Should Screen Time at School Count Toward Kids’ Total Screen Time?

by Screen Time Team on 21/08/2019

As schools become more tech-savvy, kids are spending more time at computers, on tablets, and otherwise working with screens. But should that count as “screen time” for parents’ purposes? It depends on how much time is spent, and why you’re concerned.

Screens At School

First, you should figure out the total amount of screen time. Parents should talk to teachers about overall screen time use at school. Schools can vary widely on approaches here, but as a rule, kids won’t be spending eight hours a day tapping away at a laptop. Educators plan a broad mix of activities, including group discussions, free time, and study periods.

Kids, meanwhile, especially older kids, will likely be using screens during free periods to type up papers, research answers to take-home quizzes, and other educational pursuits. When using parental control apps, in fact, it’s recommended to ask teachers what the computer schedule is, especially if kids are bringing their own devices, and how often they have to work on a screen at school. Once you know that, then you should consider your overall approach.

Medical Or Social?

Broadly, parents’ concerns about screens break down into two categories. One, they’re worried their kids are giving themselves eye damage, or straining their necks, or any of a host of other potential ailments. Call this the “medical” category. The other is that they worry that too many games or time spent on social media will distract children from spending time with friends, reading books, and other enriching activities, in other words, social growth. Sometimes the two, of course, are intertwined.

Young teen sleeping at his desk.

Medical concerns are simple enough; if kids have red eyes, stiff necks, or other indicators they’ve spent too much time on screens, you simply need to prioritize school work. You should discuss your concerns with their teachers to ensure they’re given time to heal, and that they have alternates to tablets and computers.

Social concerns are a bit more complex. It’s easy to forget the adults aren’t the only ones in the family who come home after a hard day and want to do nothing more than zone out in front of a screen. Excessive screen use could be a sign of any number of things: Depression, struggling with school work, feeling socially isolated, or even just having gone through a tough day. Even the most extroverted of us, child or not, sometimes just wants to watch some TV.

Other times, it may have nothing to do with having fun. Especially as they get older, some kids may find themselves struggling to keep up with school work, either because there’s more expectations on them, or because they have other demands, like after-school activities or work. That can be its own issue, especially as excessive screen use can make it harder to learn.

If you’re noticing a change in behavior, then ask about it. Don’t push; leave the door open to talk if they want to, especially since some topics may be a struggle for kids to open up about. In some cases, though, you may need to turn to parental control apps to turn off the screen and start a conversation.

Parental control apps can be useful for moderating screen time, whether it’s to keep screen time saved for school or to keep kids from avoiding it. To learn more, try it for free!

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Back to School: Screen Time Limits for Kids

by Marcela on 15/08/2019

For many kids across countries, August or September means back to school. The transition from lazy summer days to studious school routines might be a tough adjustment for kids—especially those who favored screens over other forms of entertainment.

Gone are the days and nights of gaming, chatting and watching videos online. School days signal schedules, perhaps firmer bed times and a shifted focus on reading, homework and extracurricular activities. Adjusting back to school screen time limits for kids (and teens), though, might be a little more complicated than parents realize.

Today’s teens (and tweens) never really part with those screens. Devices and technology are portals into social realms, they are constant communication, but they also are academic resources.

Smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks often are wired seamlessly into a student’s day and, in many school districts, the curriculum as well. One-to-one computing means that school districts are the ones enforcing the need for these devices that are now tucked away in backpacks alongside folders, notebooks and binders.

According to a 2017 study,  “more than 50 percent of teachers now have a one-to-one student-to-device ratio….” For many students, the screen is an integral part of the learning experience.

At home, however, parents may have other ideas about setting back to school screen time limits for teens and children. While every family’s rules and restrictions differ, limiting screen time or setting screen time boundaries could be a smart move for parents, especially as kids adjust back to school hours and routines.

Parental Control: School First!

Those school computers are typically controlled by the school; this means that limits and restrictions should (hopefully!) have been set. At home, parents need to take the reins on back to school screen time limits.

There are many scenarios that could influence screen time habits during that first week of school:

  • Kids receive a laid-back workload (no homework), and this could lead them to log on and log out of better habits like reading
  • Young bodies might not have adjusted to the schedule change, and kids may be awake later than normal. Night time wakefulness could lead them to grabbing a device.
  • Friends are so excited to be back that the chat/texting habits significantly increases.
  • Older kids might begin to have homework assignments that keep them on the devices longer than parents prefer.

Parental Control: Enforce Limitations Even if the Workload is Light

No homework? That’s great! As a parent, though, you need to decide what the rules are regarding how your child spends time during the off hours. Most schools encourage students to read 20 to 30 minutes each night.

If your school doesn’t push for nightly reading, you can! Before you let your child zone out on the screen, insist on reading time. You can set limits for how long, but make sure they grab a book.

A young girl plays on a smartphone at bed during the night

Parental Control: Schedule Lights Out, Screen Off

A more rigid school schedule can be a tough adjustment, especially for kids who are night owls. Growing kids need a healthy dose of sleep, though. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that kids between the ages of 6 to 13 should clock anywhere from nine to 11 hours each night, whereas teens can get away with eight to 10 hours.

If your kiddo is turning out the lights at 10 o’clock and waking up at 6 a.m., you may need to make adjustments. Enforce a lights out policy for the family. To discourage late-night chats or texts, keep phones out of the bedroom.

Parental Control Software: When Texts Blow Up the Phone

Those first few days of back to school are exciting. Maybe kids are meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Their social lives may begin to explode again, and their phone might be dinging, pinging and ringing all afternoon.

While a robust social life is healthy, sometimes all those chats and texts might be distracting. Limitations may help ensure that kids stay on track with other aspects of their lives—school and other activities. If texting and other screen activities are too much, though, parental control software can help kids and  teens maintain better boundaries.

A parental control software, like Screen Time, allows parents to set time limits for phone or tablet use. This helps kids avoid dinging distractions during dinner and family time or during homework hours.

Before installing the software, talk to kids about why and how you will use it. Don’t be stealthy and install it secretly. Kids need to trust their parents, and spying or sneakiness erodes trust.

Have an open and honest conversation. Tell kids about their limitations and let them ask questions. If, during the school year, you feel like they are making smart choices and placing priorities on school, then you may want to loosen the restrictions.

A teen works on his laptop to complete a school assignment

Parental Control Software: Homework is Increasing Screen Time

What if a teen or child is spending hours staring at a screen for school? Can you control it? Remember, any district issued device is typically controlled by the district. Do NOT install any new software including parental control software on a school-issued device.

You cannot always control school assignments and how long kids take to complete those assignments. However, parents can insist kids take breaks to give their eyes a rest from the screen.

Parental Control Software: Other Limitations

Parents may discover that kids are being introduced to new apps or social networks at school. Technology evolves constantly, and there always seems to be a new app or game that becomes instantly popular.

Before you allow kids to download any app, research it first. Some may not be appropriate for younger kids, and others could be associated with an increased risk of bullying. Parents can use parental control software to limit apps that kids download. When you discover a problematic app, you can choose to restrict it.

Parental Control Software: Teaching Accountability

Texting, taking selfies and posting to social media has become the social norm for kids and teens. Parents, though, might want to have insight as to what is being sent from accounts and devices.

Use parental control software to see what kids are sending and being sent. Again, make sure kids know and understand what you’re able to view. Ensure them that monitoring is to make sure they remain accountable.

Teens don’t always make the most informed decisions, and the reason could be related to incomplete maturation of the brain. According to research: “The development and maturation of the prefrontal cortex occurs primarily during adolescence and is fully accomplished at the age of 25 years.”

While teens or kids might think they know how to behave responsibly, one wrong decision on social media could have negative ramifications for the rest of their lives.

Parental Control Software: Help Kids Stay on Task

While parental control software like Screen Time is often used to monitor activity, the software can help keep kids on task. Parents can create tasks for kids to complete before they get to use their phone or device for fun.

Include daily tasks like homework, reading, chores, or sports/dance practice. Once kids check off their daily tasks, parents can reward them with screen time.

Screen Time software also lets parents pause their kids’ screen. Not showing up at the dinner table? Pause their screen! Not taking the dog for a walk? Time to freeze the screen! Sometimes kids need a bit of a more direct reminder.

Parental Control Software: School Days and Beyond

How long will kids take to adjust to the school schedule again? Each kid is different. Some kids and teens might have maintained the school schedule during the summer. Others might have had such a relaxed summer that a routine was non-existent.

Day one of the school year, though, is the ideal time to readjust that summer slide fueled by excessive screen time. Parents can set time limitations, block problematic apps and monitor activity to ensure kids are staying on track.

Software like Screen Time allows parents to create tasks for kids. Once they check off their daily to-do list, then screen time (for fun) can begin. Pausing the screen gives parents additional control for when kids are so engrossed in their devices that they aren’t making good choices—like showing up to the dinner table!

When it comes to school devices, though, parents don’t have much control. One to one computing means that kids often use school issued computers to complete assignments and turn them into the teacher.

Older kids may spend hours on their school computer after school, depending on their course load and homework. Parents can (and should) encourage kids to take screen breaks, though, if the homework screen time has become excessive. Staring at a screen for too long can cause eye fatigue, and it’s always a good idea to stretch and recharge a bit.

Every family is unique and that means that the rules of the house and device are unique, too. Set limitations that are in line with your parenting values and that ensure kids focus attention on important priorities (like school). 

If you choose to install parental control software, though, be sure to talk to your kids first. Explain why and how it will be used and go over boundaries and limitations.

While back to school can be an adjustment, in a few weeks kids will be back to the old routine…and the sun will rise on the next summer vacation before you know it!

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Yolo App for Snapchat: A Guide for Parents

by Screen Time Team on 14/08/2019

Snapchat hasn’t endeared itself to parents, with features like Snapstreaks that encourage using the app mindlessly. But a new addition, Yolo, is only going to make that dislike more intense. Here’s what you need to know about Yolo.

What is Yolo?

Named after the slang term (You Only Live Once), Yolo is an app that you sign into using your Snapchat credentials. Once you’re logged in, you use the app to ask for anonymous feedback. The user doesn’t know who’s weighing in, and there’s not a way to find out at the moment.

What Are Possible Concerns With Yolo?

Unfortunately, as we all know from being on the internet, once people can offer an anonymous perspective, they’ll tend to use it to be as cruel as possible. Previous apps that offered this feature, such as Sarahah and YikYak, quickly saw bullying. Even without cruelty, though, disputes and arguments teens and preteens get into tend to burn brighter and last longer with the fuel of anonymous feedback apps.

How Can I Tell If Yolo Is Installed?

You should see Yolo on your teen’s phone. It’s not a part of Snapchat, but a separate app with a separate icon. If you believe the app has been hidden, open up the app store and search for Yolo; it should tell you if the app is installed. Alternately, parental control apps will tell you what apps are downloaded and used.

Parents looking at their phones.

Should I Allow Yolo?

Allowing Yolo, or any anonymous app, is ultimately up to each family. The questions you should ask your children, and yourself, are simple: Is this app worth what you get out of it? Are you being treated the way you want to from the app? Can you handle it if somebody takes the opportunity to be cruel or thoughtless?

If you do decide to allow Yolo, set ground rules. Your kids, regardless of their age, shouldn’t be answering personal questions from complete strangers, and you should be allowed to see what they’re being asked. And make it clear that if you don’t like what you see, you’re going to pull the plug.

How Can I Keep Yolo Off Phones?

To prevent your kids from using Yolo, you should use a mixture of strategies. First, you should make it clear to your kids that you don’t want them using Yolo, and why. Make it clear that you’re worried about their mental health, and leave the door open for discussion.

Next, use the phone’s parental controls to block Yolo. Most phone operating systems will allow you to block certain apps entirely, and since Yolo is separate from Snapchat, you can block one without disabling the other. Keep an eye on the app, though, as apps can change over time.

Finally, use third-party parental control apps to block Yolo and to keep kids from downloading it, and also to keep them from disabling other parental controls. Parental control apps like Screen Time from Screen Time Labs can also be used to constrain how often kids use Yolo if you think your kids can handle it, and you just don’t want your family distracted from other tasks.

Parental control apps can help settle disputes and keep children on an even keel. To learn more, try it for free!

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Monitor Your Kids with Cell Phone Tracking

by Marcela on 12/08/2019

Today, the average child receives their first cellphone when they are 10 years old. If you aren’t monitoring your child’s cell phone usage, you could be leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks and other unwanted activity.

Nowadays, most cell phone providers give customers the option to set certain permissions on their mobile devices. But, harmful information could still make its way into your children’s phones.

Cell phone surveillance might seem extreme, but it sounds scarier than it actually is. Cell phone tracking allows you to keep your children safe without being too intrusive or invading their privacy.

Parental control software is a secure way to protect your kids from digital assailants, inappropriate websites, age-sensitive information, or other online risks.

Cell Phone Tracking

How does it work?

Cell phone tracking software is affordable, convenient, and easy to install.

You simply choose the subscription package that fits your needs. Then, you can get started in a few minutes just by downloading a mobile app.

With parental monitoring software, you can discreetly and automatically oversee and control your kids’ online activity.

Cell phone tracking eliminates your need to worry about what websites your kids are visiting, who they’re communicating with, or how long they’re spending online.

Use monitoring software to establish, and enforce, boundaries without the hassle.

Cell Phone Tracking

How can you use monitoring software?

Parental control software is more than a security platform. It can also help you with regulating screen time, homework completion, and even content monitoring.

If you’re planning on getting your child a mobile device but you aren’t sure if they’re ready, monitoring software can help create a smoother transition.

Ensure that your children use their devices appropriately and responsibly. Control how much time they spend online with duration limits and web history monitoring.

Cell phone tracking software can be a lifesaver for busy families.

Remotely set and track your childrens’ schedules, including outstanding tasks such as homework or chores.

If you need your kids to get off of their devices immediately, you can also pause their usage with just a tap of your own screen.

If you need to grab their attention in a pinch, you can also suspend or restart your settings at any time.

Is it Invasive?

One of the primary reasons why parental cell phone tracking is controversial is the potential impact it could have on your children.

While most kids would likely prefer to have free use of their devices, they might not be aware of the risks they could face. 

Allowing your children to use the web without limits could unknowingly expose them to viruses, malicious attackers, and illegal content. 

By utilizing a cell phone monitoring program, you’re adding an extra layer of defense. You also have more control over what your kids watch, read, or share.

Being transparent about your reasons for using cell phone monitoring software can help your kids understand why it’s important. The last thing you want is for your kids to assume that you are using the program just to spy on them.

Giving your kids a cell phone that’s equipped with monitoring software will help them establish healthy guidelines from the very beginning

Kids won’t have to be concerned about dangerous websites that they won’t be able to access.

And, they will be used to the fact that their online actions could be viewed by their parents at any time. This will discourage negative behaviors, while giving everyone in the family peace of mind.

Privacy is crucial, but that goes both ways. Keep your kids’ sensitive information in the right hands could save them from identity theft, online attacks, and other dangers.

Cell Phone Tracking

How can cell phone use affect your kids?

Your kids might use their cell phones for entertainment and communication, but there are other factors to consider.

Prolonged screen time could affect your children’s other tasks, such as school work and extracurricular activities.

Regulating mobile device usage can help your children adhere to their schedule without negatively impacting their day to day lives.

When used properly, your kids have a pocket-sized tool that lets them access unlimited information.

Mobile devices are useful for learning research, planning, problem solving, and other skills that are key to your kids’ development.

However, intentionally or unintentionally, your children could use those same tools to access the more dangerous parts of the internet.

Even something as seemingly insignificant as allowing an app use of the phone’s photo album, or saving payment information after a purchase, could put everyone at risk. 

As parents, it’s difficult to see everything that passes through your children’s screens. 

Rather than take a chance on your kids’ online activity, build a secure and practical barrier with cell phone tracking.

Cyber bullying, inappropriate content, and malware-ridden websites have the potential to cause lasting damage. Reduce the risk that your child will be affected by using monitoring software for their devices.

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How to Transition Kids to School Year Screen Time Rules

by Screen Time Team on 07/08/2019

It’s almost time to head back to school, and for kids, that’s always going to be something of an adjustment. But one area you might see particular pushback is with tightening up the rules on screen time again. Here’s how to limit tears and arguments when it’s time to pick up books.

Review The Rules

Start by sitting the family down and going over what the rules were for the previous school year, and how they might change. This is also a good time to establish that they’ve stuck by the rules before, and the world didn’t end. If you have a rewards system as part of your rules, such as earning more screen time for chores, now would be a good time to address how that’ll work with school and homework in the mix.

Now is also the time to adjust the rules. As kids grow up, their needs will change; screen rules that made sense in elementary school may not work so well once they’re in middle school. Contact their school and ask how much computer time kids will likely need for homework and research in a given week, and factor that in when making decisions.

Ease Into It

Like any other change, easing into new rules helps. Start a few weeks before by instituting changes one at a time, making it clear as you go along which rule will be set up, and aiming to balance a range of activities, from screen time to going outside to reading. It’s best to start with something simple, such as lowering overall screen time over the weeks until you’re at a school-year level. The week before, institute any schedules you’ve planned, such as no screens between the start of school and the end, and you should be good to go.

Add In Activities

Screen time reduction is just one part of getting ready for school. As you reduce screen time, fill it in with the preliminary work that needs to be done for school. Even if kids have already read their books and filled out their worksheets, it’s still a good idea to sit down and go over their work.

Don’t forget that it’s never too late to deal with the “summer slide,” the loss of skills and techniques kids experience when they stop going to school. Finding fun, educational activities that get them back into the school mindset will help them excel once they’re back in class. And there’s nothing wrong with simply playing outside the way generations of kids have always done.

Child swinging on a swing.

Use Parental Control Apps And Settings

Even the best kids may sometimes be tempted, so back up your conversations and rules with both parents settings and parental control apps. Most devices and apps will have at least some form of setting parents can configure, but parental control apps will allow you to enforce schedules, block certain apps from being downloaded or deleted, and even “pause” access to the device if necessary.

Screen time will always be a point of contention between parents and kids, but striking the right balance, with the help of good rules and good tools, will help kids strike the needed balance between screens and the other fun and important things they need to do. To learn how it works, try it for free!

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Screen Time Device Management for iPhone: How It Works

by Screen Time Team on 31/07/2019

When you set rules for kids and their phones, it’s good to back it up with parental control apps. Device management for iPhones allows families to better enforce the rules, and gives you more flexibility than Apple’s parental controls. Here’s what you need to know about keeping iPhone usage to a healthy level, while teaching your children better online safety.

Apple’s Parental Controls

Apple does let parents set a passcode and control certain aspects of the device, such as installing or removing apps, in-app purchases, and access to specific apps such as AirDrop. This can be useful, but there are things it won’t do, such as enforce a specific schedule.

Furthermore, Apple has made it a separate app you have to enable and enter a passcode for, instead of it being integrated into the operating system where it would be most effective. This makes it vulnerable to deletion and, of course, somebody could figure out your passcode. 

It’s also an “all or nothing” proposition: If you want to allow your children to play games after they’ve done chores and homework, you have to go in and personally enable it, then follow the same process to disable it afterwards. Finally, it lacks remote management options. You’re not able to control your children’s iPhone via a laptop or another phone.

Child sitting on a concrete bench outside looking at her phone.

Device Management for the iPhone

Installing your own device management, such as the tools of Screen Time Labs, gives you some distinct advantages:

  • It offers a second layer of security, so if Apple’s app stops working or is removed, you still have control of the device.
  • Remote access allows you to lock and unlock the iPhone as needed, such as in emergencies, or to enforce a strict time limit.
  • Schedules can be created, updated, and enforced, so that if a child needs a phone for practical reasons at school, they’re limited to certain apps and contacts.
  • It isn’t subject to the whims of the platform provider. Apple makes far more money on the App Store and through subscription services than it does selling iPhones; it simply doesn’t have a strong incentive to let their customers cut these services off. Apple is unlikely to do anything unethical or illegal, but it also may only offer the bare minimum of what parents need.

Most importantly, remember to talk through the rules with your family and why they’re in place. We all are more likely to pay attention to rules when we understand the reasoning behind them, and children are no different. Often with online safety it’s a question of what kids do when Mom and Dad aren’t in the room, and they may need to act quickly or handle some difficult emotions. Having a conversation about what you expect, and leaving the door open to change it as needed, can be an effective safety tool.

Device management is a fundamental part of online safety for kids, but it’s also not a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of phenomenon. You need tools that will change as your family grows, grows up, and goes out in the world. To learn how Screen Time can fit your family’s needs, whether you’ve got teenagers or toddlers, try it for free!

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Parent Advice about Kids’ Screen Time, Age by Age

by Screen Time Team on 29/07/2019
Young teen looking at a laptop screen.

Defining “Screens”

First, one important note. Screens, in this case, means “all screens,” not just phones and tablets. Laptops and TV time should also be considered when applying screen time guidelines. Another point to remember: There’s little evidence, currently, that screens cause medical harm, but there are concerns around a lack of physical activity and that excessive screen time can negatively impact social skill development. This is true across all ages and needs to be taken into account.

Babies And Toddlers Up To 18 Months

In general, screen time of any length is not recommended for children younger than 18 months. This is less due to any harm possible from screens and more to do with keeping children engaged and active in the world around them: The WHO also recommends kids be kept out of strollers and other restraints as much as possible.

18-24 Months

In the 18-24 month period, it’s recommended that any screen time be supervised with a parent who actively watches and engages with the content along with their child. One example is educational programming that encourages kids to count or spell along, for example. Unsupervised time is still not recommended for this age bracket, and supervised time should be kept to under one hour per day.

24 Months to Five Years

These recommendations are largely the same as the 18-24 month olds, but with a suggestion that parents work to develop “real-world” connections. For example, if you watch a show with a child, you might ask them how experiencing what happens on the show might make them feel.

6 Years to Preteen

Young teen boy sitting on a couch looking at a tablet.

Parents can allow unsupervised time, although it’s recommended that you install parental control apps to limit risk, and to keep kids from using screens more than two hours a day. If kids want to use online environments, such as video games, you should have a detailed discussion about safety and set clear rules and limits on games children have to abide by.

Preteen to Teen

This is the area where the conversations begin to get tricky. Parental control apps should remain in use to prevent downloading of certain apps and to enforce schedules, but here it’s really more about the quality of the screen time. For example, it’s been shown that endlessly scrolling on Instagram is potentially bad for your mental health. This is the age where a conversation about the upsides and downsides of the internet is key.

Teen To College-Age

While parental control apps should still be in effect, this is the time to help your child transition into adulthood when it comes to their screen use. Work with them to better understand practical uses of phones and screens, like applying for work or doing homework, versus leisure time activities perhaps better spent elsewhere, like online games.

Some of these ranges will be subjective. Especially as demands for technology at schools change how we do homework, and as employers expect even teenagers to have smartphones, you’ll have to make judgement calls that best fit both your child’s needs and your concerns. Good parental control apps can help; to learn more, try it for free!

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Is Your Family Suffering from Phone Addiction? Consider Trying a Limit Screen Time App

by Marcela on 22/07/2019

As we roll towards 2020, the amount of time spent on mobile devices is staggering. Smart device usage needs reducing, or at least knowledgeable control of the situation. For this reason, more and more choose to use a limit screen time app for their devices and/or those of family members.

The time spent on phones or tablets is starting to exceed that of TV usage. Moreover, even when watching TV, a considerable amount of viewers check out their smartphones.  This means that many people (both young and old) are using their smart devices for quite a few hours per day. 

Many teens and tweens are using online media for as much as 8 hours a day. That’s quite literally a fulltime job, or at least it’s the same amount of hours, just without pay and often without productivity. The article by Positive Discipline really highlights the need of more time away from screens.

Transitioning to using your phone or tablet less can be a shock to the system, and so we have put together some useful tips to reduce screen time.

Tips for Limiting Screen time and Introducing Parental Control

Limiting screen time is a big move for any family, but it can introduce some really positive life changes. Here we look at the best ways for using parental control software in order to limit screen time with tweens and teens.

  • It’s Not Only for Kids – Although parental control software is meant for parents to restrict children, it can also be an effective tool to reduce adult mobile device usage as well.
  • Ban the Bedroom Time – Don’t worry, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. However, applying a family rule not to use phones, tablets, or even a TV in the bedroom can help dramatically.
  • Lead by Example – Your child will likely mimic your behaviour. If you are constantly glued to your phone or TV, or both, then they may start to view this as being ‘normal acceptable behaviour’. 
limit screen time app
  • Be Smart – Kids are growing up with electronics, and learn new things quickly. This means that parents need to be smarter, or find ways to out smart kids when it comes to parental control of device usage.
  • Family Time – Just banning the use of phones and tablets isn’t enough. Most children nowadays don’t learn how to ‘entertain themselves’ offline and will need to learn these skills. Enjoying new activities, family time, and experiencing the outside world together can help to prevent boredom that will inevitably trigger tantrums and arguments.
  • Use Parental Control Apps and Settings – Apps, like ScreenTime cover far more than simply allowing you to limit screen time, Parents can also use other kinds of device settings such as pin codes for TVs, or restricting access to streaming apps, etc.
  • Set Timezones – Assign times when devices can be used and when they can’t. Some flexibility may be needed at times, but having set times helps to introduce a workable routine.
  • Introduce Offline Hobbies – Sports, reading, or just about anything fun and not depending on a screen can help children forget that they can’t use devices. If things go well, they’ll even look forward to these activities more than playing on their mobile phones.
  • Rewards/Penalties – By setting some rewards, and if needed some penalties, the off screen time can become a game and on screen time can also become more educational and/or productive.

While to some degree, children need to learn online and mobile device skills for their future, there also needs to be some balance between the real world and the online world. More time offline can lead to creative activities, skill development, exercise and more.

How to Introduce a Limit Screen Time App without Tantrums

If your children have grown up watching TV and playing on phones, tablets, and consoles, removing these from their life can be challenging at the start. However, when your children are still young, changing their routine will be easier and may accept the new normal quite quickly.

Either way, the key is to openly discuss the reasons behind these changes, along with some rewards for not being in front of a screen. This could be from treats, to paying for a course or hobby that they would like to get more involved in.

However, bribery won’t always work and sometimes a firm but fair stance is needed. A family meeting, some negotiation, and then holding the agreed terms (excluding when needed for education) will become a new norm for them within a fairly short period of time.

Whichever strategy you decide to take, the key is to get the children involved in the plan and if possible make it a positive thing. After all, they are getting the freedom of having their own phone/device, access to the internet, and likely some extra rewards for tasks.

For all of this, they just need to accept the agreed terms and adhere to a schedule. The time with family, friends, and getting some exercise is also far more fun and beneficial than just sitting in front of a screen for hours and hours every day.

So, although on first impression it can seem daunting, actually the end benefits make using a limit screen time app worthwhile and will certainly have a positive impact on family life in the long term. Just remember though, you should lead by example and reduce your daily screen time. If the kids see you are doing it too, they really don’t have as much of an argument against it.

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Keep Kids’ Eyes Safe from Too Much iPhone Screen Time

by Screen Time Team on 17/07/2019
Young teen typing on a laptop computer while looking at a phone.

Are Smartphones Ruining Children’s Vision?

We’ve known for a while that staring at screens for long periods of time can cause problems, including dry eyes, eyestrain, neck pain from holding your head in a certain position, and possibly encouraging near-sightedness by keeping the eyes at a certain field of view for long periods of time. Note that this is true of any screen, however; whether it’s a TV, a smartphone, or a computer monitor.

A bit more open-ended is the question of blue-light exposure. While it is true that intense, long-term exposure to light in the blue wavelengths may contribute to macular degeneration, due to the fact that it’s “higher energy” than other forms of light, we need to remember we’re exposed to this wavelength of light every day in the form of “white” light, like sunlight or LEDs. 

This has really only been an issue with special-effects artists, researchers, and others who spend hours every day bathed in primarily blue wavelengths of light driven by enormous lights such as Klieg lights. In short, the driver here shouldn’t be extreme medical fears, but common sense.

Child having her eyes examined by an optometrist.

Keeping Kids’ Eyes Clear

Before making any decisions, discuss your child’s eyes with your family doctor. Especially for childhood eye conditions, you should proceed based on medical recommendations.

Working from those recommendations, lay out a schedule and a time limit with your children that allows them to have fun while keeping them from straining their vision. Leave some flexibility in the schedule for holidays, rainy days, and other situations where you may need looser rules.

Set up parental control apps to enforce the rules, and charge tablets, phones, and other items away from bedrooms. These will shut off phones during bedtime, for example, so even if your child decides to break the rules, they’ll have to put the device back.

Require breaks. Kids (and adults) shouldn’t be bingeing TV shows or playing video games for hours on end. Require, for example, that they get up and spend at least a few minutes away from the TV either at the end of an episode, or at a set time during gaming sessions.

Reduce brightness and ensure kids only use devices in well-lit areas. Providing contrast for the eye reduces eyestrain, and reducing brightness on tablets and phones will limit how much energy a phone puts out.

Ensure there are other activities and games that don’t involve screens. Crafting, time spent with other kids, and even paper books can help kids stay off screens and keep up a variety of things to do.

Eyestrain isn’t the only problem smartphone games and streaming media can present. Proper use of iPhone parental controls and other apps can help parents keep media consumption, and time spent on devices in general, to the appropriate level. To learn more about the Screen Time parental control app, try it for free!

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Snapchat Snapstreaks: What Are They and Why Do Parents Need to Know?

by Screen Time Team on 10/07/2019
Mother and daughter cutting up tomatoes and cucumbers.

What Are Snapstreaks?

A Snapstreak is simply a period of time where you’ve shared a Snap with somebody on a daily basis, and they’ve snapped you back. If you’ve sent a photo for five days, and gotten one in return, then your Snapstreak with that person is 5. Snapstreaks are represented with a fire emoji next to a person’s name, and the number of days they’ve shared a Snapstreak, and kick in after three days of sharing. 

You don’t win anything or get any special privileges on the app by maintaining a Snapstreak. Snapstreaks also aren’t tracked if you just chat with somebody; it has to be a Snap of some sort.

Should I Be Worried About Snapstreaks?

By themselves, no. That said, Snapstreaks are designed to get users to keep interacting with each other, and of course to keep using Snapchat. While there’s a degree of skepticism that should be applied to the “Skinner box” approach to social media, namely that social media taps into the part of our brain willing to hammer a button for a reward, there’s no denying Snapstreaks can speak to that mindset to some degree.

Snapstreaks can also illustrate just how much your family members are using Snapchat in the first place, and who they’re using it with, useful data when considering parental control apps. If you’re not a fan of the platform, or of certain users your child is friends with, that may be useful for discussions about Snapchat and whether it has a place in your kids’ lives.

And as we all know, kids can get carried away on anything, no matter how trivial. Especially if there’s some other emotional component involved, like sticking it to a nemesis on Snapchat by breaking their record for longest Snapstreak, obsession is in the cards.

Teenage boy looking at his phone.

How Do I Deal With Snapstreaks?

First, sit your family down and talk to them about keeping a sense of perspective. There’s no reward for getting or maintaining a Snapstreak, so there’s no reason to put any effort into one. If your kids have a dear friend they love to Snap with, a Snapstreak should be seen as just the natural side effect of their friendship, not a marker of its importance or a symbol of how enduring it is. Sooner or later, these streaks end; someone breaks a phone or goes on vacation.

Parental control apps can help by tracking the time spent, enforcing schedules to keep children off certain apps and sites during certain times of day, and by keeping apps like Snapchat from launching at all, if you feel that’s the necessary solution to the problem. But that’s just setting the stage to talk to your kids about responsible use of social media.

If you’re concerned about how your kids are using Snapchat, parental control apps like Screen Time can help. To learn more, try it for free!

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