The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting

by John Hargrave on September 21, 2017
What is helicopter-parenting?

Parental controls

Also called “overparenting,” it is really something we’ve all seen. It’s the parent who’s on top of their kid constantly, always controlling everything they do and interact with. Nobody wants to be “that” parent, but at the same time, it’s easy to understand the urge to play goalie for your kids. But you shouldn’t. Here’s why.

Kids Need Structure, Not Control

The main problem with helicopter parenting is that it’s not about safety but about control. Often helicopter parents don’t deal with anxiety well and, as a result, they manage their kids as a source of anxiety, not as independent beings with their own ideas.

Granted, children have all sorts of terrible ideas that need to be addressed. Left to their own devices, more than a few kids would probably spend all day playing video games. So building structure helps to limit the arena for bad ideas. For example, parental control programs mean you can lock out kids until homework is done or play time starts. Set boundaries, standards of behavior, and other structures that create a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and think while limiting the video games and home destruction projects.arena for bad ideas. For example, parental control programs mean you can lock out kids until homework is done or play time starts. Set boundaries, standards of behavior, and other structures that create a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and think while limiting the video games and home destruction projects.arena for bad ideas. For example, parental control programs mean you can lock out kids until homework is done or play time starts. Set boundaries, standards of behavior, and other structures that create a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and think while limiting the video games and home destruction projects.arena for bad ideas. For example, parental control programs mean you can lock out kids until homework is done or play time starts. Set boundaries, standards of behavior, and other structures that create a safe place for kids to explore, learn, and think while limiting the video games and home destruction projects.

Kids Need Mistakes

Were you a perfect child? Probably not. Perhaps some of us never broke a window or ate a cake they weren’t supposed to, but you can probably remember at least a few incidents from your childhood where you made a mistake and had to deal with it. You might have dealt with it in a way that made it worse, but in the end, you learned from your mistakes.

Every kid needs that. The simple reality is, sooner or later, kids become adults and move out to interact with other adults. Understanding the consequences of our actions, and taking responsibility for them, needs to be taught from an early age. Often experience is the best teacher. By getting over obstacles to what they want, and accepting responsibility for accidents and mistakes, kids learn to be resilient and to be responsible.

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Kids Need Space

Finally, stop and consider how you feel, as a parent, having people butt into your life. Thanks to social media and smartphones, every parent has had the experience of discovering everybody else knows exactly how to raise somebody else’s children. It’s annoying, right? They don’t know what’s really going on! How dare they?!

Perhaps your kids feel the same way. Especially as they get older, children are going to be more independent. They’re going to want more time with their friends, they’re going to want to do more online, they’re going to ask for phones and video game consoles. And kids need some degree of space to be social, to interact with peers, to learn about new ideas. Remember that boundaries aren’t just for your kids, they’re also for you.

This doesn’t mean if you don’t see an incipient disaster, you shouldn’t step in. But build a structure, have standards, and trust that your kids will embrace them. A little space goes a long way. If your kids know they can come to you, they will.

Need help setting boundaries? Sign up for Screen Time.

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How the School Time App Blocker can work for you

by Anna Hughes on September 21, 2017
Do your kids switch off their phones at school and concentrate in class? Not sure? Enter...the School Time App Blocker.

 

According to recent reports*, kids are spending on average 20 hours per week online.  

That’s equivalent to 86 full days of of solid, non-stop screen-staring per year!

We parents can manage the time our offspring spend online when we’re in their company, be it via a parental control app like Screen Time, or by, let’s be honest, shouting/nagging/threats/hiding their devices/hitting own head against wall (delete as appropriate).

But when the kids are free from our watchful eye at school, how can we be sure that they are learning and not fiddling with their phones?  

After all, whether you’re a kid or an adult, we all know how enticing a phone notification is, be it a text, a Whatsapp message, a Facebook ‘like’, a news report…the list goes on. Then there’s the time-sucking nature of our personal online routines – a quick check of our emails can quickly turn into an hour long phone-a-thon with nothing useful achieved at the end of it.

Us adults are big enough and responsible enough to manage our own screen time limits. Our kids however, need a helping hand.

Which is where the School Time App Blocker steps in.

What is it?

It’s a feature that allows parents to set up a blocked period of time where apps on their child’s device are blocked. So when said child is sat feeling lost in their science class, quietly cranking up Minecraft is no longer an option. So they might instead choose to pay attention to the teacher.

If you choose to block the apps during their break times, they might consider instead socialising face to face with their peers, a skill less practised by kids these days thanks to constant access to social media apps.

Sounds awesome! What else can I do with it?

Some parents like to set up a blocked period after school too which means that kids can concentrate on their homework without phone distractions.

You could even use the app blocker to block out some time before school as well. This would not only make it easier for you to have a conversation with your kids before you all go your separate ways, but it could mean you get out of the door on time without needing to prise child from device.

So there you have it: peace of mind that your kids aren’t being distracted by their mobile devices when at school. And when they get better grades as a result, you could reward them with some bonus screen time.

Then everyone is happy 🙂

* Source

 

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Five Messaging Apps that Are Unsafe for Pre-teens

by Anna Hughes on September 14, 2017
Pre-teens love texting, but which messaging apps are safe for them? That's a tough question. There are a lot of apps out there, and some can catch on like wildfire only to burn out quickly. That said, plenty are active, and not all of them are good.

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Snapchat

Snapchat’s already fairly notorious for how it automatically deletes messages after a set time, at least in theory. But problems go well beyond the app’s mechanics. Advertisers can easily monitor conversations, and indeed as Snapchat struggles to prove itself financially, it’ll likely offer up more data and give advertisers more opportunity to snoop on kids.

Kik

Kik has a plan involving artificial intelligence that will likely give parents pause. Simply put, the company is developing marketing robots or automated chat systems that contact users directly and attempt to get them to click on a link, buy something, or otherwise market directly to consumers. While, at the moment, these chatbots are clearly identified and usually will only show up on the app if contacted, it’s not difficult to see automated chatbots being sent out to try and lure kids to marketing campaigns. There’s nothing in place to stop individuals from doing this. So it’s one to be wary of.

Line

Line is a fairly new app, at least to Americans; it’s largely been popular in Japan and only recently has begun drawing attention in the US. The main point of concern is “Hidden Chats,” which, unlike Snapchat, will completely erase a Line chat from both devices used in the chats and off company servers. That makes recovering those records impossible, and it makes figuring out who kids are talking to, tricky.

Parental control apps

It’s not just where, but how, they’re texting you should be concerned about.

WhatsApp

Unlike most messaging apps, the real problem with WhatsApp is the spreading of fake news. It’s currently prevalent in India, but it’s also becoming a real problem across the platform, and WhatsApp seems powerless to stop it.

Facebook Messenger

Amid all the concerns about privacy and marketing, it’s easy to forget there are problems on Facebook Messenger too. Facebook collects data on its networks to improve its algorithm, and that means kids will be marketed to, and potentially spied on.

The good news is that dealing with this is easy. Set rules for your kids, and talk to them about the concerns they should have about apps and the people they meet on the internet. And make a point of setting limits on phone usage and screen time. After all, if kids are talking with friends, they should do it in the real world. Need help getting your pre-teens off screens? Learn more about Screen Time.

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How to Start Educating Your Kids about Online Safety

by Anna Hughes on September 7, 2017
How do we teach our children to be safe online? Parents can find themselves befuddled, or even unsafe themselves, on the internet, so their kids using it can be a scary prospect. But with the right approach and the right tools, you can ensure your kids stay safe online.

Parental control apps

There’s More than One Risk

We focus on the criminal problems on the internet, but your kids are far more likely to run into somebody out to hurt their feelings because they think it’s funny or the internet “doesn’t matter.” People are likely to ruin their fun, call them names, and otherwise be, well…jerks, so you need to prepare yourself for the moment when they come to you in tears. Help your kids set this behavior into context, before it happens so that they can deal with it effectively.

What Can You Share?

The most common internet criminal is one who tries to get personal information to steal identities. They might ask about your personal details, or they might ask your kids for their identifying data. So, teach kids what’s OK to share and what isn’t OK to share. And if a “friend” keeps pushing for their personal info, then maybe that person isn’t a friend at all!

Set ‘Internet Time’

It helps to set specific times during the day when your kids can be online, especially when you can be there to supervise. Set aside specific blocks where possible; a block should be set aside for school work, while other times can be for online games or talking to friends. Time limits help keep kids from poking into places they shouldn’t be wandering online, and ensure you’re there to step in.

Parental control apps

Keep Communicating

When your kids are on the internet, be sure to talk to them every day about what they’re doing, who they’re talking to, what games they’re playing, and so on. This serves two purposes; one, it lets you in on what your kids are doing, on their terms. And two, it lets them know that they can come to you and ask you about behavior that makes them uncomfortable or that hurts their feelings.

Be Careful With Strangers

A good rule, just like in the real world, is to be careful with strangers. Kids should understand that on the internet, people may not be who they say they are. Set a standard for younger children that they should only talk with people they know in real life; older kids should be able to tell you how they know their friends on social media. If they’re reluctant to tell you about a friend they have, that’s a bad sign.

Use Parental Control Apps

Finally, while building trust and respect between child and parent is important, the reality is that kids will be kids. They love to go where they’re not supposed to, and they can be lured there by those will ill intent. Parental control apps will let you enforce time limits, content limits, and anything else you may want to keep tabs on with the internet. An app will go a long way towards peace of mind, for you and your child.

Need help ensuring your kids have a positive experience with the internet? Learn more about Screen Time.

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Five Quick and Simple Ways to Connect with Your Kids

by Anna Hughes on August 31, 2017
“How do I find time to talk to my kids?” is a question that gets harder to answer the older they get. Between school, friends, jobs and socializing, kids are busier and busier these days. So try these ways to ensure you've got time with your kids to talk.
Parental control apps

It’s essential to find time with your kids.

Create Family Time In The Day

This can be as simple as blocking off family meal times, whether you all have a nice breakfast together every morning before you get out the door, sit down to a family dinner every night, or set aside time every week for family game night. And of course, it’ll depend on schedules, both yours and theirs. But look for a consistent time where you can talk as a family, and work it into the day.

Show Interest

Often, the answer to talking to your kids is as simple as asking them what’s going on. For all the eye rolls and sarcasm you might get, kids generally are happy to know their parents care. Ask about what they’re doing in school, what they’re reading or watching online, what hobbies they’re interested in. If they know you care, they’re far more likely to talk to you about what they’re up to, and even start a conversation themselves.

And don’t forget, this is a two-way street. Kids appreciate honesty, and if they ask you about work or what else is going on, answer honestly, to the extent that you’re able to.

Ask Them To Pitch In

If you’ve got an uncomplicated task you’re working on, and they’re free, ask them to help you with it. As you work, you can chat to pass the time, or even bring up things to talk about. Shared work often gives you a strong emotional connection with whoever you’re working with, and it can be, among other things, a fun way for your kids to pass the time or learn something about how you run the house.

Find A Family Hobby Or Project

You’ll often find people’s fondest memories of their parents revolve around a big family project—be it a Thanksgiving dinner where everybody pitched in, a treehouse parents and kids built together, or a shared passion for a sport, an activity, a beloved book…the list goes on.

Don’t try to force that shared passion – it might already be right in front of you. If the kids are asking to start a project of some sort, see if you can join them. Even something as simple as volunteering to help with school projects they’re doing can make a lot of time to talk.

Limit Screen Time

Finally, make sure that you and your kids have limits to when you use screens, both tablets and phones and larger screens like laptops or TVs. It’s too easy to get sucked into a game, a TV show, or a book and simply stop talking to each other until it’s time for bed or school. By setting aside the screens for a moment, you’ll be able to simply stop and talk as a family. Parental control apps can be helpful tools for limiting screen time.

Interested in finding some more time to connect with your kids? If you need help keeping screen use to a healthy level, try a parental control app like Screen Time.

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5 benefits of setting time limits on kids devices

by Anna Hughes on August 24, 2017
One of the most popular Screen Time app features is ‘The Daily Limit’ feature. It allows parents to set a time limit for how long apps can be used on their kids’ devices in a day.

Image Credit: mothers-meeting.com

Once the limit has been reached, the apps will be blocked.

Then let their daily dose of wholesome, screen-free living commence! Until their next, pre-arranged screen time fix.

What’s more, parents set these time limits from their own device. In other words, the Screen Time app turns parent’s smartphones/tablets into their very own personal remote control for their kids’ mobile devices.

Meaning you can feel like you finally have a handle on your kids’ screen time.

The Daily Limit feature comes hand in hand with a whole array of benefits. Here are 5:

1. Time limits help knock Screen Addiction on the head.

You know the drill. You pick up your phone to quickly check the weather for the day.

Which turns into checking the news headlines.

Then you respond to a text.

Before checking in on Facebook to look at wedding photos of people you don’t know.

Which turns into checking emails…

A full hour of your life – gone in a flash.

This is the behaviour of a full grown adult. Imagine how hard a child must find it to put down their device. Screen addiction is A THING. Which is where Screen Time comes in.

Setting time limits on your kid’s device helps to stop screen addiction from taking over their lives. It takes the decision to switch off out of their hands.

Which isn’t a bad idea for grown ups too.

2. ‘Switch off’ rows become a distant memory

We’ve all been there. A grandparent has come to visit. They’d love to chat with their grandkids however said grandkids are in their screen time bubble, shooting baddies, posting selfies…ignoring Granny.

What is a parent to do?

There is the ingenious Instant Pause button available in an emergency. But before resorting to that, some parents might prefer to do the honourable thing and ASK their child to switch off their device and acknowledge poor Granny.

With Time Limits already discussed and in place, your kids know they can switch off their devices safe in the knowledge they can pick up where they left off later that day. So they’re ok with it.

They’re happy. Granny’s happy. Everyone’s happy 🙂

3. The kids will become Time Management pros

Screen Time was initially invented with the subject of Time Management in mind – a key life skill that comes with practice.

If your loved ones know that they have 30 minutes of screen time left in the bank, they will need to think carefully about how to fit that in around other plans. For example, if they have, say, an art project to complete, they might aim to finish it by 5pm to allow for that precious 30 minutes they have left on their device before dinner.

And remember, kids love a routine. Imagine how happy they’ll be once they become experts at setting their own!

4. Decide on limits together and your kids will feel listened to

Have you ever asked your child how much time they believe they should be allowed on their mobile device each day? Give it a try. You might be surprised at their answer when they’re forced to really think about it.

Throw other offline activities into the mix like a bike ride or baking a cake. Fit screen time in around offline activities rather than the other way round.

Before you know it you and your child will have agreed on a daily screen time allowance and everyone can feel happy that their feelings and needs have been considered. Everybody loves an idea if they feel like it was their own 😉

 

5. Because we parents need a break sometimes

We at Screen Time are parents too. So we get it – parenting can be a tough gig! Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we have to work from home because our kids are sick. Sometimes we have a dinner party to prepare or a school costume to make (read: buy online)

Sometimes letting our kids play with their smartphone or tablet is the only way we can get some space to do all of the above! So just increase their time limit for the day using your Screen Time app and enjoy that time to yourself.

Because sometimes that ‘you’ time is just necessary.

If you’re ready to get the most out of the Screen Time app by upgrading to a Premium subscription, click here!

 

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How to Create a Healthy After-School Routine

by Anna Hughes on August 17, 2017
Human beings, whether they're your children or your co-workers, love predictability. As we set routines and habits, they can become life-defining. So, with your kids, you should establish routines and habits that are healthy, especially after school. But how?

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Consistency First

Successful routines are built on consistency. A routine needs to be something both your and your children can maintain. This does need to be split-second precise, but just realistic and reasonable. For example, if you’re picking up the kids at five every day after work, your routine needs to be built around that. You can’t expect to get dinner on the table at 5:30 when that’s right when you arrive home!

Routines Should Mesh

The routines you establish for your kids should mesh with yours. This seems obvious, but ask yourself if, for example, there’s a traffic jam to get into the bathroom in the morning, or if you consistently find yourself driving for a late pick-up from school.

And remember to talk to your kids about what they want their routines to be. They don’t get the final word, of course, but let them have a say, and if they want time for something, let them make their case.

Lead By Example

The need to model the behavior you want out of your kids should be built into your routine. For example, if, after dinner, you flop down on the couch and watch TV, your kids will probably go along with that routine, even on days when they have loads of free time. So if you want, say, your kids to read a bit every day, you need to have that built into your own routine.

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Build In Structured And Unstructured Time

Part of growing up is learning how to spend your time, and kids need guidance there like in anything else. But they also need time to play, to unwind, to just goof off, try new things, and explore. So, when designing your routines, leave open time for kids just to be kids.

Unstructured time, however, doesn’t mean kids can do just anything. If you don’t want them to spend all day playing video games, make sure they understand there are times and limits. Parental control apps can be helpful for establishing limits on your kids’ screens and ensuring that they stick to them.

Build Workspaces

For kids to do certain things, they need spaces to do it. It sounds obvious, but how many of us have had to shovel things off desks or clear the kitchen table to make room for homework projects or the computer to write a book report? So, work on building spaces and stations for your kids to do certain activities. Have space on your desk where they can do homework, have a place in the house for them to craft or try hobbies, and have a place just to relax.

Building a routine will be a process, and every household will have a different one. Depending on work schedules, school schedules, and the day to day opportunities life gives us, though, we can work with our kids and ourselves for a better, happier after-school routine. Need help keeping screens off the menu? Look to parental control apps for support. Sign up for Screen Time now to get started!

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Finding Balance Starts with Modeling Good Behaviors

by Anna Hughes on August 10, 2017
“How do I get my children to put down their screens?” Many, many parents ask this question, and there are plenty of answers to it. But one of the key answers is that kids learn by watching their parents. If your kids are spending all their time looking at screens, did they learn it from you? And if so, how can you change their approach?

Parental control for iPhone

Modeling Behavior

You are by far the most influential person in your child’s life. They learn everything from YOU. Especially with day-to-day behaviors, how you treat yourself is how your kids, often, will treat themselves. So, how they use screens will be inspired—at least in part—by how you use them.

This is not to say how your kids use screens is your fault, and beating yourself up is counterproductive. Behavior, yours and theirs, isn’t set in stone and can easily be shifted. But first, you need to understand what behavior you’re showing.

Start by tracking how you use screens, and why you use them. Smartphones are the Swiss Army knife of modern living, after all, and you likely use your phone for everything from getting directions to tracking down recipes. And this is good modeling; showing your kids that you use it as a tool, not a distraction, will help them think of it differently.

Secondly, look at the times you don’t need to use it. Would you be better off reading a physical book than staring at your screen? Do you turn on the TV and just never turn it off once you get home? How do you use your phone, and why?

Parental control for iPhone

Changing Behavior

Once you understand how you use your screens, you can start ensuring your children also understand. After all, they’ve got no way of knowing that you’re looking up how many cups are in a quart while you’re cooking. For all they know, you’re fiddling with a game.

So, talk them through how and why you use it, and when. Be sure they understand that you’re using it as a tool, and encourage them to view smartphones that way. Then, for non-essential use, when it’s not a tool, start laying out some rules about how much time can be spent on screens. These rules should apply to everybody in the family, and everybody should agree to hold each other accountable.

On the opposite end, ensure that your family won’t want to look at screens by giving them alternatives. Make it easy to put the screens down by planning family activities. Set up times for your kids to hang out with their friends, instead of texting them. And, when screens are being used, try to make it a family activity or show interest in what your children are doing. Have them explain a favorite game to you. Watch movies together as a family, instead of five different movies on different screens.

Remember, your kids take your lead. By setting good standards for yourself, you’ll find that your children will have good habits with screens yourself. Need help weaning kids off screens? Learn more about Screen Time.

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Five Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids This Summer

by Anna Hughes on August 3, 2017
It's summer, the kids are home, and you want to spend more time with them. But where to start? Use these ideas as a springboard to spending more quality time with the kids over those long summer days.

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Family Book Club

Everybody says kids don’t read enough these days, so do your part with a family book club. Let your kids pick a book, everybody reads it, and then set aside a little time to chat about it. What did they like about the book? What didn’t they like? Why not? It’s a good way not only to get kids reading but also to encourage them to think critically about the messages they find in the things they read and watch — a positive habit to build up at any age. It’ll also keep their minds sharp for when summer ends, and the book report once again returns to the weekly schedule.

Family Meals

It can be tough to get the entire family around a table sometimes, but it can be worth it. Help your kids get invested in it by having them help plan out the meal. Take them shopping with you and talk them through how you shop, why you buy one thing and not another, or ask them to help pick out produce and other ingredients. Have them help prepare the meal, and then you can sit around the table and talk about what they learned, and they can ask you questions about what you cook and why.

Play Their Games

Do you ever spot games around your home, online or offline, that you have no earthly idea how to play? The summer is the perfect opportunity to learn. While you should limit screen time and get kids outside, it’s OK for kids to play the occasional game. Next time they do, hang around and watch for a while. Ask them questions about the game. Learn what they get out of it, and you and your kids will better understand each other. And, of course, don’t hesitate to introduce them to your games.

Parental control software

The family can be together all summer.

Take A Road Trip

The family trip is a classic way to spend time, and it’s a good way to get out and see the world. Everyone should leave the phones and tablets at home, and you can plan a trip for everybody. Even if you just take a day trip to a historical site or see another town and what it has to offer, it’ll be a fun way to spend time together and make memories.

Have A Summer Project

Another way to bring everyone together is to plan out a big project together. Build a garden or a shed. Design a garden for you and your kids to care for year-round. Rearrange the family room so it’s easier to organize and play in. Look for a project you can all work on together.

There’s far more you can do with your kids over summer break. Think about what your kids like to do, family activities you’ve enjoyed in the past. And, above all, limit the screen time to get out there and enjoy the world. Need help keeping kids off screens? Sign up today.

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How to Help Your Kids Combat Summer Boredom (And Preserve Your Sanity)

by Anna Hughes on July 27, 2017
It's summer, and that means parents are all asking the same question: How can I keep my kids happy and not driving me crazy? The good news is that you don't have to ship them off to camp from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Here's how to keep kids entertained and busy during the lazy days of summer.
Parental control software

Kids shouldn’t need screens to have fun.

Leave Time Free

The first impulse for many parents is to book up the kids completely — and some camps, classes, or other intellectually engaging ideas are a good thing. But they shouldn’t have a nine-to-five schedule. Kids need unstructured time to learn how to entertain themselves, engage with the world on their own terms, and just have some fun. Kids need a break from schedules too, and a little time to explore the neighborhood, wander the woods, and find out about the world is a great thing.

Pick Activities Wisely

That doesn’t mean structured time is the enemy for happy kids. Kids can get a lot out of structured activities like camp, classes, intramural sports and more. Just don’t make the mistake of picking activities that fit your schedule, instead of theirs. Talk to your kids about what they want to try, why they want to try it, and what they’re hoping to get out of it. Ideally, their activities let them pursue their interests or something they want to learn or get more out of. But don’t hesitate to let them try new things; that’s what summer is for.

Stick To Your Rules

Summer is classically the time kids goof off. But that doesn’t mean your rules about TV time, texting, and video games need to go out the window with them. If you’ve established screen time rules during the school year, it might be tempting to loosen them up a little bit, but resist the urge. Kids need consistency in rules, all year round, and just because they have free time and no desire to fill it doesn’t mean they should spend all their time on screens.

Parental control software

A walk in the woods should be part of any summer.

Plan Activities Yourself

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t plan out your own fun family time, and summer is the ideal time to pull out all those family projects and other ideas you’ve been meaning to try. Really, what you can do is limitless, and it all depends on what your family would enjoy. Building a treehouse, running a book club, having a family movie night — there’s a kaleidoscope of things you can do. And, of course, don’t hesitate to ask your kids if there are projects they want to try.

Get Help Around The House

There’s no more effective way to keep kids from bothering you with how bored they are like giving them a task around the house. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect them to be a maid service, but if you’ve got something the kids can do, and they’re asking for something to do, involve them. It’s a good way to start teaching adult skills and take a tiny task off your plate. Have them help you cook dinner, take care of laundry, or other tasks.

Kids, every parent quickly learns, are easily bored. But with a little planning, a little flexibility, and some ideas of your own, it’ll be the best summer ever. Need to get kids off their screens this summer? Learn more about how Screen Time can help.

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