What ports does Screen Time use?

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on March 3, 2017
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Debbie’s Story – Encourage creativity and set limits

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on September 20, 2016
We recently caught up with single mom Debbie and chatted to her about how Screen Time helped her daughter spend less time on her device, saves Debbie’s time and reduces her stress levels. Whether she’s offline or online Debbie’s daughter likes to be creative. She makes mandalas, bracelets and other crafty things by herself and with her mom. When she’s on her device she creates and films stories that she puts up on YouTube and builds vast worlds on Minecraft.

We recently caught up with single mom Debbie and chatted to her about how Screen Time helped her daughter spend less time on her device, saves Debbie’s time and reduces her stress levels.

Creativity offline and online

Whether she’s offline or online Debbie’s daughter likes to be creative. She makes mandalas, bracelets and other crafty things by herself and with her mom. When she’s on her device she creates and films stories that she puts up on YouTube and builds vast worlds on Minecraft.

“There are benefits of using her device and I’m happier when I see her creating something, like the videos or Minecraft, than when she spends hour after hour watching 5 Nights at Freddy’s”

Being a single mom Debbie found it difficult to track the time her daughter was spending on her device, she would often be guess when she thought she’d spent too long it for in one day. Then it could take up to 45 minutes to get her to put down the device and sometimes turning the Wifi off was the quickest solution.

“I’ve never found one single thing as a punishment that bothers her, because her device is always with her. Go to your room. Ok. You’re grounded. Ok”

Keeping up with the kids

One of the problems Debbie had was that she felt out of her depth when talking about technology with her daughter. At Screen Time we hear this time and time again, parents hear about problems that kids can have using their devices but they’re not sure what their options are in tackling the problem and are unsure how to approach that conversation with their tech savvy kids.

Debbie is worried that there’s a lack of education for kids about the dangers of the internet and how to be responsible digital citizens. Not being very techy herself, Debbie is going to college and doing a course on technology and internet security so she can bridge the gap and discuss technology on the same level as her daughter.

To begin with, Debbie decided to just observe, so she installed Screen Time but didn’t set any limits. After a week gathering information she checked the App Totals page and was shocked to see how frequently the device was being used, on one day during the weekend there was 8 hours total spent on there.

Totals

Armed with this information she started settings limits, giving her daughter 2 hours a day to use apps, and allowing her to earn extra time through Tasks. Even though there was some resentment to start off with after 2 weeks her daughter started to accept Screen Time.

Being able to complete tasks and earn more time was a great way for her daughter to participate in the new limits and was soon offering to do more chores to get bonus time. Debbie experimented further, creating two Tasks for the same chore, if her daughter does the chore quicker she gets more time.

“I usually don’t ever pay more than a dollar for an app, but Screen TIme was really worth it.”

More time to be crafty

Since the first few weeks her Debbie has noticed her daughter has been spending less time on her device and more time on craft projects. Even though Debbie’s noticed it, she doesn’t think it’s occurred to her daughter, her habits have changed so smoothly that she doesn’t resent having less time on her device.

Managing her daughter’s device usage and getting her to disconnect to do something in the real world was a daily stressful routine for Debbie. Now her stress levels are a lot less and she’s happy that she gets to spend more time with her daughter working on their craft projects together.

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Mike’s Story – Putting the device down and getting active

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on September 15, 2016
Mike lives with his family, 2 boys (15 years and 6 years old), in Israel. Working as a system administrator means that he’s tech savvy, so when his wife told him that their son was spending too much time on the computer, his first reaction was to solve the problem himself, much like Screen Time’s own origin story.

His boy was playing Minecraft 24/7 so Mike created a script on the Ubuntu computer to shut it off at certain times. Eventually his son wanted a Windows computer to play more games and then his own smart phone.  This was when Mike realised that he needed something to help him manage his son’s screen time.

I heard about a child that played Minecraft so much the parents had to send them to boarding school where no electronics were allowed at all. I wanted to stop it before it got to that stage!

Laying the groundwork

Mike found Screen Time quickly through Google and Play Store searches and signed up for the free trial.  The results were so fast and effective that 11 days into the free trial, he subscribed for a year.

Prior to installation, Mike and his wife undertook some ground work. They talked with their boy to go through why they were installing it, what it would do, what the rules were and discussed them as a family.

They all agreed on the rules and compromised where necessary, for example, Whatsapp was to have less restrictions so he could chat with his friends. This social interaction was less worrying to Mike and his wife than hours spent on his own playing Minecraft.

House Teeter Totter

During the discussion other important points came up: what were the rules outside of Screen Time? What apps are needed for school? Should these rules apply to parents as well as kids?

I’m trying to lead by example. It’s confusing to tell your kids “don’t play with your phone during dinner” when you’re doing it.

The school week in Israel runs from Sunday to Friday and on Tuesday’s school finishes early to allow kids to take part in activities like sport, music and arts & crafts. As someone that was once heavily involved in sport (American Football), it’s important to Mike that his kids have real world experiences and take advantage of activities that are open to them outside of lessons.

Change doesn’t happen overnight

Change didn’t happen over night, Screen Time was installed and for the first few days there wasn’t much difference in his boy’s habits. After about a week though, Mike started to see that he was spending less time on his device and more on other things. Admittedly some of that time was now spent on the Nintendo Wii, but at least that was playing with his friends and not on his own.

Also more time was spent with the family, he was coming down from his room more and more, was on time for dinner and was interacting more with his parents and 6 year old brother.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though, Mike had a warning from Screen Time letting him know that his son tried to uninstall it. Once his son realised that Screen Time would block his phone entirely if he tried to uninstall, it never happened again.

The support has been great, every time I’ve messaged them they’ve been very informative and responsive.

A few weeks into using Screen Time, Mike’s son came to him and asked for a workout schedule with questions about the best way to do exercises like bicep curls, squats, etc. This show of interest was refreshing to Mike.

Mike hasn’t rested on his laurels, even though his son has shown interest in sport and is doing more real world activities, Mike believes this is the best time to strike! So he’s reduced his son’s Daily Limit even more, he gets less time on his device now and the best thing he’s hardly noticed.

Since Screen Time’s been installed the changes have been dramatic, Mike’s boy is spending more time with the family and getting involved in other activities. In his words “I’ve got my boy back”

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Aron’s Story – Getting ahead of the problem

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on June 8, 2016
We all worry what our kids are doing online and how much time they spend on their devices. Most parents are fortunate, their kids don’t have any bad experiences or, if they do, it’s not something really bad. Aron is a little different, he’s a detective that investigates crimes against against children so he’s seen more than his fair share of bad situations involving kids, their devices and the internet.

Aron sees it day in and day out, parents are not using the tools at their disposal to prevent these situations. Often no parental controls are used on kids devices and he finds that parents are worried about talking to their kids about the dangers of devices and the internet, the kids have total access and that’s what ends up getting them into trouble.

Having the hard talk

At cyber safety talks that Aron’s hosts he advises parents to have that “hard talk” with their kids, reassuring the parents that they don’t have to be super graphic but they need to explain to kids why parental controls are necessary. Even if the kids might not always agree with the parent, they will be more likely to accept the introduction of a rules and keep themselves out of danger if they understand how to be safe and why it’s important.

79% of young people learn about online safety from their parents.

With all his experience and knowledge of the challenge that kids face growing in an internet-accessible world, Aron decided to get ahead of the problem and look into parental controls for his two boys. He told us that they are good boys, he trusts them, and he’s not too worried what they’re doing on their devices but he is concerned what can come looking for and find them.

“Don’t have this talk just once, constantly reinforce why you have these rules and that it’s about their safety.”

The house rules

Before the introduction of a parental control app there were already device rules in the house. Everyone had agreed to these rules and knew exactly what they were, however Aron and his wife had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t always followed, especially when they weren’t around to monitor the boys. When they got back from work each day they had the feeling that the boys had been on their devices for hours.

Hand signs contract

He had a clear idea of what he wanted and set out looking for an app that would could block apps, monitor web browsing history and allow his kids to earn more time through chores. After reading through several descriptions of parental control apps he found that Screen Time was the only parental control app that had everything he was looking for.

Aron was confident that his boys were sensible and could look after themselves; he uses Screen Time to prevent problems rather than to fix any that were already there. Despite that aim the benefits were plain to see, his boys were doing their chores to earn more time on their devices and were spending considerably less time with their heads bent over their devices. They even started picking up the ball and heading outside to play.

Fast forward 18 months

Screen Time has been on the boys devices for about a year and half now, even though there was some grumbling to begin with they accepted Screen Time quickly and without any arguments. Since then Aron has kept the Screen Time settings largely the same apart from one instance where one of the boys came back with a bad report card, after that the Daily Limit was set to 0 mins and was only increased after there was some improvement at school.

Dinner time has improved as well, before Screen Time there was a lag between when the boys were called for dinner and when they turned up.

“If you went looking for them then 9 times out of 10 you’d find them on their devices”

Using Screen Time’s Pause feature the boys are sat at the table ready for their dinner on time with no arguments, no feet shuffling and no complaints.

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Kids vs Parents, Bank holiday challenge: Round 1

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on June 1, 2016
Last week we challenged kids and parents to put down their devices over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. Parents have been sending in their pictures, videos and stories showing how their families dealt with their time free from screens. Below we've pulled together some highlights, including those from Screen Time Labs founder Steve.

ZorbingLast week we challenged kids and parents to put down their devices over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. Parents have been sending in their pictures, videos and stories showing how their families dealt with their time free from screens. Below we’ve pulled together some highlights, including Screen Time Labs founder Steve.

The Macdonalds

Participants

  • Eairsidh 5yrs
  • Saoirse 9yrs
  • Ruaraidh 11yrs
  • Alex 44yrs
  • Caroline 44yrs

What they did instead

We’ve been exploring!  Going behind the stage at Bristol Old Vic theatre as part of their 250 anniversary celebrations (people used to eat, drink, smoke and chatter throughout the performances that were lit by candlelight when it first opened).

Inside the old rec

Inside the Bristol Old Vic

We also went on the trail of the Tudors at Sudeley Castle where Henry 8th’s last wife, Katherine Parr, lived after she survived (and only by the skin of her teeth!) her husband.

IMG_4503

Dressing up Tudor style

Richard III also owned the Castle beforehand and there was a replica of his skeleton.

IMG_4504

Richard III

We also have now become owners of a swarm of bees who have taken to one of our trees.

Challenges

Mum has found it harder than expected and trying not to disguise recreational use with ‘work’!!  11 year old definitely the grumpiest at first but is getting used to it.

The Vangasses

Participants

  • Sophie, 11yrs
  • Ben, 12yrs
  • Tom, 8yrs
  • Steve, Dad
  • Adele, Mom

What they did instead

This is our annual extended family camping get together at River Dart Country Park. We used to come here 30 years ago with another family with 4 children too. Now we’ve all grown up and have 20 kids between us, so for the last few years we’ve been going back there, now covering a respectable 10 pitches between us.

We’re back home feeling battered, bruised and a little tired after a not so relaxing, but very good fun long weekend.

Water fights in the lake

Water fights in the lake

 

Zorbing

Zorbing

A little bit scared before the high ropes

A little bit scared before the high ropes

Challenges

Steve: Had phone with me but left it in a glove box for emergencies. I did feel a bit sneaky and maybe a little hypocritical when I occasionally checked up on emails etc. But as the weekend progressed, the urge to check got less and less.

Adele: Had her phone with her for taking photos, but found it hard not to dip into Facebook every now and again.

Ben: No devices for the weekend. Tried to persuade us before we left that he only wanted it for the journey to listen to music, but from experience, this can be a very slippery slope 🙂

Sophie: No devices for the weekend. No complaints – too much going on

Tom: No devices for the weekend. No complaints – too much going on

How will you get on with our Screen Time Challenge?

Now it’s over to you! Can you and your family reduce your online activity this half-term in the Screen Time Challenge? Who will fare better – you or your kids? Send us your pics, videos or blogs about your experience via emailTwitter or Facebook, and we’ll share our favourites.

If you are yet to subscribe to our app, why not signup to a free trial and use it to help you take part in our challenge? We can’t wait to see what you do with your extra family time!

Send us your half-term pics and videos

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Natasha’s Story – The challenge of behavioural conditions

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on May 9, 2016
Apps are designed to be impulsive and habit forming. App and website developers are well aware that psychological triggers increase engagement and use of their apps, and use these tools to their advantage. Adults find it hard to resist their call, it’s even harder for most kids and damn near impossible for kids with ADHD and ODD.

 

Apps are designed to be impulsive and habit forming. App and website developers are well aware that psychological triggers increase engagement and use of their apps, and use these tools to their advantage. Adults find it hard to resist their call, it’s even harder for most kids and damn near impossible for kids with ADHD and ODD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterised by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

National Health Service

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a condition in which a child displays an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, hostile, and annoying behavior toward people in authority.

Mayo Clinic

The challenge of behavioural conditions

Natasha's pictureNatasha’s son has both ADHD and ODD. The impulsivity of ADHD means that he finds it difficult to stay off his device and ODD means that he melts down if anyone tries to take his tablet  away. It’s not just devices that cause a problem, getting him to do anything he doesn’t want, such as, brushing his teeth or finishing his homework, causes a major argument.

“ADHD and ODD kids crave stimulation that technology gives them and will do literally anything for that stimulation.”

This made life at home a grind. Every day, there were arguments and fights about acceptable content to watch and length of screen time. The problems extended out from home and into school as well.

“He’s not allowed to take his device into school.”

Natasha explained to us that the problems with mobile technology  were more of a challenge at school due to  the volume of unmonitored and accessible devices. One day, there was an incident at school when her son failed an important test, the test was on the internet and he’d spent his time surfing the web.

Finding a solution that’s right for your family

Frustrated and in need, Natasha searched for help and finally she came across parental control apps, that looked promising. Her next step was to test about six or seven different parental control apps, hopeful that she’d found a solution. However this caused more problems than it solved.

When it came time for her son to be blocked (is her son blocked or his screen time or his tablet?) she would have another meltdown or another argument on her hands. Then she found Screen Time….

Getting kids to buy into parental control

One of the ways in which Screen Time succeeded for Natasha, where other parental control apps had failed, was through the Tasks function. Because her son could use Tasks to earn more screen time on his device, it didn’t feel like such a hard NO, there was some way that he could influence the new house rules that Screen Time was enforcing. He had a say.

Available tasks

Things changed drastically within the first week. Natasha quickly realised how powerful letting him earn extra time could be.  She set up tasks with small rewards for little jobs like brushing teeth and taking medicine, then  larger rewards for accomplishments such as  doing well at school. Her son took to it enthusiastically, like a duck to water, playing it like a game and even coming up with his own ideas, asking “What (can I do that is kind?)is something kind I can do?”

“For the first time I found him reading stories to his 1 year old sister.”

Since Screen Time was introduced, home life is much calmer. Natasha has shared custody of her son, and shared behaviour, so Natasha added his other parents into Screen Time meaning that the ‘rules’ were the same whichever home he was in.  Since then there’s been no trouble getting him ready for school or getting him to bed and to sleep on time.

There’s no fighting, no arguments and no meltdowns anymore.

Steve and Google VisitSteve Vangasse from Screen Time Labs said, “This is a wonderful testimony that goes beyond our expectations of what we set out to do.  ADHD and ODD are complex conditions and yet it is perhaps the simplicity of our technology that cuts through to make it work for such kids.  We are all truly inspired by Natatsha’s story.”

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What are Android’s inbuilt parental controls?

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on April 30, 2016
User profiles are designed to allow Android devices to be shared without giving other people access to all of your accounts and information. In houses where devices are being shared between parents and children this means that mom can have a profile with her email account and banking app set up on it, and the child can have a separate profile where they can have Minecraft installed and can’t access the information or apps on mommy’s profile.

User profiles are designed to allow Android devices to be shared without giving other people access to all of your accounts and information. In houses where devices are being shared between parents and children this means that mom can have a profile with her email account and banking app set up on it, and the child can have a separate profile where they can have Minecraft installed and can’t access the information or apps on mommy’s profile.

User Profiles

Multiple user profiles only made its way into Android tablets in version 4.2.2 aka Jelly Bean but it’s been around for decades on desktop devices using Windows, so lots of parents are probably already aware of the concept. Unfortunately there isn’t a similar feature on Apple devices yet, but it sounds like it won’t be long before there is.
For quick access click on the link below to jump to the section in this article that you’re interested in or carry on reading:

Tablets vs Phones

There are some differences in how User profiles works on Phones vs Tablets. Google (the people that make Android) decided that tablets were the devices that were most likely to be shared and have multiple users, so they gave them more features and make them more secure.

I'm a tablet

Phones

On Android Lollipop Phones you have the ability to create a new profile (Android Settings >> Users) which is almost the same as the one that the first user (let’s call them the admin) is using, which makes it great for sharing with other adults. However there are some technical details that you should bear in mind if you decide to set up someone with a User profile:

  • Uninstalling an app on one account uninstalls it on all accounts.
  • Accepting new permissions for an app on one account accepts them across all accounts
  • The owner of the phone can remove a secondary account at any time
  • The owner can decide if a secondary account can make or receive calls, or send and receive text messages.
  • When you remove a secondary account, all the installed apps (just the ones that are not present on more than one account) are deleted, and all the user data is erased.

Tablets

With Android tablets things are a little bit different. When you open Android Settings >> Users and tap New User you have the choice of either creating a new User profile (same as you find on phones) or a new Restricted profile.

Android tablet profiles

So what’s this Restricted profile and how’s it different to the User profile I hear you ask. Well a Restricted Profile allows you to choose which apps you allow this new user to have access to. Google created them so that tablets could be used with families and in business environments.

Restricted profiles app list

The also have a couple of options to restrict content, but it doesn’t go as far as some of you might like, you can only choose what rating of movies the user can have access to and whether to allow unrated content. There’s no access to the Play Store so kids can’t download any new apps themselves.

content restrictions

There’s also an option that allows you to decide whether to allow Location Services for that user. Which is worth remembering later on if you’re going to install any GPS or kid locator app on that profile.

For some parents, usually of younger children, Restricted profiles work as parental controls and the features to block access to certain apps are enough for what they want to do.

The dreaded Guest profile

There is another type of profile that is available on both Tablets and Phones. The Guest profile is pretty much the same as a User profile but is intended to be used by someone who needs the device for a short time. It’s easy to remove all of the guest users info so others can’t see it. You’ll see why we call it dreaded later on  (Android could have made everyone’s lives easier by allowing parents to disable the guest).

User profiles and Screen Time

Screen Time works well with both Restricted profiles and User profiles. If you are thinking about setting up Screen Time on a shared device using either of these types of profiles then the set up is a little different to normal. We have resources to help you get set up so check out this video for Restricted profiles and this one for User profiles.

We’ll give you the bad news first

User profiles can be used for bad. Because they do a great job of keeping things separate,  kids can switch to another profile that Screen Time isn’t installed on and they won’t be tracked. For a lot of parents this isn’t a big concern as User profiles is a fairly well hidden feature, and not many kids will find out about unless they go snooping.

How do I tell if my child is using profiles?

Because Screen Time isn’t installed on other profiles on the device then any activity on those profiles won’t show up in the Screen Time App Log. So if the app log is empty or doesn’t have as much in there as you would think then that’s a good clue.

app log

Other than that you can go into the Android Settings >> Users and check to see if there are any other profiles set up there. If there’s another profile that you didn’t set up then there’s a good chance it’s being used for dark purposes.

Now for some good news

For parents that suspect their kids are using profiles to get around their Screen Time limits, there are methods that you can use to close this loophole on most devices. I say “most devices” because manufacturers tamper with how Android works to create their own version of the operating system. For example Samsung’s version of Android (called Touchwiz) is quite a bit different to the pure Android that you’ll find on Nexus devices.

Closing the loophole – Tablets

The quickest way to prevent kids from accessing any other profiles, including the guest profile, is to set up your child with a restricted profile and this prevents them from creating new profiles or using the guest profile. Easy peasy!

Check out this video to see how to set up Screen Time on restricted profiles.

A couple of small things to watch out for though.

  • You can still switch to other existing profiles from a Restricted profile so make sure that any other profiles already on the device are set up with the lock screen password. You can do this by logging into the profile, opening Android Settings >> Security >> Screen Lock.Screen lock Android
  • You can choose to allow other profiles to create either a new user profile or a new guest profile from the Android lock screen. This feature is turned off by default but it might be worth checking if your kids are getting around Screen Time and you’re not show how. You can find that settings in Android Settings >> Users and tap the 3 dots in the top right hand corner.turn off user switching
  • If your child needs to have access to a Gmail app and Google Drive app then they won’t be able to access them through the restricted profile as you don’t set up another Google account for this profile. So you’ll need to set up a normal User profile for them, in that case closing the loophole is done in the same way as you would on phones, keep reading to see how to do that.

Closing the loophole – Phones

Things get a little more difficult on Android phones because the Restricted profile option isn’t available. This makes it more difficult to close the loophole, but not by much!

Check out this video to see how to set up Screen Time on User profiles.

There are a few steps that you need to go through to prevent access to creating another user profile or guest profile.

  1. The parent should be the first user on the device, and then they need to add a second User profile for the child.
  2. The second profile can’t create another profile or create a new guest user while they are logged in, however if there’s already a guest profile on the device then they will still have access to that, unlike a restricted profile. So follow the steps in the video below to prevent your child getting access to the guest profile.
    1. While in the first profile open Android Settings >> Users and log into the guest account.User Profiles
    2. After you’re logged into the guest account swipe down from the top and tap the users icon in the top left. You’ll see all of the users on the device and there will be a button to Remove Guest, tap that.remove guest button
    3. You’ll be automatically logged out of the guest profile and back into the first profile. Now if you switch to the secondary profile on the device you’ll see that they can’t access the guest profile or create a new one.No guest profile

 

A couple of small things to watch out for though.

  • You can still switch to other existing profiles from a User profile so make sure that any other profiles already on the device are set up with the lock screen password. You can do this by logging into the profile, opening Android Settings >> Security >> Screen Lock.Screen lock Android
  • You can choose to allow other profiles to create either a new user profile or a new guest profile from the Android lock screen. This feature is turned off by default but it might be worth checking if your kids are getting around Screen Time and you’re not show how. You can find that settings in Android Settings >> Users and tap the 3 dots in the top right hand corner.turn off user switching

Unfortunately there isn’t a way to easily turn off user profiles if it’s not a feature that you would ever use, hopefully that’s something that Android will include in the future.

For now the above steps will help most parents secure their devices, however if they don’t work for you please get in touch and let us know what type of device you’re using.

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NEW FEATURE: School can start at any time!

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on April 8, 2016
When Steve was first developing the School Time feature for his kids he didn’t anticipate the demand from other countries and so a start time in the morning and end time in the afternoon/evening looked like it would work for most parents. Since then though we’ve had plenty of feedback from parents asking for more flexibility, and we’ve been listening!

One of the quirks that parents often ask us about in Screen Time, is why the School Time Blocker can only be started in the morning. To parents using Screen Time it must have seemed weird to have this limits enforced.

When Steve was first developing the School Time feature for his kids he didn’t anticipate the demand from other countries and so a start time in the morning and end time in the afternoon/evening looked like it would work for most parents. Since then though we’ve had plenty of feedback from parents asking for more flexibility, and we’ve been listening!

What’s changed?

In the School Time Blocker you can now set the Start Time to be any time in the AM or PM, the same for the End Time which can be set in the AM or PM. Hopefully this should help parents that are looking for a homework blocker or whose kid’s school starts in the afternoon.

If the end time is set before the start time then you’ll see a message like this appear.

School Time warning message

These changes give parents flexibility to create a school schedule that suits them and their children. If you’re not already using the School Time feature then there might be other ways that you can use it:

  • Help your kids concentrate on homework and set up a blocked period after school
  • Get your kids to school on time and set up a blocked period before school

Get in touch and let us know if you have any other bright ideas.

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Kim’s Story – New devices, new system.

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on April 6, 2016
Before Easter we talked to Kim, a mom of 3 with a blended family of 6 (all boys!), about her experiences with Screen Time and the challenges that her family faces managing the time on their devices.

Before Easter we talked to Kim, a mom of 3 with a blended family of 6 (all boys!), about her experiences with Screen Time and the challenges that her family faces managing the time on their devices.
Having worked as an Instructional Technology Specialist for the last 15 years, Kim’s job is to integrate technology into schools and educate parents on digital safety. So she has her finger on the pulse when it comes to tech and there has always been a culture of device control and safety in her family’s house.

Until December Kim had relied on the inbuilt parental controls in Apple and Android and less techy methods of spotting when the boys had been on their devices for too long. That all changed when three of the boys (two are 13 and one is 16 years old) had cell phones bought for them at  Christmas. With the new cell phones it meant that they could use their devices out of sight and it was going make imposing limits a lot harder.

The risks

Being a blended family like Kim’s, she was finding it hard to track the boy’s activity, getting them to put down the devices and interact with the world around them. They weren’t always in the same house, using same internet connections, also being teenagers they have more freedom to go out and meet up with friends so were often on cellular connections.

For us it’s about preventing addictive behaviour

Kim’s profession means she is well aware of the risks involved in giving unfettered access to internet content and gaming. She told us of an incident that happened in her district where some students had posted a video on Twitter of them involved in a sex act.

Because all of the students were minors it was classed as production and distribution of child pornography carrying a 30 years minimum sentence for those involved. For any of their friends that kept the video would also have been charged with possession which carries with it a 7 year sentence.

We prefer to teach discretion rather than abstinence

Despite having that sort of knowledge Kim prefers to give her boys some freedom and personal privacy while at the same time teaching them what is appropriate and what the risks involved in sharing content. Also she believe that the educational games have real potential to teach and help kids acquire new skills.

How Screen Time helped

Kim was already aware of lots of parental control apps and inbuilt controls but she chose to go for Screen Time as it had the right blend of features for her family. She explained to the boys that along with the new cell phones they were getting Screen Time would be installed on there, and they quickly understood that the rules were now set in stone.

Are they doing what they should be?

They use almost all of the features that Screen Time has to offer but for their eldest they’ve found that just monitoring his activity had made a huge difference.

One day he was home from school ill, but he was meant to be studying for a test the next day, Kim was working from home that day and could was check in from time to time. Each time she did, he seemed to be working and she heard the standard “yeah mom, I’m studying”.

Long time spent on Youtube

At the end of the day she checked Screen Time logs and found that he’d been on Youtube for 8 hours, busted, big time! Kim took a screenshot, sent it to his dad, and he then texted:

Does this seem reasonable to you? Good luck with your test tomorrow

After that they kept a closer eye on the logs for a few days and found that the Youtube app was being used under 20 mins a day.

Internet street smarts

Kim was looking through the Web History logs for her boys and found that there were a lot of visits to dodgy looking survey sites. She took this information to them and asked what was happening, the kids explained that they were completing these online surveys and giving away personal information like phone numbers and email addresses to earn rewards in the game.

Online surveys

So Kim was able to explain why giving away private information when they didn’t know how or where it was going to be used, was a bad idea. This wasn’t something that had occurred to the kids before and now they have more tools to keep themselves safe online.

Er…what’s this now?

The boys were exploring what Screen Time could do as well. One day, shortly after they started using Screen Time, Kim and her husband received a notification that one of the boys had cleaned their room, which came as a bit of shock to Kim, there was even a picture attached of the sparkingly clean room.


It turns out that he’d discovered the Tasks feature in Screen Time before his parents had, and realised that he could earn more time for his Daily Limit.

The same conversations

Before Screen Time they were having the same conversations about what the limits were and what apps were allowed and which were definitely not. Screen Time has allowed Kim to solidify the rules and also give her greater insights into what her boys are doing on their devices and online.

Have you got a Screen Time story? Get in touch, we’d love to hear them.

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Windows parental controls, interesting features but….

by Oliver Brushfield-Smith on March 24, 2016
With so many people using mobile devices these days on platforms like Android and iOS (Apple), it might seem like good ol’ Microsoft Windows has lost some of its shine. We all know that’s not true, there are Windows computers in most households, there’s a PC in the study, a laptop in the kitchen or an old tower lurking under the stairs.

“85% of desktop devices run Windows.”

These devices are everywhere and kids usually have unrestricted access to them, they are shared between the whole family. So how do you manage your kids time on them and make sure that they don’t over indulge?

Introducing Microsoft Family Safety

Since Windows 7 and Vista there have been parental controls built into Windows, that allow us parents to schedule usage, control what games are played and block the apps that we don’t want to be used.

Family Safety is part of Windows Live Essentials but it can be used independently if you don’t want to use all of the features live Live Mail and Movie Maker. So it’s available for free to pretty much anyone that has a Windows license and a Live account, which is a good start.

Getting going

The first thing that you’ll need to do is log into the Family Safety web portal, which you can do from any web browser, although there are reports of the web portal not working very well on browsers that aren’t from Microsoft, which is an age old problem with various Microsoft products.

Once you’re logged in and have created a parent’s account you’ll then need to create a Windows Live ID for your kids. This seems a little excessive if you’re setting up an account for a toddler, however if you’re a Windows only household then a Live ID won’t be a problem and allows you to track usage across all devices. If not then it’s just another account to remember the username and password for, plus you’ll need to give up some personal details like your child’s birthday and a contact number.

Microsoft account

You’ll then need to create a user account on the device that you want to monitor using the Live ID that you created for you child.

What’s under the hood?

Family Safety seems to be a mix of Parental Control and Monitoring tools, that allow you to see what your child’s online activities are and also block access to devices and content.

Recent Activity

On the first page you can see an overview of your child’s activities on their device, showing the web pages visited, apps and games used and the general usage of the device. You can also enable weekly email reports to be sent to you.

Microsoft family security Recent activity

Web Browsing

Blocking of inappropriate websites is enabled by default and if you click through to the Bing SafeSearch settings you can choose what level you prefer – Strict, Moderate or turn this feature off completely.

Microsoft family security Bing Settings

With broad strokes like this there are bound to be websites that slip through the net, so you have the ability to whitelist and blacklist websites that you choose.

Loopholes

  • Only available if your child is using Microsoft browsers, either Edge or Internet Explorer
  • Some content slips through the gaps, but that is the case for most web filters.

Apps, games and Media

Set the age rating for apps that your child can access through the Windows Store. Of course this doesn’t stop kids from going to other stores and media websites that kids can get access to unsuitable content from.

Microsoft family security App, media and games

You can also choose which apps and games are blocked permanently on this page.

Loopholes

  • Only works for apps that you’re signed in with, can be evaded for non signed in applications.

Screen Time

Perhaps taking inspiration from Screen Time Labs, Windows have decided to include their version of the Daily Limit. You can set the hours between which your child can use their devices each day, and also set a maximum amount of time they can use the device during those set hours.

Microsoft family security daily limit

Loopholes

  • Settings changes have a lag before they take effect, they are only polled every 60 minutes. So can be difficult if you change the settings frequently.

Purchases & Spending

The Windows Store isn’t the most popular of stores, but if it’s something that your kids are using then you can give them a budget and add money into their account.

Loopholes

  • Doesn’t prevent purchasing from other online stores

Find your child

A location feature is also included for parents of kids with Windows mobile devices. Allowing you to see where their devices have been and at what time.

Microsoft family security Find your child

Xbox Privacy Settings

With 3 settings; Everyone, Friends or Block you can decide how private your kids’ Xbox live accounts are. From here you set the levels for their video communication, content sharing, viewing other peoples profiles and also control what information is shared with other Xbox users.

Xnox parental controls Privacy online safety

The Conversation

As you know, here at Screen Time Labs we believe that including kids in the conversation of parental controls is essential. It’s also an ongoing process, it’s important how kids are told that they have been blocked and it’s a conversation so there should be a way for their voices to be heard.

family-safety-time-up

To this end Family Safety has a number of different messages that inform kids what’s happening and why, also there are options for them to request more time if they believe they have been unfairly blocked.

family-safety-lock-out-warning

Verdict

If you’re already using lots of Microsoft devices in your household then it makes sense to enable Family Safety. But as with most Microsoft products the features work best with other Microsoft products but can be glitchy when trying to monitor or restrict apps or games from developers or sources other than Microsoft Store.

The features sound and look good but there are reports that when field tested with real live children they don’t fair well, and loopholes are easily found.

Have you field tested Family Safety? What are your good points and bad points?

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