New Year’s resolutions and how to keep them, using the Screen Time app

by Anna Hughes on January 6, 2017

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Happy New year from Screen Time! (We’re not sure when you’re supposed to stop saying that either).

At Screen Time HQ, we’ve been discussing our New Year’s resolutions. The standard ones have inevitably been thrown in (join a gym, eat more healthily, slightly reduce Prosecco consumption), as well as a couple of less traditional ones involving underpants (see graph for details).

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But how likely is it that we will all stick to our resolutions?

A classic one for many is of course to spend more quality time with the family. One rather large obstacle that can get in the way of this great intention however, is the kids smartphone or tablet.

If it’s a choice between posting selfies on Snapchat/playing Minecraft, or, say, a family bike ride, chances are you’ll not be getting the bikes out of the garage without a fight.

Luckily, as all Screen Time users know, our app can make this New Year’s resolution a lot more achievable and a lot less painful.

 

“It takes the fight out of managing screen time”  

Aleah LaFrancis. Screen Time user

 

Simply pause their device and you are free to cycle off into the sunset with your offspring in tow.

Or if the kids need a bit of extra convincing, you could try introducing some ‘family’ related tasks that will earn them extra time on their device. For example, a family hike could earn child half an hour bonus time on their tablet. Or a family game of cards could earn them an extra 20 minutes on their smartphone. Or whatever you decide. You control everything – which is the beauty of the app.

Similarly, if 2017 for you means getting fit or simply allowing yourself some more ‘you’ time, send your loved ones a Play. They get some extra time online and you get a six pack. Everyone’s happy.

We’d love to hear about your New Year’s resolutions. Please share in the comments below 🙂

 

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How to get your kids to venture outdoors and leave their device at home

by Anna Hughes on December 22, 2016

A person playing in the snow with their dog

Most parents would agree that Cabin Fever, particularly in a child’s case, is a very real thing. And it isn’t pretty. Especially if the main event of the day involves a screen, sucking them into a digital bubble that’s difficult to burst without a fight.

With so many devices in the average home now, it’s easier than ever to lose our kids when they’re sat right in front of us.

As most of our subscribers will tell you, our Screen Time app makes the process of separating child from device, easier. But once that bubble is popped and it’s freezing outside, it’s not always just the kids who need convincing that leaving the house is a good idea. We live in the UK – we hear you!

But hear this.

Apart from the fact that meltdowns are less likely once fresh air hits your offspring, there are a whole bunch of health benefits, both mental and physical, to be gained too.

Brave the cold and you lower their risk of obesity, cancer, nearsightedness and depression and increase their attention spans, social skills, their chance of getting strong bones and higher grades at school.   

All pretty good reasons, we think. But how long do we pause our kids devices for, for the purposes of outdoor family frolicking? Guidelines say we should aim for at least an hour a day.

Or simply refer to the child’s built-in ‘Fresh Air’ guage that sits either side of the nose behind the cheeks. When sufficiently exercised, the cheeks will become rosy. And what’s nicer than seeing your children with happy, rosy cheeked faces?*

If you need some inspiration, here’s a handy list of things you can do in the outside world during the holidays. We’d love to hear other ideas. Feel free to share them with us as well as any photos you have of you and your family out embracing the cold this Christmas. Just use #rosycheekchallenge on Instagram or Facebook or tell us about them in the comments below 🙂

Wheel them Out

Is anyone getting new wheels this Christmas? Weather permitting, go and discover bike tracks and/or skate parks near you. Or if your local area is lacking such a place, check out http://tonyhawkfoundation.org for guidance on how one could be built near you (but not before your family outdoor time!)

Use the dog as an excuse

Make walking the dog into something more adventurous. Go that bit further than normal. Get her a new ball to play with that you can throw and encourage the kids to reach it first. 

Get with the Hugge programme

Loving the latest craze for Hugge style coziness? Then get some hot chocolate in a thermos flask, wrap everyone up and venture out on a nature trail (a couple of spiders under a magnifying glass should do it). The best part is, your house is never cosier than when back from a chilly stroll. If you want to go the distance with the Hugge theme, get a fire going (carefully does it) and toast some marshmallows too. 

Look no further than your backyard

If venturing out too far is an issue, simply head out into the backyard and eat a picnic, kick a ball, play catch, shoot some hoops. Maybe you could add some bonus time to their device for every point scored. 

Christmas Treasure Hunt

Why should the Easter bunny have all the fun? Get creative and put together a festive outdoor treasure hunt for the kids.  Chocolate coins make for decent treasure. Or maybe some bonus time on their device in the form of a golden ticket 😉

*Please be aware that children do NOT in fact have ‘Fresh Air’ gauges behind their cheeks. We made that up. This information is a silly attempt at humor made by Screen Time Labs. We promise we will do it again :)

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Ways the ScreenTime app can reduce stress and increase fun on Christmas day.

by Polly Reichelt on December 15, 2016

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Christmas is one of those times when lots of us parents realise, if we’re lucky, that our own folks worked pretty damn hard to keep us happy. Especially at Christmas. Not that we would’ve fully appreciated this at the time. No. It’s only now we realise there’s much more to a “happy family Christmas” than simply ensuring the correct brand of skateboard is purchased or that the color on the new phone cover contains an acceptable level of sparkle.

The real challenge is the juggling act involved with keeping everyone – big kids, small kids AND grown ups – happy, while avoiding conflict and cross frowns at all costs. It’s a day of high expectations from all parties. The parent would prefer the day to resemble his/her  childhood Christmas. And the kids have their own ideas. Ideas which can quite often involve a device of some sort. Especially if they just unwrapped a new one from under the tree. And this is when problems occur. We didn’t have an iPad to get lost behind in the 80s and we’re not about to lose our children to theirs! 

And so begin the arguments.

Thankfully our app is pretty good at putting a stop to such conflicts with features like the handy 5 minute warning and the ability to set a daily time limit.

There are lots of other ways to use the Screen Time features to your advantage on Christmas Day too. Below we’ve highlighted classic Christmas day occurrences and how to handle them cleverly with our app:

Presents!

Screen Time feature: The whole package

Present unwrapping is easy screen-free time. Unless unwrapping…something with a screen. Will this be your child? Solution: get Screen Time uploaded onto their device before you wrap it for full festive control from day one. Or to buy yourself some extra time, ensure the battery is completely flat before wrapping :D

Food Preparation

Screen Time feature: Awarding Bonus Time

Gone are the days when parents do all the work. Offer the kids bonus time on their device for helping in the kitchen. You’ll sneak in a spot of extra bonding time with them while you’re at it. One potato peeled = 2 minutes bonus time. 1 carrot chopped = 2 minutes bonus time. One glass of Eggnog poured for mommy = 10 minutes of bonus time 😉

Begrudging call to a family member

Screen Time feature: Task List

This is a controversial one that raises the ethical dilemma: should we bribe our children to make contact with our loved ones to wish them a merry Christmas? If your child will happily lift the phone to make that call to Granny on Christmas day, then good work! Or, if like many of us, your darling child would rather play with their new toys than thank the kind soul who sent them, simply add the call to their task list and reward with your preferred amount of bonus time. Is this bribery? Yes. We think sometimes that’s ok. Happy child, happy Granny, happy Christmas  🙂  Failing that, suggest to child in question that they FaceTime Granny from their shiny new device. 

The Feast

Screen Time Feature: Pause

This part of the day is all about the food, the crackers, the bad jokes, the reminiscing about past family Christmases, the occasional massively inappropriate comment made by older generations etc. For many, this gathering happens once a year at best. If you want everyone to be 100% present, use the Pause feature on your kids devices for their full attention. 

The Games

Screen Time feature: Task List

Christmas is not complete without games. If the kids are reluctant, get them to suggest what games they’d prefer to play to make them feel more involved. Failing that, add ‘game time!’ to their list of tasks for extra bonus time. Who knows, they might have so much fun they forget to pick their device back up before the day is done.

Bedtime

Screen Time feature: Lights Out

Grown ups snoring on the sofa; the closing credits of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ are blasting out of the TV – this can mean only one thing: Christmas Day is complete. For the adults at least. Seeing as it’s Christmas, why not change the kids Lights Out setting on their device to a bit later than normal? Chances are they’ve earned it. 

Merry Christmas!

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5 gifts your kids will drop their devices for this Christmas

by Polly Reichelt on December 8, 2016

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We at Screen Time HQ have been reminiscing about our childhood experiences of Christmas. The turkey, the presents, the tree, the films, the occasional family drama, the Rod Stewart tape playing on the stereo (just us?) All experienced, on the whole, together with our families.

Zoom forward a couple of decades and suddenly there are two new guests at the party – the smartphone and the tablet. There is often more than one in the room, and they get a lot of attention.

With 20% of parents set to purchase a device for their kids this Christmas, this scenario isn’t about to change any time soon.

If we were to zoom forward another two decades to a time when our kids are all grown up, what memories would they have of their childhood Christmases? Would they fondly reminisce about that family game of Charades? Or would they have one brief memory of shooting baddies on a screen while occasionally scoffing cookies?

This is clearly an extreme case. But we at Screen Time know only too well how easy it is to lose our kids to their devices. And that argument – the one that can happen when you try to detach child from screen? It’s a daily challenge for a lot parents and one we would all rather avoid over the festive period.  

This isn’t so much of a problem for the parents who use our app. Even so, we thought it might be useful to share our pick of the gifts that might just make your kids switch off their devices without any fuss and join in with some family Christmas fun. Creating some offline memories in the process.

Even better, each one will give your child’s brain a bit of a workout in different areas. We’ve made some cute icons below to demonstrate:

 1. Dig It Up Dinosaur Eggs

Dig up, Dino Egg - Helps kids with: Caring, Thinking and Language

 

It seems that Hatchimals were so popular they have already hatched and flown away from the shelves this Christmas. For those of you who didn’t get your hands on one, here’s an alternative. No, it’s not quite the same as an egg that hatches before your very eyes, but surely nothing beats excavating a dinosaur? And there’s plenty of post-excavation dino nurturing potential if the kids put their minds to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 2.  Pie Face

Pie Face - Helps kids with: Laughter, Teamwork and Coordination

 

Do you have a teen who spends a large proportion of their time posting selfies on Snapchat? If so, what better way to break the ‘selfie spell’ than to splat a pie in each others faces? Also, there is a strong chance all smartphones and tablets will be absent from the table due to a high risk of ‘device death-by-whipped-cream.’

 

 

 

 

 

 3.   My First Lab Mini Duo Scope

Microscope - Helps kids with: Inquisitiveness, Confidence and School work

Put the experimental part of their brains to good use with this aesthetically pleasing microscope. And with so many outdoor-based options for scope analysis like leaves, dead bugs, pond water etc. you’ve got a great incentive to get them outside and breathing some fresh air into their lungs too. Win-win. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 4.   Skateboard

Skateboard - Helps kids with: Exercise, Confidence and Coordination

It goes without saying that a
skateboard has a vast array of benefits such as exercise, confidence, coordination, fresh air, street cred, mildly decreased chance of you feeling like an underappreciated cab driver…

It also provides a proper break from being online. Skating and web browsing = not a clever combo.

 

 

 

 

 

5.   RockJam Electronic Roll Up Drum Kit

Drums - Helps kids with: Memory, Social Skills and Coordination

 

Music has been scientifically proven to increase *deep breath* brain power, memory, social skills, confidence, patience and happiness all at the same time. We also like how these electric drums roll up so they can travel with your children to their friends’ houses for jamming sessions (do people still say jamming? Answers in a tweet please).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 ways to not lose your kids this Christmas

by Anna Hughes on December 1, 2016

 

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Smartphones and tablets are set to be a popular present for kids this Christmas. We already have an app to help prevent us from losing ours to their devices. Here are ten ways to not lose them at the shops.

With the Christmas festivities fast approaching, parents will be all consumed by the daunting task of making sure everyone is happy on the big day. Children, big and small, are at bursting point as they excitedly ponder what has been left for them under the tree. The challenge for parents at this time of year (as if there weren’t enough already), is to orchestrate the balance between what their kids want, and what their kids actually need.

In a recent survey, 20% of parents intend to buy their children a new device this Christmas. So tweens and teens across the country will soon be gleefully unwrapping smartphones and tablets.

And if they’re not careful, that’ll be the last they see of our beloved offspring as they disappear behind their screens. The Christmas sweater that was lovingly purchased by a relative remains wrapped and forgotten beneath the tree. The annual game of Charades is cancelled due to a shortage of contenders.

But fear not!

The Screen Time app can help parents manage the amount of time their kids spend on their devices, so you still get to enjoy those precious family moments.

One thing our app can’t do however is prevent our kids from getting lost in other ways. We’d love to introduce a button for this but until we do, here are a few useful pointers to help you hang onto your kids when out doing your Christmas shopping:

high-vis-vest

1. Write your phone number on your child’s arm. Even if they have memorised it with impressive accuracy, they might not remember it at times of need.

 2. Take a picture of all offspring before you leave the house. Handy for descriptive purposes in the event of misplacing your child. Memory can be uncooperative during such times.

 3. Agree on a meeting place for everyone to wait at if lost.

 4. Point out who it’s okay to go to for help. For example a police officer, a member of staff, a mom with her children.

 5. Dress your child in bright clothes so you can spot them from a distance.

take-a-photo                     phone-umber-on-hand              stay-close

And if you want to go that extra mile:

 6. Give your child several helium balloons to hold. Ideally so they float above the crowd for easy identification.

 7. Dress all children in high vis vests. (Additional hat with large flashing light attachment optional).

8. Do the Conga at all times, ensuring all family members participate for the duration of your public outing.

9. Use the power of incentivisation to keep your children close. This can be achieved by attaching a smartphone to your belt or alternatively, a fishing rod. See illustration above for guidance.

10. Leave the kids at home. They’d probably prefer it there anyway. Which also allows for ample shopping time on your own terms 🙂

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Three easy Thanksgiving activities to lure your kids away from their devices

by Anna Hughes on November 24, 2016

 

 

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Thanksgiving, in an ideal world, is a valuable time to be with our families. To laugh, to embrace one another, to joyfully reminisce about the good old days. To make new memories and enjoy a day full of meaningful conversations with loved ones.

This scenario is of course completely fictional for most. Anyone with children who claims their Thanksgiving was in any way straightforward or dreamlike, is probably bending the truth quite significantly. Especially if they were the ones hosting the festivities.

There’s the late-night food prep, the cleaning and decorating, the mental preparation for pending potential or inevitable family dramas. Not to mention the daily challenges (to put it politely) set mostly by the smallest person/people who share your home.

It is definitely tempting to give the kids some bonus time on their tablet or phone just to keep them out of the way while we dress and stuff the turkey, set tables, quietly glug eggnog etc.

And that’s fine.

Or, rather than lose our children to their devices while we do all of the work, we could always find ways to get them involved with the preparations (bear with us here).

The tasks you set needn’t be anything complicated. Baking something simple or making table decorations for example not only gets them away from their screens, it will also get them using and developing their creative skills, math skills, science, reading, time telling…the list goes on.

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Who knows, you might even bond a bit too.

Then once your house is filled with the sweet smells of pumpkin pie and your table is scattered with lovingly crafted decorations, you could treat your offspring to some bonus time on their device as a ‘well done for being so helpful’ reward. Which also means more ‘you’ time later on. Everyone wins 😉

We’ve scoured the pages of Pinterest to find the best Thanksgiving recipes and crafts for you to try with your kids. Not only that, but we at Screen Time Labs have MADE each one to ensure they are as quick and as easy as promised (kids attention spans vs parents patience levels were taken very seriously during the testing period).

Evidence is posted below in our quick video tutorials, each lasting less than 60 seconds.

We’d love to see your creations. Feel free to share on here or on our Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter feeds using #kidsunplugged.

Successful AND unsuccessful attempts are all welcome! Good luck 🙂

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Turkey Cupcakes

Turkey Paper Bag Puppets

 

 

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Have you struggled to introduce Screen Time to your kids?

by Nick Merry on October 28, 2016
ScreenTime Parent and Child contract taped to the fridge

ScreenTime Parent and Child contract

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

We get constant feedback from parents about how beneficial the screen time app has been to their children and family as a whole. These compliments often come with: “after the initial arguments”. So we are here to help. We have developed a fun way to help you, the parent, introduce Screen Time to the family. It comes in the form of ‘our family screentime pact’ – a simple contract 😉 between parent and child on the use of mobile devices to help your children understand that small but complicated word – Why? But be warned, it’s a two way street, what you ask your kids to do, you too need to adhere to.

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

Check out the interactive Family Screen Time Pact here.

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A little on the team at Screen Time Labs

by Nick Merry on October 28, 2016
ScreenTime Team photo

A few of the readily available Screen Time Labs Team

It is hard to pick up a newspaper today without reading an article on the negative impacts too much screen time can have on our children. From children getting less out door fresh air than convicts to the amount of times teens check their social media during the night (reportedly about 10 times a night). We have parents who have faced violent outbursts for closing down a device and teachers reporting kids falling asleep in class due to overtiredness (3am minecraft perhaps).

We recognise the need for parental control of kids mobile devices, and as our customer base has grown, we too have grown. The Screen Time Labs team is made up of parents fighting the very same battles as you. We are now a team of 15 and expecting to double that in the next 12 months.

So you can be safe in the knowledge that your concerns are our concerns and with our growing team, we’ll be working doubly hard to be the parental helping hand that enables your kids to get a happy balance between time spent with their devices and time discovering what the rest of life has to offer.

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Screen Time Labs wins SETsquared Bristol’s ‘Start-up of the month’ award

by Anna Hughes on October 18, 2016

Amidst the bonhomie of SETSquared’s summer ‘Beer’n’Pizza’ evening whilst cruising around Bristol’s Floating Harbour in glorious sunshine, we were delighted to be named ‘Start-up of the month’. The unexpected award comes at a time when we are busier than ever as the need of our parental control app increases particularly as kids go back to school and the inevitable build up to Christmas begins.

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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.

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