How to Avoid Excessive Screen Time When It’s Too Cold to Go Outside

by Screen Time Team on 10/01/2019
As the snows whirl and the winter rains fall, we all face a familiar conundrum; what to do when we're stuck indoors. The temptations of screens can be profound in that particular scenario, especially for kids with time on their hands. Good screen management starts with the basics like standard iPhone parental controls and family rules about how much device use is appropriate. Here are some more ways to fight off the temptation to spend snow days staring at screens.
Teenager sitting on a couch with a tablet.

Make A Family Agreement

Parents lead by example. It’s hard to tell kids to stop playing video games all day when all you want to do is binge the latest Netflix series. So the first step to healthy screen use in the winter is to set a family agreement. Establish what times are off-limits to screens, how many hours a day you’ll use screens, and sort screens by use. For example, homework time, or pleasure time spent on an e-book reader, might not count against screen use in your household. Try this Screen Time Pact and stick it to your fridge!

Chores And Homework First

One useful method of keeping screen time down is to get all the work that needs to be done out of the way first. For example, you might set aside a block of time on Saturday as “chore time,” where the laundry gets done, the home is vacuumed, and other things you need to get done and might as well do since you’re indoors in the first place. You might even “pay” kids for chores in extra screen time. Every minute spent cleaning the basement means an extra minute of video games, for example. If the entire family pitches in, the work will be done more quickly and everybody’s happy.

The same is true of homework. In fact, making homework a family activity can not just help kids at school, but will improve their engagement and build in time for you to understand what they’re being taught.

Have Family Projects

Another approach is family projects. These can be anything from redoing the spare room into a family work space to a crafting project to create the Christmas cards for next year to cooking a family feast for dinner. As a general rule, choose something the entire family will enjoy and will get something out of and can contribute to, so everybody will be invested.

Winter scene with children sledding.

Have Options Beyond Screens

One of the dangers of screens is that they can become the only entertainment in a house. Be sure to have a house full of books, toys, board games, crafting materials, and other bits and bobs for kids to play with, interact with, and build with. If you don’t currently have a library card, bundle up the family and take a trip to your local library to get one and take advantage of it.

Plan Outside Adventures

Finally, if the weather is good enough, plan some outside adventures for your family. Whether it’s a sledding trip, exploring the woods in winter, or going to a museum or something else educational, planning a fun trip as a family gives kids something to look forward and offers an alternative to screens. You can also design a post-trip activity where kids can talk about what they’ve learned or research questions they’ve asked that you weren’t able to answer on the trip.

Screens don’t have to be your babysitter. Parental control apps for cell phones can be a strong ally during “snow day” season. Screen Time offers a comprehensive suite of parental controls across all devices that can help you keep your kids from vegging out too much when it’s cold and snowy. To learn more, try it for free.

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Be aware of how much of your kids’ data is being shared in 2019

by Screen Time Team on 03/01/2019
We take it as a given that our phones are ours, that we control what they do and how they do it. But the truth is very different.

Smart choices lead to safer kids.

Our phones, and the phones our kids use, are often collecting and sending out enormous amounts of data. While the idea of a child being tracked by somebody who means them harm is almost completely a Hollywood fantasy, there are other concerns to consider. For example, marketing that targets children and forms a “profile” of them before they’re adults who know what they want. But while you can’t entirely block data collection, you can tightly control it.

Control App Installs

Parental control apps can help you control app installs, which is a big part of the privacy battle. A shocking number of apps thrive not on ads or even sales, but on collecting data about you without your knowledge and sending it to third parties. The only truly effective way to prevent it is to carefully limit the number of apps downloaded to a specific phone, especially apps that are designed to appeal to kids. Use software to block certain types of apps, such as free games, and have a process in place for your family to discuss which apps they want to download.

Look At App Permissions And Phone Settings

Major app stores will have a set of “permissions” you agree to when installing the app, and any app your children want to download should be scrutinized closely. It’s a safe bet that the more permissions the app wants, such as access to your photos, access to your location, and similar data, the more likely it is to be collecting and selling that information to the highest bidder. If you don’t like the permissions an app is requesting, it’s better to leave it on the digital shelf unless it’s absolutely necessary. You can also cut apps off at the pass by disabling certain features, like Bluetooth and GPS, using iPhone parental controls or Android settings.


Protect their privacy.

Limit Online Time

Another way to control data collection is to limit how often kids use their phones. You likely already have rules in place that limit phone use over family dinner, during homework time, and after bed. This may already be enough to keep data collection to a minimum, but if you’re considering putting in limits, this will just be another incentive.

Teach Children About Data

Knowledge is the best defense against anyone who wants to exploit you, so kids should be taught from an early age how these systems work, why they do what they do, and how to defend against them. The most insidious thing about this data collection was that it was done, to some degree, with our consent and by small degrees. One app, by itself, can’t get enough data on you to matter. Hundreds of apps constantly gathering data is another matter entirely.

Teaching kids to be smart consumers is always time well spent, and as they understand the people selling them things are not their friends, they’ll develop good habits and critical thinking around products of all sorts, not just apps. If you’d like the ability to remotely approve any apps before they are downloaded by your child onto their device, Try Screen Time for Free!


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Tips for Keeping Smartphones from Harming Your Kids’ Grades

by Screen Time Team on 26/11/2018
Kids and adults alike can be easily distracted from their responsibilities by their phones. But it's one thing if a chore is half-done, and quite another when grades start to slip.


Kids can struggle with grades for many reasons, but excessive phone time doesn’t help.

If you think your children’s struggles with grades are because of their phones, what should you do?

Diagnose The Problem

First, take a serious look at the problem. There are many reasons good grades can begin to slip. Some kids are distracted, but others just need more help with the material, or other concerns may be coming to the fore. This is especially true as tweens and teens start adding to their schedules, assuming more responsibilities, joining more after-school activities, and as their workload picks up.

Furthermore, a jump in phone use can have many causes. For example, it’s common for people who feel overwhelmed to just not deal with their workload and watch TV or play games instead. So before jumping right to the phone, look at the whole situation as objectively as you can.

Talk It Through

Before you go in and take the phone away, or install parental control apps, you should sit down with your kids, discuss your concerns, and explain the actions you’re taking and why. They won’t necessarily be happy about it, of course, but they’ll need to understand your concerns and why this is happening. Be sure to leave the door open for them to tell you about concerns they might have. Make it a discussion, and be sure everyone walks away understanding everyone else’s perspective.

Some screens help, some screens hinder.

Ask Teachers

You should also consult with teachers about your concerns, for a few reasons. One, teachers can tell you what they see their students doing on their phones, and give you an idea about what’s going on. Two, teachers can give you a list of programs and websites that they use during class, so that you can configure parental control software to allow those apps and nothing else during school hours. And three, if there are other areas of concern, such as signs of depression or a negative relationship with classmates, teachers may be able to tell you what’s happening because of their unique perspective on kids’ lives.

Don’t Go Cold Turkey

Contrary to popular belief, “cold turkey” probably isn’t the way to go with children and their screens. In some cases, it may simply be unworkable, such as when kids need their phone to pick up shifts at a job or volunteering opportunity, or to work with their classmates on group projects through video calls or online study groups.

Instead, work out a plan that balances your concerns against their needs. One tried and true rule is that no games or TV may be played until their homework is done, but there are several other approaches worth taking, such as “paying” for chores in screen time, or using parental control software to set strict limits on what can be used at what times.

Responsible phone use isn’t just a good thing for grades, it’s a useful lifelong skill that will teach young ones how to manage their time effectively. To learn how Screen Time can help, try it for free.

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Should You Create a Family Screen Time Contract?

by Screen Time Team on 15/11/2018
Families should agree on how phones are used.

Family With Teenage Children Eating Breakfast In Kitchen

We’ve all chafed under an arbitrary rule. Perhaps it’s a uniform code at work that makes no sense, perhaps it’s a homeowner’s association demand that we only put certain plants in our gardens, but we’ve all asked ourselves “Why does this stupid rule exist?” Kids often feel the same way, especially if rules are handed down to them and they’re not told why they’re expected to follow them.

And for their screens, in particular, a screen time parental control contract may help them understand, and stick by, the rules.

What Is A Screen Time Contract?

A screen time contract is really nothing more than writing down the rules for screens for the whole family, preferably after talking about why the rules are in place. A typical contract will include “no phone” times, such as at the dinner table or during after-school homework time; what times are allowed for screen time; what rights parents reserve, such as removing applications from phones and when those rights kick in; and punishments for breaking the rules.

Usually, the rules are enforced with parental control software.

What Does A Screen Time Contract Include?

Any screen time contract should clearly lay out the rules that the entire family is expected to follow; exceptions in certain scenarios, such as going out; punishments for breaking the rules, which are usually having screen time taken away; and a provision that allows you to revise the contract as circumstances change. Before you know it, your elementary schooler will be a teen with a job, after-school obligations, and dates, so the contract should be able to change with everyone’s needs.

Phones shouldn’t interrupt family time. Contracts can also include other rules. For example, if kids can earn more time on game consoles or their phones by doing chores, include a chore schedule and how much time they earn for how much time they put into a chore.

A cheerful family plays board games at home.

Why Have A Screen Time Contract?

The contract serves a few purposes. First, it gets the rules written down, so nobody can claim that they didn’t know what was expected of them. Every parent has heard this argument at least once, so heading it off at the pass will save a little aggravation.

Secondly, writing out the rules gives everybody in the family a right to weigh in on the rules and whether they need revision. For example, kids might make the case that they need certain apps enabled to research papers at school or that they should be allowed to play games on their phones while waiting at the dentist’s office. Whether parents agree is up to them, but at least kids can feel they took their best shot.

Finally, it sets the standard for everyone. If the rules are fair, apply to everybody, and are discussed by everybody, kids are less likely to feel like they’re being singled out or picked on.

It also helps parents to model behavior for kids. If you stick to the contract, they’re more likely to, and if they break the contract, they know the cost.

Want to try out a family contract? Get your Screen Time family contract here! Remember though – parents have to stick to their part of the contract too!

Contracts are just one tool in the screen management toolbox. To learn more about parental control software, try Screen Time for free!


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Bus Stop Safety Requires Addressing Kids’ Phone Use

by Screen Time Team on 08/11/2018
Everyone is easily distracted by their phone. We've all seen the driver yelling at their phone while blowing a red light, or a pedestrian so wrapped up in texting they step into a busy street. Kids in particular, unfortunately, can be susceptible to the lure of the phone while walking to and from the bus stop. How do we encourage kids to keep their phones in their pockets?

school bus is running through the street

Check In On Safety BasicsIt helps to start with a review of basic safety. Kids should know not to walk in the middle of the road, to use sidewalks wherever possible and to stay on the shoulder on more rural roads, to stick to crosswalks to change sides of the street, to look both ways before crossing, and to wear reflective, highly visible clothing if they’re walking after the sun goes down. A refresher on these rules never hurts, especially as the winter months see more kids out in the dark on their way home.

Establish Phone Rules

Add to these basic rules a set of phone rules. For example, if your kids need to use their phone to get around because you’ve just moved to the neighborhood, start by setting a rule that they can only use audio directions over a speaker, instead of headphones. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to play games in areas where they need to pay special attention to their surroundings, such as dirt roads or roads without sidewalks, . In areas with sidewalks, you can relax rules about music and headphones, but kids should understand that their safety is their responsibility, and all it takes is a distracted driver and a distracted pedestrian meeting at the wrong time.

There will need to be some exceptions. Kids should be able to send texts and take calls, especially for their own safety and, as they get older, to communicate with homework partners and employers. But you should curate the list of who kids can call and when.

Kids need to understand when to listen to adults.

Young student at a bus station

Install Software

The question, of course, is how you enforce this, and parental control software can help. Kids should understand why the software is in place and what apps will be available during their school commute and why. Games, music software, and social media apps, in particular, should be filtered, and consider in some cases making use of the time lock that prevents the phone from being used at all.

Set The Right Tone

The most important step, however, is to lead by example. Most kids learn how to use their phone, for good or for bad, from how their parents use their phones. If you’re constantly distracted by texts, games, and apps when you should be watching where you step, or watching the road, kids will assume that this is just how adults go through the world, and start imitating them. Make a point of turning off your phone, only using headphones where appropriate, and modeling the right behavior.

Parental control apps can help parents keep kids safe, whether they’re walking on the side of the road or being driven to school. To learn more, try Screen Time for free!


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How to manage your kids screen time in the ‘Smart Tech’ age

by Screen Time Team on 29/11/2017
This is a guest post brought to you by Freelance writer, Digital Artist and Father of 3, Scott Reddler.  

For tech savvy parents who want the best in advanced systems for their homes, smart technology has become the way to go. From smart, internet-based televisions, thermostats, baby monitors, and other voice controlled devices, there are innumerable benefits associated with integrating smart technology within today’s modern living spaces.

Not only are devices connected to one another, but homeowners can now save time by monitoring their homes remotely, and build much needed flexibility into their often hectic schedules, all through the click of a button.

Today, the entire family can benefit from homes that are equipped with smart technology. This is especially true for children of all ages who regularly rely on smart toys and other devices for both learning and entertainment. However, with the presence of such technology comes the need for parents to effectively monitor just how much time their children are spending on such devices. Pediatricians suggest limiting screen time when it comes to technology and not without good measure. Too much tech time has been proven to reduce the amount of physical activity children participate in, it can limit their social skills and it can even hamper their cognitive development. These are detriments that can all be avoided with the right household guidelines on when technology should and should not be used.

Parents can take many proactive measures when it comes to setting healthy limits on their children’s use of technology. For instance, parents can set time limits on screen time. They can also establish parental controls on individual devices that place limits on what children have access to while also monitoring their children’s digital behaviors. When determining what is appropriate for the child consider their age, maturity level, and the unique needs of the entire household. In the end, parents can put safe measures into place that are beneficial to their children’s well-being while still incorporating some of the latest and most pioneering advances in technology within their homes. The following is a great infographic that we’ve put together that further explains some of the common ways children use smart technology and how you as a parent can help to monitor your child’s tech usage.

Scott Reddler is an active software developer, water sports fan, and a loving and enthusiastic father of three. He uses his knowledge of new technology to understand how social media and apps are changing the parenting landscape. He enjoys taking his children out for boat rides and exploring his lovely state of Florida. Twitter: @Scottreddler




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