s not much they can do. But in situations where it was carelessness or frivolousness that means a lost device, then there has to be both serious talk about whether or not they get a replacement device and, if they do thanks to school or homework needs, what the rules will be around that device to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Delay Replacement, If Needed

Consider a “cooling-off” period before you replace a device, as well. Often kids will need a little time away from their devices to fully understand the magnitude of what a lost device means. Once it’s been gone for a while, they will better appreciate it and value it, and hopefully not lose it again.

Place Limits

Finally, make a point of placing limits on device use, apps, and what hours they can and can’t use it. Even something as simple as an app locking off the device until after school hours and before bedtime can be useful for teaching kids about keeping devices in their pockets and bags, where they can easily be found. If you need help setting limits, parental control software may be the right tool for you. Best of all, you can try one for free!

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Can Parental Control Apps Keep Device Use from Harming Your Child’s Posture?

by Anna Hughes on January 24, 2018
Mobile devices mean that you don’t have to be tied to a desk to play games or connect to the internet, and neither do your kids. In fact, more and more kids are spending some portion of their day using mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and handheld games. But if you notice that your child is hunching over their device, you may start to wonder what all of these mobile devices are doing to your child’s posture. The good news is, parental control apps can help.
Parental control apps

When children use mobile devices, they often gravitate toward positions that are bad for their backs.

What are Mobile Devices Doing to Your Child’s Back?

When your child tilts their head forward because they’re bent over a phone or tablet, the angle of the head puts additional strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck. They also tend to round their shoulders forward, which creates additional wear on the back and the upper part of the spine.

When children spend an extended amount of time in these positions, they can start to experience pain. Researchers have noted that doctors are seeing an increase in children coming in for treatments for back and neck pain, and that increase seems to correlate with the increase in mobile device use. What’s more, poor posture tends to breed more poor posture. In other words, if your child is slouching or hunching over a device, they may also be doing it when they’re sitting in class or at the dinner table. Poor posture can quickly become a habit.

What Are The Long-Term Effects?

When children develop a bad posture habit, the effects can be long-lasting. Back and neck pain is only one aspect of the problem. Poor posture can also cause the spinal cord to change shape, which can create chronic pain and affect balance.

Poor posture also has an effect on the rest of the body. Sitting for extended periods of time with poor posture compresses the digestive organs, which has a negative effect on the digestive system. Bad posture is also associated with varicose veins and an elevated risk of heart disease.

What Can You Do?

Parental control apps

Making some changes to the way your child uses their mobile devices can help decrease their risk of developing poor posture and the problems that go along with it. Avoid allowing your child to use their tablet or phone on the bed or while laying on the couch. Instead, have them sit up straight. Invest in a holder for the device that allows your child to use it without hunching over. Be a good example and model the behaviors you want to see in your children.

Teach your kids to stop and stretch their arms above their heads regularly. This can help them reset their posture. Encourage your child to take frequent exercise breaks away from the digital devices as well. Breaking up the amount of time your child spends on their device will help prevent extended periods of slouching or hunching. Parental control apps can be ideal for this.

Parental control apps can help by allowing you to schedule alerts and time limits to remind your child to stretch or take a break from their device. To find out how parental control software can work for your family, try it for free.

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Confused About Guidelines for Parental Control Over Screen Time? Start Here.

by Anna Hughes on January 17, 2018
How much screen time is enough for kids? One article insists they're more dangerous than playing in the street, while another will tell you it's no big deal. Parents have enough problems without figuring this out, so we've put together some common-sense guidelines to help parents decide when a screen's been on long enough and what parental control measures are appropriate.

Parental control

Use The Limits Already Built In

It starts with the limits you have already built in. Your kids likely already have some form of schedule; they go to school, they do their homework, they have dinner, have some leisure time before bed, and then off to bed they go. That’s usually the best place to start, as you’re working from already established limits. You’re likely already enforcing a policy of no screens after bedtime and using computers only for research during homework, so that gives you a place to start.

Set Standards

One of the most effective ways to make rules is to involve everyone in the rulemaking and explain why certain rules are the way they are. It also offers a framework for you and your family to work in to shift the rules as needed. If, for example, your kids need to bring their tablet to school for a project, leave room to allow that while making clear it can only be used for school, and there will be consequences if your leniency is abused.

Set Punishments

Even the best kids break rules, but before they do, they should understand the stakes. Make a point of setting clear, fair punishments, so kids understand exactly what they’re getting into if they get caught.

Allow Appeals

There are going to be moments where kids ask for more screen time. They may be snowed in, they may be sick, it may be a long vacation and you’ve gotten through every other craft project and destination you’ve wanted to visit. In these situations, it’s OK to give them a little more screen time, while making clear this is a special exception, not the new normal.

Parental control

Sometimes, screens are useful.

Rules Should Go Beyond Time

Anybody who has been forced to turn off a game console or shut off a TV show knows that kids get very, very upset when their favorite thing is taken from them. And in some cases, kids can overreact so much, or begin misbehaving in order to get more time with a game or show, that you’re going to be forced to step in. Or, hey, sometimes it’s just for your own sanity; there’s only so many times you can hear a TV theme song without starting to root against the heroes just a little bit. So create rules for parental controls that respect your need for sanity and limit overindulgence.

Be A Role Model

Kids often learn good or bad habits from their parents, which is probably pressure enough. But it underscores the importance of good behavior on your end. Rules should apply to the family, at least between wake-up and bedtime, and if we want our kids to stay off screens, we all need to lead by example. Even if it’s not a real problem, it’s not going to kill any of us to play fewer games on our phones.

Need help enforcing your family rule? Sign up for Screen Time.

 

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Should You Relax Screen Time Parental Controls When Kids Are Sick?

by Anna Hughes on January 10, 2018
What rules go out the window when kids are sick? Every parent has to decide for themselves what being sick means for kids and the house rules. Sometimes you just need to be a bit more lenient when you've got a lot to do. But even when kids are sick, you need to be careful about screen usage. Screen time parental controls don't have to go out the window when your child is sick.

Parental controls

Keeping Sanity

Nobody should dub you a bad parent because you can’t read Chicken Soup With Rice to your kids for five hours straight. You’ve probably got no end of things to do, both to treat your kids’ illness and to do around the house. You can’t help your kids if you’re going bonkers.

So, at points where you’re out of options, or just simply they don’t have the energy to do anything else, it’s OK to turn on the TV or to give them the tablet and let them know you’ll just be in the next room. Sometimes they don’t have the energy, or you simply need them out of the way while cooking dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, or dealing with other household concerns. That’s not at issue. It’s simply a question of setting the right standards and enforcing certain rules.

The Rules Are Relaxed, Not Gone

Start by pointing out this is a special occasion, and this isn’t going to be the new normal. Then make it clear that you’re not going to let them stare at the screen all day, no matter how sick they are. Especially if you’ve got the time to do other activities, you should sit with them and pick out some activities.

This can be pretty much anything. You can read to them, or do simple crafting projects that occupy their time and take their minds off being sick. And, of course, if they begin drifting off or don’t have the energy to do anything else, you can put them to bed.

And there are some rules that simply aren’t negotiable. Bedtime is a good example, and it’ll probably be shifted earlier simply because getting enough sleep is the best sick fighter. Similarly, if you have rules about how long TV can be watched or video games can be played, those should still be in place. They should switch off from screens on a regular basis anyway if only to give themselves a break. Even with sick kids, the benefits of time limits on device use still apply.

Parental controls

Similarly, if the new rules are broken, some punishments should still apply. Especially if kids are sick, they need to abide by rules about rest, they need to take their medicine no matter how nasty it tastes, and generally need to behave properly, within reason. There are some rules in the home that stand no matter how sick you get.

Nobody enjoys being sick, and it can be a challenge with an adult, let alone a child. But, with properly enforced screen time parental controls, relaxing rules where you need to, and working together, you and your children can get through any sick day. To see how Screen Time can help settle bedtime and homework issues, sick or not, try it for free!

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Screen Time Parental Controls When You’re Stuck Indoors

by Anna Hughes on January 3, 2018
Every winter, from the first chills of November to the freezing doldrums of February, parents ask the same question: How to keep cooped up kids engaged and not bored, especially if you want to keep the same general screen time parental controls? If you're looking at the weather report and cringing, here are a few ways to keep boredom at bay.

Parental controls

Cook A Family Meal

One of the advantages of snow days is that they offer families a chance to sit down with each other and enjoy a big, hearty meal. Pick out a recipe and a meal a few days in advance if you know the snow is going to fly, and then team up with your kids to cook a big delicious meal for the whole family to sit down and enjoy. It can be a family favorite, a new recipe you (or your more culinary-minded kids) have always wanted to try, or a meal handed down from parent to parent you’ve wanted to teach your kids.

Start Crafting

Another useful way to get kids busy and engaged is to have them craft. Give your kids a big canvas to work with; perhaps they could decorate the kitchen for you, or maybe they want to build grandma an elaborate poster. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to craft, or maybe there’s a holiday like Valentine’s Day coming up. Crafting is a good way to keep idle hands busy and do something constructive with that energy.

Get Ahead On Chores

Yes, we know, most children do not enjoy chores. But snow days can be a good opportunity to teach kids the value of thinking ahead. If they’re inside, and they have nothing to do, sit down with their chore or homework schedule for the week, and point out that, for example, if they get these chores done now, they’ll have more time later in the week to do what they want. Or if there’s a subject they enjoy at school, encourage them to get some practice in with an instrument or read more of their assigned books. Don’t be shy about bartering, either; if your kids want to play video games, well, how about earning it by going out and shoveling some snow?

Parental controls

Sometimes you have to stay indoors.

Snow Day Book Club

Another fun thing to do if it’s too cold to go out is to have family book club land on a snow day. Sharing books can be a fun thing for families to do on their own, and on a snowy day when there’s not much to do, there’s nothing like a good book to suck you in and make your day much more interesting. This can be especially handy when kids have to read a book for school and may be struggling with it; you can read along with them and have them talk through what they’re thinking and why the school assigned the book.

Go Outside (For A Little Bit)

Finally, especially if there’s still some pent-up energy, consider going outside for a few minutes. This can be as simple as a quick walking errand to a local store or even taking a brisk walk outside for a few minutes. If nothing else, it can underscore how grateful we all should be for being bored indoors. Maintain most of your screen time parental controls and boundaries, but know when it’s OK to relax them.

Need help to manage video game, texting, and screen use in your family, on snowy days or any day? Learn more about Screen Time.

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Managing Kids’ Back-to-School Transition After the Winter Holidays

by Anna Hughes on December 27, 2017
Isn't winter break relaxing? For your kids, we mean. You've likely been running hither and yon, setting up holidays, buying gifts, and generally more rushed than usual. Some families, because it's the holidays and the kids have more free time, have relaxed the rules a bit for screens. So what happens when winter break ends and the kids are getting back on the school bus? How do you return to your normal rules?
Parental controls

Don’t let the first day back feel intimidating.

Start Before The Holidays

The first thing to do is set expectations. As we all know a little too well, kids tend to construe even minor changes, especially changes they prefer, as the status quo. If you take some time, before you loosen the restrictions up, to explain that this isn’t going to be how it is going forward, and why, there will be fewer tears and fewer arguments.

Maintain Some Rules

While we might treat our screen time like our diet over the holidays, it is important to maintain some rules. Older kids especially will likely have homework over the break, so sit down with their lesson plans and work out set amounts of time during the day when the screens are off and the books are open. You may also want to set some expectations around chores and housework, to “fill in” what would normally be homework time, because you’ll need the help.

Parental controls

Kids will enjoy the first day back if they’ve got the right structure.

Extra Screen Time Is A Privilege

Another point to consider is that this is a privilege, and taking away some or all screen time is definitely on the table. Especially if kids misbehave, it’s important to get your point across. So make it clear that this is something that’s up to your discretion, and if they break the rules, they’ll have to deal with the consequences.

Start The Week Before

One way to make it easier on everybody is instead of an abrupt change, to ease your kids back into their school routines. Don’t do this with just screens, of course. Do it with sleep schedules, meal times, chores, and other aspects of family life that you need to get back on track. It’s not only good for them, it’s good for you; not having to suddenly rush everybody when the first school day comes will be a lot less stressful and a lot more fun for everybody.

Have Plenty To Do

Another way to keep screens from becoming a problem over the holidays is to have more stuff for kids to do. Especially with free time in the winter, make room to do things like play outside, explore the outdoors, go to movies and events, head to museums you’ve wanted to go to, and to otherwise enjoy and explore where you live with your family. Inside the house, make a point of family time. Make Christmas cards, have family game night, watch movies together, and do all the things you want to do during the year but may not always have time to during the week.

As you can see, screens don’t have to be one problem after another. By thinking ahead, setting standards and rules, and sticking to them, your kids will get back into their normal routines with ease. Need help with tablets and phones? Sign up for Screen Time.

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Top Tips for limiting your kids’ screen time this festive season

by Anna Hughes on December 26, 2017
Today, Stephanie from Expert Home Tips is here to share some of the best ways to reduce screen time over the festive period.

Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba

During the 2017 Summer Holidays, Groupon predicted that the average child would watch around 60 movies and play 150 hours of video games. This may sound like a lot, but with children ages 5-16 spending an average of 6.5hrs a day in front of a screen, it’s easy to see how it would all add up.

 It may be too late to change the fate of Summer 2017, but the fate of the Christmas Holidays is still in our hands – we’ve heard Santa wants them to be as screen-free as possible!

Christmas may not seem the time to start bringing in new rules and limitations. However, the many distractions in the form of visitors, events and activities make it easy to slowly and subtly implement screen restrictions without causing too much bother.

Fancy giving it a go?Here are 5 easy ways you can reduce screen time this Christmas, festive season, and beyond!

  • Get a screen time monitoring app

Kids have a LOT of free time during the Christmas Holidays, and it’s perfectly ok for them to spend some time on screens. The important thing is to prevent minutes from slipping into hours…and hours…and hours on end.

Whilst the kids may have little to do, us parents sure have a lot – screen time monitoring isn’t exactly top priority when there’s pigs in blankets to prepare. That’s where a screen time app comes in. Screen Time Labs provides an easy, customisable and versatile solution, allowing you to limit and monitor how much time your little ones are spending online each day.

  • Get the kids involved in festive activities

We get it – it’s often much easier (and quicker) to get the Christmas Lunch prep done alone. This year, however, we challenge you to allow the kids to get involved too. They’ll be so engrossed in being your little chef, they won’t give their iPad a second thought!

  • Swap one screen for another

There’s something so antisocial about tablets and phones. TV, however, can actually be a lovely way bring people together, especially over Christmas when all you want to do is snuggle up.

With a whole array of Christmas films shown over the holidays, there’s no real reason for anyone to be locking themselves away to play on Angry Bird. Swap these antisocial screens and allocate screen time for family movie nights instead.

  • Change the Wi-Fi code

If you want to get serious about screen time, why not change the Wi-Fi code this Christmas? Making it a strictly no-internet time of year can be both fun and surprisingly revelatory for the whole family.

  • Play with your kids

It may sound obvious, but playing with your kids is one of the easiest ways to limit their screen time. Interaction is an excellent substitute for the over-stimulation screens provide, and also helps reassure them their reduced screen time isn’t a punishment – instead of being left alone to amuse themselves, with their beloved games taken away from them, you’re rewarding them with extra Mummy and Daddy time.

For more ways to reduce screen time, visit experthometips.com

Follow Expert Home Tips on Twitter: @experthometips

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