How to Use a Smartphone Tracker to Protect your Kids on Social Media

by Screen Time Team on 11/12/2019

Social media is a fact of life, and it can be a great thing. It lets us stay in touch with friends and family, gives us leads on jobs, and helps us coordinate big events. But there’s a dark side to everybody being in touch with everyone else, and it needs to be kept in check.

A Riot Of Social Media

Social media is an app hothouse. No sooner do parents hear about a new social media app before it runs its course with young people and becomes “uncool.” Worse, there’s a limit to what these apps can do to prevent abusive behavior or dangerous individuals from signing on. Many simply don’t have the money or staff to police their users, especially if their user base grows rapidly.

Add to this that criminals often know their targets, and you have a serious social media problem. Few kids are likely to trust a total stranger asking them to meet them at the mall without their parents, but what about somebody they interact with every day?

There are steps you can, and should, take to increase social media safety, such as regularly talking with your kids about what they’re using and why, and teaching them to spot manipulators. But rather than attempt to track individual apps, or looking through their phone, it makes more sense to track them at the platform on which the apps are used.

Teen looking at her phone.

A tracker can also be used to make sure kids are where they’re supposed to be throughout the day. That said, a tracker can only track the device as long as its enabled, and the location of a device is not necessarily the location of its owner.

Action, though, is better than reaction. Parental control apps can be used to shut down messaging apps and social media sites, keep them from being downloaded or accessed, or limit how much time is spent on them. Some apps also are “unzipped,” meaning that functions such as messaging are on separate apps, so you can let teens onto Facebook while shutting off Messenger.

However, both trackers and apps are only a back-up to honest, open communication and education. Parents and kids need to have a discussion about the rules, why they’re in place, and what kids need to look out for when they’re on the internet. Make sure that kids know:

  • How manipulators operate and how to spot them
  • How to “trust but verify” with relatives and family friends
  • When to come to you when they feel there’s a problem or point of concern
  • How to handle abusive or rude people
  • What to do when somebody asks them to meet them in a public place away from their parents

Part of growing up is learning how to engage with the world. Smartphone trackers and parental control apps can serve as “training wheels” for developing good judgment. To learn more about Screen Time and smartphone tracking, try it for free!

read more

Does your Child use a Kindle Fire? Here’s a Parental Control Guide.

by Screen Time Team on 06/11/2019

Contrary to popular belief, kids read more than adults, in part because they’re expected to and in part because they have more time to sit down with a good book. That said, parents are reasonably concerned about how much time kids spend watching TV, playing games, and otherwise engaged with screens. 

The Kindle Fire can be a useful device for kids, since it’s tied directly to your Amazon account, giving you more control over content. But to get the most out of it, and to keep kids away from shows and books they probably shouldn’t experience yet, you should both use the parental controls the device offers and implement your own.

The Kindle Fire’s Parental Controls

Amazon allows parents to configure parental controls from anywhere, including your personal phone. The Parent Dashboard lets you track what they’re watching, reading, and playing, and how much time they’re spending doing it. You also can set filters for content, whitelist apps to allow them to do things, set time limits and a bedtime for the device, and give your kids educational challenges.

Sound great? Unfortunately, there’s a catch: Amazon wants $3 a month (from Prime members) to $5 a month (non-members) for the service. There’s also a yearly price available. And it is worth remembering that this is Amazon’s program on Amazon’s device; if the company is faced with a situation where it needs to choose between parents’ interest and profit, they’re likely to put their own concerns first.

Besides, you need to have more than one tool to enforce the rules. This is why every Kindle Fire should have a third-party parental control app installed.

Kindle Fire And Third-Party Parental Control Apps

Teenager looking intently at his phone.

Installing third-party parental control apps can help you keep a handle on the Kindle. In addition to features like instant pause, third-party apps serve as a backup to parental controls. They’re also not beholden to content companies or the device manufacturer, so you have an impartial moderator for content.

In Amazon’s case, you also don’t have to subscribe to a separate service and then pay on top of that. Some parents may not be comfortable at being forced to pay a device manufacturer for the right to assert control over something they own. Considering the history of ad-blockers, where sites rapidly began paying to have their ads excepted from the program, third-party apps may be a simpler approach in the long term.

Parental control apps also give you the ability to ease kids into responsible screen use. It’s great that you can challenge your kids via their Kindle, but what really matters is that they understand why they’re learning and why it’s important to put their screen down. 

And as kids grow, go to school, and develop more interest in different topics, you need to be able to change the rules to accommodate that growth. The more adaptable the app, and the more tools you have to work with your kids on these questions, the easier that process will be.

Parental control apps help parents and kids get a handle on the ever-more-complicated world of devices, apps, and the internet. To learn more, sign up today!

read more

Samsung Users: Here’s Your Parental Control Guide

by Screen Time Team on 23/10/2019

When it comes to Android devices, Samsung is undeniably the world leader, not just in phones, but in tablets, televisions, and a host of other devices driven by Android as well. That presents a challenge for parents, since they need to enforce the rules when it comes to apps and screen time. Here’s how to prepare a Samsung device for family use.

What To Know

Unfortunately, there are no Android-level controls on your phone, unlike iOS. While iOS hardly offers the most comprehensive set of tools for parents to keep track of kids, the lack of tools at the operating system level on Android means you’ll need to download and install a third-party parental control app to be absolutely sure kids are following the rules. As a back-up to this app, you’ll need to set Google Play to prevent app downloading and in-app purchases.

Those rules, and what you’re doing to put them in place, should be completely clear. Family contracts, written rules, and discussions about why the rules are in place will be important. If kids understand what you’re worried about, they’re more likely to consider their behavior. Parental control apps are, in the end, just a way to enforce the rules. The best way to make sure kids develop safe and healthy relationships with their screens and the people they meet using them is with open communication and understanding.

Young teen lying down looking at her phone.

Google Play Services Parental Controls

This setting won’t affect any content on your children’s devices before you implemented the settings. Also, it won’t filter the content of apps, such as messaging apps, or allow you to set any device restrictions beyond app downloading and in-app purchases.

It’s also important to know that these settings are not automatically uploaded to the apps you allow to be downloaded. While Google Play will block in-app purchases on any app, you’ll need to set parental settings on each new app you allow your kids to download. It’s advisable to download apps like YouTube Kids and delete the “full” versions of these apps before you reconfigure Google Play. Here’s what to do.

  • Open the Google Play Store and press the menu button in the upper left-hand corner. It will be an icon with three lines, next to the search box.
  • This will open a menu on the side. Scroll down and choose Settings.
  • On the page that opens, choose Parental Controls.
  • On the next page, toggle Parental Controls to “On,” and create a PIN. Use a PIN you’ll remember, and that your children won’t guess. 

Then configure apps, movies, films, TV, and magazines to the appropriate maturity level.

Installing A Parental Control App

For any features beyond apps, you’ll need to install a third-party parental control app on your children’s device to have control over the type of content they access. No major phone manufacturer is currently including the features that parents demand. 

Android parental controls are a good start, but they generally don’t provide the level of protection most parents want for their kids on mobile devices. Screen Time is a parental control app that you can install on all your kids’ devices and customize to the level of protection that is appropriate. To learn more about our parental control app, try it for free!

read more

Limit your Child’s Screen Time with Parental Controls for Android

by Marcela on 21/10/2019

Raising children during the Age of Technology has its fair share of challenges. Ensuring that your kids don’t spend too much time in front of an illuminated blue screen is just one of them.

If you’re an Android-friendly family, you already have a few key monitoring tools at your disposal. Keep reading to learn more about how you can manage your child’s screen time with parental controls for Android.

Signing up for parental controls is easy on any Android device. You simply need to create an account for the service from your phone or tablet’s browser, using your email address or select social media information. Follow the prompts to provide the correct personal information.

Once you’ve created your Screen Time account, you’ll need to connect your child’s device. You can easily complete this process by following these instructions:

  1. Visit screentime.link from the browser on your child’s phone. 
  2. Download and open the Screen Time app from the Play Store. 
  3. Click Get Started, and repeat the process you completed from your own device.

To ensure optimal functionality, make sure Screen Time has all necessary permissions to monitor the device and block or activate apps.

If you want to make changes to any of these commands, go into the app’s settings page. There, you can edit accessibility services, device pairing, active blocks, app activation, and the device administrator.

Oversee Content and Usage

There is a ton of information online, and a major portion of that is likely content that you don’t want your kids to see.

Not only can kids use their devices to access inappropriate content, but they could also be targeted by online predators and cybercriminals.

Even if your children only use age-appropriate apps and programs, they could still be at risk.

Parental controls give you the ability to screen what your kids are watching or reading beforehand.

You can also set more rigorous controls based on a variety of different criteria, including:

  • URL blocking
  • Keyword filters
  • Time limits
  • Geo-fencing
  • App usage

Additionally, you can view incoming and outgoing messages to ensure that your children are safely and responsibly communicating with others online.

Set Time Caps

How your children access the internet is incredibly important, but so is the amount of time they spend online.

Too much screen time can impair a child’s ability to focus and make sound decisions. It can also impede their performance at school, as well as their behavioral patterns and mood.

Young children typically spend at least two hours each day in front of some type of screen, with nearly half of their time being spent on mobile devices.

Children who have smartphones spend even more time plugged in. On average, these kids spend 7.5 hours per day on their mobile phones.

When it comes to the habit-forming nature of mobile technology, the results are even more shocking. A staggering 50 percent of children admit to being addicted to their mobile devices.

You can greatly reduce this risk by using parental controls to monitor your child’s usage. You can set time limits, view activity, or block device use entirely just from the tap of your own screen.

This can help you to establish healthy routines, while also helping you to learn more about your kids’ online habits.

parental controls android

Monitor All Channels

If you use an Android-powered smartphone or tablet, you have access to other forms of media including TV, music, movies, and books.

Webpages are the primary risk for young mobile users, but they could also access inappropriate or unsafe content through these channels.

Android’s built-in parental controls allow you to control what TV or movie ratings your kids are allowed to watch. You can also set filters that prevent children from listening to explicit music.

To ensure that your kids’ devices are fully protected, take some time to see everything they have access to.

Set Clear Parameters

Establishing rules without explaining what they mean could defeat the purpose. A lack of transparency can make your children reluctant to adopt new habits.

Discuss screen time with your kids, what it means, and why it’s important to manage. This is a great opportunity to educate them about the internet, as well as what content is appropriate or restricted.

Even with parental controls in place, keeping an open dialogue is the key to strengthening your child’s judgement when it comes to how they use their Android devices.

Technology may be everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t question why, when, or how your children use their mobile devices. Setting parental controls on your children’s Android phones or tablets will protect them while also helping them to develop good habits regarding screen time and online activity.

read more

Is New Instagram ‘Threads’ App Safer Than Snapchat?

by Screen Time Team on 16/10/2019

Stealing is the highest form of flattery, and Snapchat must feel incredibly flattered lately, because Facebook has just announced Threads, an app for Instagram that sounds, looks, and feels suspiciously like Snapchat. But there are a few important differences between it and Snapchat (the “self-destructing” image app) that parents should know about.

What Is Threads?

In Facebook’s words, Threads is a photo-sharing app for your Close Friends, that is, the people you’ve designated as a Close Friend on Instagram. In reality, it’s basically another messaging app, just more photography-based and tied to Instagram. Threads is as much a reaction to “finstas” or fake Instagrams – accounts that users share only with actual close friends – as it is to Snapchat.

Is Threads Safe?

Whether Threads is safe depends on your definition of “safe.” Leaving aside the fact that there are risks inherent to all social media, there are a few particular points of concern for parents. The first is “Auto Status,” an optional setting that will update a person’s list by drawing from location data, movement, and network connections to tell friends where a person is, in vague terms. The example Facebook gave was if you go to a coffee shop, Auto Status would update to “At a cafe” rather than giving a specific address.

The second concern is that friends’ lists aren’t shared with other users unless you tell them in person. If you’re worried about your teen’s less pleasant friends, this may be a way they talk to them without your knowing, for example. It is also not clear at this point whether Threads will share Snapchat’s parental controls.

That said, there are some upsides to the app. For example, users can’t contact users they’re not “Close Friends” with, so there’s no spam to deal with. And so far, there are no addictive features like Snapstreaks. But these advantages may not outweigh the downsides, for many parents.

Girl holding a pumpkin.

Should Parents Worry About Threads?

Worry? Probably not, but it’s worth looking at the settings of your parental control app and asking yourself whether Threads contradicts your family’s general rules. The app, in a broader sense, may not be around for long because the history of Facebook is littered with failed messaging apps. Remember the now-defunct Notify or Facebook Email? Still, however, parents should know what Threads is so they can decide if it’s acceptable for their kids to use.

It’s more a question of how it’s used and how that may intersect with your broader family agreement about phones, messaging, and media that should concern you. If there are certain people you don’t want your kids to talk to, Threads could be a problem. But Threads is designed to be curated, so if children are willing to share who their “Close Friends” are with you, then this may be a good introduction to the wider world of photo social media.

Finally, parents should consider the matter of privacy. One of the virtues of parental control apps is that they give kids a measure of personal freedom that’s lacking when you’re constantly looking over their shoulder. Instead of a guard, they have boundaries they can’t cross, and this can more effective in many families. Everyone needs some degree of emotional space, especially online, and Threads may be a useful way to grant it, within reason.

If you want to learn how to balance your kids’ smartphone usage against their other responsibilities,  sign up for Screen Time.

read more

Should You Create a Phone ‘Contract’ for Your Kids?

by Screen Time Team on 10/10/2019

There are many moments that mark kids growing up, in big ways and in small ways. Increasingly one of these turning points is a child’s first cell phone. Parents may understandably be hesitant to hand over an expensive and powerful device without setting some ground rules, and in some cases, a “family contract” covering phone use can make a lot of sense.

What Is A Family Phone Contract?

At its most basic level, a family phone contract is getting the rules down on paper. Like any contract, it contains the responsibilities of all parties involved, the cost of not fulfilling those responsibilities, and conditions for the contract to be renegotiated over time. The sample contracts floating around online generally include requirements for parents as well, usually underscoring that kids imitate parents, so parents need to set a good example and be responsible as well.

And like any contract, it can be somewhat contentious. We’ve all been in a situation where we’re handed a paper to sign and we resent the implication that we have to do so, that otherwise we can’t be trusted. Our children are no different. Still, the contract can have value, provided it makes sense for your family and provided you stick to it.

When Should I Consider A Phone Contract?

The usefulness of a contract really depends on two factors: How you think your family will embrace it, and how complicated a “deal” you have to work out for a cell phone in the first place. You know your family better than anybody, so there may be situations where you simply install a parental control app or buy a phone with limited function, lay down the law, and deal with any special exceptions later. And no contract can take the place of a long, clear discussion of your concerns and why your kids need to respect them.

Inevitably, though, nuances will start to present themselves as kids get older, make new friends, and start taking other steps towards new experiences like travel and after-school responsibilities. Here, especially if you’ve got detailed concerns, a contract might make sense just to help your kids figure out the rules!

Parents sitting with their daughter on a couch.

What Should Be In A Phone Contract?

It’s probably not the best idea to use a stock contract online; every family is different. Here are a few things to consider with your contract:

  • Whether device use for schoolwork counts towards overall screen time.
  • Where and how your parental control app is applied.
  • How kids can earn new privileges, and when you’ll consider granting them.
  • What happens if kids don’t meet their responsibilities, or you don’t meet yours.
  • When the contract can be reconsidered and why.

Every contract will be different, and different children within a family will probably have different contracts. Your teen driver with a job will have different rules than your preteen still riding the bus, for example.

One thing that shouldn’t be negotiable is a parental control app. Parental control apps give you more options, not just for enforcing a family phone contract but for addressing issues that might come up that the contract doesn’t cover. To learn more about how parental control apps can keep the rules in place, try ours for free!

read more

How to Set Parental Controls on Your Child’s Phone

by Marcela on 07/10/2019

Pew Internet Research reports that nearly all teens today use a smartphone (95 percent of teens, in fact!). Unfortunately, the prevalence of smartphones has led to the constant need for them and many teens admit to being cell phone addicts.

What might have started as a seemingly innocent communications device has evolved into a 24/7 link to a teen’s social existence that seems to serve as a constant tool for self-validation. 

Likes, shares, messages, compliments all boost happy feelings. As the friends list explodes, so, too, might feelings of popularity and acceptance.

Understandably, going without that phone and those messages might make teens feel anxious. This fear of missing out (or FOMO for short) also could lead to a more heightened fear—nomophobia (or no mobile-phone phobia).

Teens and younger kids could simply find themselves unwilling to tear themselves away from other apps on their phones. Maybe online games have sucked them into another world, and cries of “just one more level!” may leave fingers tapping away at that screen for hours.

Smartphones hold many hidden sticky treasures that entice young users to keep the screen close. Parents may find themselves at a loss on how to control time spent staring at that screen. For parents who are at their wit’s end with the digital world, it might be time to establish tech boundaries that keep screentime to a healthy limit.

Here’s how to set parental controls on your child’s phone.

The Do Not Disturb option on iOS lets users disable the phone during drive time

iPhones

Does your child have an iPhone? Controls can be established by parents that require app downloads to be verified using an Apple ID password. This means parents can have the final say in what apps their kids use…to some extent, at least.

Parents who may be concerned that their teen is using the phone while driving can insist on teens utilizing the Do Not Disturb While Driving function. While teens can activate this function themselves, Apple notes that parents can set it up on their child’s phone, too, and this gives parents a bit more control.

More options can be accessed by using an Apple ID—like turning off in-app purchases. According to the site iMore, parents also can restrict content like mature web sites and location information by setting up a passcode.

Apple’s own site notes that parents can opt for their kids to not have access to the Game Center, and parents can set restrictions for adding friends, playing with multiple people and any recording functions. Parents can set time limits, too https://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/features/ios-12-screen-time-usage-reports-app-limits-downtime-children-restrictions-1917997

Android Parental Controls

Android devices also feature parental control options. Parents can control what games and apps kids download via Google Play; download Family Link, which allows parents to have control over Google Play.

Parents can set age limits for content so kids/teens can’t download apps, movies and music that is too mature or explicit.

Other Parental Control Options

Before parents install any new parental control software, we recommend that they discuss it with kids first. Don’t use software to spy, as this can erode trust and damage relationships.

There are many types of software that parents can utilize, and each app or software has its own unique benefits and functions. Some monitor messages in social media, allow parents to view pictures and screengrabs, set time limits, pause the phone while driving and more.  Really, parents need to decide what they need from the software.

Screen Time Labs focuses on time control and location monitoring, and this software is ideal for parents who want to limit screen time and want peace of mind via GPS alerts.

How do parents set additional controls with monitoring software? With Screen Time, parents can set limitations for when teens/kids can use the phone. This provides direct parameters for when screen time is acceptable and when it is not.

Many parents choose to limit time for homework, outside activities, family time and, of course, dinner time. The parental controls essentially deactivate the phone.

Parents can establish controls that encourage teens/kids to make better choices and prioritize school and other healthy activities. Create task lists that show younger users what needs to be done, while also rewarding them with more fun screen time.

Built-in scheduling provides parents with an option to block out time for prioritized activities. This function is different than time limitation restrictions, which set the screen limit for the entire day.

Kids who absolutely will not get off the phone can be encouraged with a more direct approach—pausing the screen! Parents can use their own phone to freeze their child’s phone screen as a not-so-subtle reminder to come to the table, do chores or disengage from that screen!

Many parents also worry about their teen getting to and from a location safely. Geo-fencing provides alerts when a teen/child has left or arrived at a particular destination. This also alerts parents of a teen being at a location that wasn’t on the agenda (maybe a friend’s house!).

What else can parents control with parental controls via Screen Time?

  • App usage (see what apps they use and for how long)
  • Web history (sites your teen/child visits…this could indicate something not so appropriate)
  • Web filtering (block sites that are too mature)
  • Geo-Trips (this function shows the path your child takes to their destination)

What can’t you see via Screen Time?

  • Text messages
  • Photos
  • Screen grabs
  • Social media content/messaging
  • Contacts

As nearly every teen wields a smartphone, parents need to be diligent about how the phone is being used…and for how long. Teens can spend hours texting, gaming or surfing on their phones, and sometimes they might find it difficult to put it down and take a break.

Parents can utilize parental control software to set boundaries for screen time and help teens/kids set healthy priorities. Control what apps teens download, how long they can use the phone, block out times for homework and other activities and freeze the screen when they just aren’t taking the hint to unplug.

However, one of the biggest advantages of software like Screen Time is for parents to be alerted of their teen’s location. See when they arrive or leave a destination and the route they travel.

Peace of mind is everything, and the best parental controls should help kids safe. Just be sure to have a conversation with kids about how the software is being used.

How to Set Parental Controls on Your Child’s Phone
read more

Kids and Phones: Is Gabb Wireless the Answer to Parental Concerns?

by Screen Time Team on 02/10/2019

The debate over smartphones and kids has been raging since the first iPhone debuted. And one startup, Gabb Wireless, argues that it has the answer: Make smartphones as dumb as possible. But is that a winning strategy?

What Is Gabb Wireless?

Gabb Wireless is a startup mobile network virtual operator, or MVNO, hoping to raise money via crowdfunding to launch a company with phones aimed at kids. The phones take the stance that the best way to protect kids is to limit what’s on the phone. As a result, according to Gabb, the phones have no browser, app store, games, or social media apps. You can make calls, send texts (but you can’t text pictures or video), manage your calendar, take pictures, listen to FM radio, use a calculator and that’s about it.

On the bright side, this means the phones are cheap, under $100. Additionally, it does offer unlimited talk and text and doesn’t demand any long-term contracts. So in certain situations, it’s a good deal, especially if all your kids do is talk and text. But there are some points of concern about Gabb’s claims and approach.

Does Gabb Have Drawbacks?

First of all, the company FAQ goes so far as to claim that the phone is “unhackable,” which is a boast that rarely survives contact with the open market or the inquisitive minds of children. Their devices are certainly hackable, and it’s just a question of when, how, and who.

Similarly, even if the phone is somehow impenetrable by hackers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. If you’re concerned about who your children are communicating with via phone and text, there don’t seem to be any tools to block numbers or recover deleted records. 

Nor does Gabb discuss safety functions such as location tracking, and there don’t seem to be any parental controls built in. If you don’t want your kids texting at school, you’ll have to rely on their own good sense, since you can’t install a parental control app.

Mother and daughter laying together looking at a laptop and phone while smiling.

As your kids get older, they’re going to need more functionality. Teens will likely need a full-featured smartphone, and even preteens are finding that more and more schools are asking kids to use their devices to check their homework or do research. All this begs the question of why you don’t simply buy your child a flip phone, which has the same functions and drawbacks, and then transition them to a smartphone with parental control apps when they’re old enough.

The fundamental problem with this approach is that every household needs to work on the basis of trust and flexibility. While parents have the last word, kids need to understand that they can earn, or maintain, trust by understanding the basis behind the rules and following them. That’s the only way kids can form a healthy relationship with their devices that lasts into adulthood.

Connecting is a positive thing, and should be encouraged. And it’s up to every family how its younger members connect safely with the outside world and stay in touch with family. Parental control apps can help maintain a healthy balance. If you would like to learn how, Screen Time invites you to try us for free.

read more

Parental Control Apps Now May Help with Responsible Driving Later

by Screen Time Team on 25/09/2019

When your kids are in elementary and middle school, you’re probably not thinking about the day they’ll get behind the wheel. But that day is coming sooner than you might expect, and there’s one important way you can start preparing them now: Teach them to use their phones and tablets responsibly.

An Epidemic Of Distraction

The problem is distracted driving. Distracted driving has three pieces: Visual, where your eyes leave the road; manual, when you remove a hand or hands from the wheel; and mental, when your mind is on something else. Any of the three can be dangerous, and smartphones can potentially combine all three.

And to be fair to the kids, the adults aren’t setting a good example. The CDC estimates that 9 people are killed and 1,000 people injured due to distracted driving every single day of the year, and a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that while only 1% to 2% of us text behind the wheel with any regularity, a shocking one in ten of us takes phone calls while driving. Keep in mind, chatting with a passenger also qualifies as distracted driving, so this is like constantly having a chatty someone in the next seat, waiting to pipe up at the wrong moment.

Fortunately, we can stop making these mistakes, and teach our kids not to make them in the first place.

Young woman speaking on the phone and holding a coffee mug while driving with her knee.

Focusing On The Task

Lead by example, when it comes to distracted driving. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” when you drive, and have a family rule that you’ll send a text to anybody in the family who might try to call that you’ll be driving and unavailable. If you do need to make a call, use a hands-free set or a voice assistant, and keep the call short.

Set rules beyond the road as well. Parental control apps can allow you to set rules such as no phone usage at dinner, or only limited uses during certain times of day where kids need to focus, like at school. You can do likewise by setting your phone to silent and leaving it in the other room.

When distraction becomes an issue, don’t just take the phone away, or use your parental control app’s instant pause feature. Sit kids down, explain what the problem is and make sure that they understand why, exactly, you’re concerned. Make it clear that they can earn back the privilege of phone time if they can prove they won’t be distracted, and block problem apps in the meantime.

For teens who are about to learn to drive, make it standard that they put their phones in Do Not Disturb and ensure that messaging apps and other distractions are muted. You may want to have them configure their settings so messaging apps don’t drop notifications on top of maps and other driving apps, so they’re not tempted to pick up the phone.

Distracted driving is the next frontier of safety behind the wheel, but kids don’t have to get lost in it. With responsible phone usage and the right mix of rules and parental control apps, kids can build a healthy and responsible relationship with their phones. To learn more about how parental control apps can help, try Screen Time for free.

read more

A Parent’s Guide to Fortnite

by Marcela on 23/09/2019

Have your kids jumped on the Battle Bus? Fortnite is one of the most popular games among middle-schoolers and tweens. Ranker lists it as the third most popular video game—behind Minecraft (#1) and Grand Theft Auto V (#2).

Kids’ online safety advocate site, Common Sense Media, notes a few problems with the game, however. While the game helps kids learn how to work as a team, the violence of Fortnite might be a problem.

Just how violent is Fortnite? The object of the game is survival, and players have to kill other players. The kills involve a variety of weapons, including shotguns, assault rifles, pistols and SMGs. The winner of the battle is the victor and players can select a celebratory dance after the battle.

Some parents are lenient when it comes to violence in game play, but others don’t want their kids (or teens) engaging in violence in any form.

Choosing whether or not your child can play Fortnite is a family decision. If you’re on the fence about Fortnite, check out our quick Parents’ Guide to Fortnite.

A teen plays Fortnite on his computer; illustration of the game’s T for Teen rating

Who Should Play?


The game holds a T for Teen rating because of the violence of the game. This means that the game is recommended for teens.

Fortnite is incredibly popular with middle school kids, and many of them likely haven’t hit their teens. Allowing younger kids to play Fortnite is entirely up to parents. Again, though, the rating deems Fortnite most appropriate for teens.

Who’s on My Child’s Team?


There are many ways to play Fortnite. Players can team up with a friend and play “Duos.” They can team up with multiple friends and create a larger team, or they can be paired with other random players.

Parents are typically most comfortable when kids game with friends. With Fortnite, though, if friends aren’t online, kids may be teamed up with random players. This gets a little scary, because players communicate in the game.

Some players may use inappropriate language, and they may be much older or more mature than your child. Parents need to be extremely careful about in-game communication.

Like most games, Fortnite allows for players to report misconduct by other players. However, parents need to be diligent when younger kids play Fortnite with unknown team members.

The best advice is to ensure that your child’s friends are online when they want to play. For safety purposes, create family rules related to Fortnite that stipulate that the game can only be played with friends.

A computer screen shows a Fortnite map

Choose to Get Creative


Parents may wish for their child not to battle at all. In that case, the creative side of Fortnite may be an option.

Creative lets kids build their own Fortnite island. Some players can land their new world on the Fortnite map, according to Epic Games’ site.  Be aware, though, that players can still grab guns in their own world. Creative doesn’t eliminate all the violence.

The Creative side of Fortnite, though, is a great option for kids who want an outlet to imagine a new world. Plus, the reward to possibly be featured allows them to have ownership of their creation.

Fortnite Parental Controls


Parents who are really anxious about Fortnite can choose to utilize parental controls on the game. Per Epic Games, parents need to set up a PIN to enable parental controls.

Epic Games allows parents to control multiple aspects of the game. According to Epic Games, parents can hide certain players from view (“Hide non-squad members”), make their child’s name only visible to “squad members,” block inappropriate language, turn off friend requests and even turn off in-game communications.

Epic Games also lets parents have the option to see a report about weekly game play. This can help parents see just how much time their child has spent devoted to Fortnite.

Utilizing Epic’s parental controls helps parents take some of the worry out of their child gaming on Fortnite. The controls, though, don’t do anything to alter the actual game…or make the game less violent. Again, parents need to set those parameters.

Other Parental Controls


Not a fan of Fortnite? Parents can choose to block the app via parental control software. Apple’s app store can be set up to require a password for all downloads, and parents can control game downloads via this function.

For more control, though, parents can use Screentime Labs to control app downloads or to monitor communications kids have with friends. Screentime Labs also lets parents control how long their kids spend online and on games. Set time limits and set priorities for homework, dinner or bedtime. An instant pause button lets parents cut off the action and encourage kids to stop playing.

Before parents install any software on a child’s device, though, they need to have a conversation about the importance of parental control software. We recommend telling your kids before installing the software. Always be open and honest with kids about why the software is being installed and how it will be used.

Parental control software shouldn’t be a spy-cam type device for parents; the software is meant to keep kids safe online.

Should Your Child Play Fortnite?


So should your child play Fortnite?

That’s an individual decision that parents need to decide for themselves. Epic Games includes parental controls for Fortnite that give parents a bit of control over what their child can do or see in the game. However, the parental control features won’t tone down the violence of Fortnite.

Ultimately, though, whether or not a child can play Fortnite depends on your parenting style and your child’s maturity. The game is rated T for Teen and some parents may find the violence to be a bit too gruesome for their kids. Remember, the game is all about survival and players kill other players.

The games you choose to allow your child to download and play should be based on your family’s own rules and preferences. Playing a game should not be about popularity. Content—not fandom or fads—should be the deciding factor on whether or not a game is a good choice for your child.

read more