3 Must-Have Educational Apps for Tweens

by Anna Hughes on June 1, 2017
Tablets and other mobile devices for kids have their drawbacks, but they also have benefits. One of the most amazing benefits of mobile devices for kids is the wide availability of educational apps, many of which are free or can be purchased for a very low price. Educational apps can help supplement your kids’ education

Tablets and other mobile devices for kids have their drawbacks, but they also have benefits. One of the most amazing benefits of mobile devices for kids is the wide availability of educational apps, many of which are free or can be purchased for a very low price. Educational apps can help supplement your kids’ education or just provide entertainment that also happens to come with learning benefits. Take a look at some of the hottest educational apps on the market for tweens.

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Helping Your Child Find the Tech Balance on Summer Vacation

by Anna Hughes on May 18, 2017
With summer on the way, your child will soon have a lot more time on their hands. It’s easy to imagine that they might default to filling that time with computer games and social media. That’s not a bad way to spend some time this summer – digital devices can help your kids keep in touch with their friends, and educational games and apps can help prevent summer brain drain. However, it’s also important for kids to spend some of their new free time taking advantage of the warm weather and the opportunity for summer activities. Here are some tips that will help you help your child find a balance between technology and outdoor activities this summer. 

Plan Activities For the Family

Your kids aren’t the only ones who need to turn the devices off and stop to smell the roses. Summer is a great time for a family vacation – why not take a week off and go camping or visit a nearby national park? These are activities that everyone can enjoy, and while you’re exploring the great outdoors, you can also take a break from the constant attachment to some device or another.

If you don’t have vacation time available, you can still work in some outdoor family activities in the evenings or on the weekends. Go hiking through a nearby nature trail, have a picnic or barbecue, or grab a mason jar and show your kids how to catch fireflies at night.

Sign Up For Summer Activities

Of course, your children need to get out and spend some time playing with kids their own age as well. It can be hard for kids to get together with their friends or make new friends without school and the school and school-related activities to bring them together. But if you look around, you’re sure to find summer activities that will occupy your child and bring them together with other kids.

Sign them up for a summer camp. If your child isn’t up for a sleepaway camp, look for a local day camp that they can attend. Tweens may be a little too old for the summer camps hosted by local childcare facilities, but they’re the perfect age for camps that cater to specific interests, like music, horseback riding, or sports. This way, your tween will get a chance to do something they enjoy with other kids who are enthusiastic about the same things.

Encourage Entrepreneurial Activities

Parental control

Who doesn’t love cold lemonade on a hot day?

Your tween is too young for a typical summer job, but certainly old enough to have a wish list of things that they want to spend money on. If you want to get your tween out of the house and away from their devices, help them find a way to make some money of their own. Most kids this age will jump at the chance.

Depending on their maturity level, your tween may be old enough to babysit for short periods of time. They can also offer their services as a mother’s helper for birthday parties, beach trips, amusement parks trips, and any other event where a parent could use an extra pair of eyes on the smaller children. Your tween could also earn money dog walking or pet sitting.

If there’s no one interested in hiring your tween, they could always go into business for themselves with a lemonade stand or something similar. You might be surprised how much work your tween is willing to do when there’s money in it, and the responsibility is as good for them as the break from their devices.

Parental control software can help you set boundaries on your child’s screen time and encourage them to spend time outside. To find out how it works, try it for free.

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Can Spending Time Outside Improve Your Health?

by Anna Hughes on May 11, 2017
In the digital age, there’s less need than ever to venture outside for entertainment. Kids don’t need to venture out of the house to find their friends; they only need to hop onto an app or social media network. But does that mean that outdoor play is passé? It shouldn’t be. Outdoor activities are more than just entertainment – getting out into nature is good for the health of everyone in the family. Take a look at some of the health benefits of outdoor play and find out how you can encourage your kids to take advantage of the great outdoors.

Exercise is Easier Outdoors

Sure, there are plenty of ways to be physically active indoors, and it’s also possible to be inactive outdoors. But as a general rule, it’s easier to get exercise outdoors. This is especially true for kids, who are less likely than adults to make use of indoor exercise equipment, like treadmills and spin machines, that adults use to get exercise in a controlled environment.

Why is the outdoors more conducive to exercise? For one thing, there’s plenty of room to move around, and lots of typical outdoor activities require movement. But it’s not just that. You may simply feel more inspired to exercise when you’re outdoors. Researchers have found that the color green helps make exercise easier in much the same way that red and yellow subconsciously trigger hunger. You can find plenty of green outdoors in the plants, trees, and grass.

Nature Can Boost The Immune System

iPhone parental controls

Family camping trips are good for your health.

The outdoors, particularly forested areas, may hold one of the keys to reducing the incidence of illnesses. There is evidence that suggests that spending time in the forest causes your body’s cells to boost the production of anti-cancer proteins. In much the same way, your can also provide an immune system boost that can help protect against a range of other illnesses, like colds and the flu.

That means that spending the weekend exploring a national park, hiking nature trails, or bird watching may be more than just a way for the family to spend time together. It’s also a way to help everybody stay a little healthier even after the weekend is over.

Spending Time Outside May Improve School Performance

There have been a variety of studies exploring the different ways that nature affects the brain and mind. Research and testing have demonstrated that spending time outdoors improves short-term memory, concentration, and focus. People also tend to think more creatively and experience less stress and mental fatigue after spending time outdoors.

Kids need a sharp memory, the ability to concentrate and focus, and a creative mind to succeed in school. Stress and fatigue can hamper their performance. And since outdoor recesses are rapidly being cut or eliminated in schools, a parent can provide their child with a helpful performance boost just by telling them to go outside and play.

Parental control apps can help you set limits on your children’s screen time and encourage them to spend some of their time exploring the outdoors instead of the internet. To find out how our parental control app works, try it for free.

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6 Signs Your Tween is Addicted to Their Smartphone – And How to Handle It

by Anna Hughes on May 4, 2017
Is your child spending too much time on their mobile device? For many parents, it’s a tough question. Mobile technology erupted quickly and then spread like wildfire, and the result is that our kids have always had these devices, while we grew up almost entirely without them.

How can you tell if your child’s reliance on smartphones and other mobile devices is normal when you have no frame of reference for childhood smartphone use, and when society has completely reorganized itself around mobile device use within your lifetime? Here’s some important information about children and smartphone use, and some tips on how to deal with potential smartphone addiction in your tween.

How Tweens Are Using Smartphones

It’s important not to approach the idea of smartphones and mobile devices as automatically bad. After all, they are an integral part of your tween’s social life and an important communication device. And, if current trends continue, they’ll also be an important part of your child’s adult life. It’s likely they’ll be expected to have and use a smartphone or other mobile device in their professional life later on. Learning to handle these devices now can be a helpful thing for their future.

On the other hand, too much of a good thing can always be dangerous. Some experts believe that smartphone use may be replacing drug and alcohol experimentation and addiction in teens due to a correlation between falling rates of tweens and teens who report drug use and rising rates of internet use. And while that may sound positive, experts also caution that it affects the brain in a similar way to using drugs.

How Much is Too Much?

Smartphones may be relatively new, but the signs of addiction tend to be somewhat consistent whether the addict is using chemicals or pixels. Your tween may be experiencing smartphone addiction if they exhibit some of these signs:

  • Using the smartphone to alleviate anxiety, depression, or other negative feelings;
  • Preoccupation with the smartphone to the detriment of grades, friendships, and other activities;
  • Withdrawal symptoms like anger, depression, irritability, and restlessness when the phone is taken away.

Smartphone use may also cause physical symptoms of addiction:

  • Eyestrain from too much digital viewing;
  • Neck pain from hunching over the phone;
  • Sleep disturbances and fatigue thought to be caused by the light from cell phone viewing after dark.

What Should Parents Do?

Iphone parental controls

If you suspect your child is addicted to their smartphone, your first instinct may be to remove the device entirely. That is an option, and it may be appropriate for some children. However, smartphones are part of modern life, and it’s unrealistic to expect your child will never use one again. Therefore, it may be advisable to treat smartphone addiction less like a chemical addiction and more like a food addiction. That means teaching your tween to moderate themselves.

Set boundaries for smartphone use. You may want to limit your child to a certain amount of time on their smartphone each day, or to designated times of the day, or both. It’s also important to keep an eye on what they’re doing and limit online activities that your kids spend an unhealthy amount of time on, like social media sites or games.

Parental control software can help you set and enforce healthy boundaries on your tween’s screen use.  The Screen Time app is a great tool for achieving this and more. To get an idea of how it works, try it for free.

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3 Key Features to Look for in a Parental Control App

by Anna Hughes on April 27, 2017
There’s no question that raising children in the internet age presents many challenges. However, while helping your children navigate the web safely and use the internet responsibly may seem like a struggle at times, there are also web-based tools that can help. For example, a parental control app can help you set limits and boundaries on your child’s internet use. This allows your children time to learn to use their internet-based devices responsibly but helps prevent the device from taking over their lives. With the right features, a parental control app can be a huge help to a parent. Here are some of the features that you should be looking for: 

Time Limits

An app that allows you to set time limits on your child’s screen time can save you a lot of arguments over when it’s time to give up their devices. Instead of having to tell your child to shut it down, the app simply kicks in and blocks your child from continuing to use the device. It’s simple and painless.

Of course, the app should give you the flexibility to set your own time limits. You may want to set the device to turn off at certain times of day, like bedtimes and meal times, or you may want to limit the total amount of time your child can spend on the device – for example, you may want to limit them to two hours a day, and once those two hours are used up, they’re done, no matter what time it is. Ideally, your parental app will allow you to do both of those things.

App Blocking

A good parental control app should give you the ability to block apps as needed. Of course, you’ll definitely want to block apps that are inappropriate for your child, and you may also want to block apps that your child might get into trouble with, like shopping apps — or you could end up with an unexpected $500 credit card charge from Aeropostale!

However, it’s also useful to be able to block some apps temporarily. For example, if your child uses their tablet for school, you don’t want to block the educational apps that they might need during the day, but you may want to block games or social apps that might distract them from their school work during school hours. You should be able to block and unblock apps as needed.

Streamlined Account

Parental control apps

It should be easy to monitor all of your children on all of their devices.

Often, children have several devices – a smartphone and a tablet, for instance. And if you have multiple children, managing different accounts on their different devices can get unmanageable quickly. Who has the brain space to remember ten different usernames and passwords? The best parental control apps won’t make you log into different accounts to check on different devices or different children.

A streamlined family account that allows you to log in and manage all of the devices for all of the children in your household. Managing your children’s screen time and monitoring their web use should not be an overwhelming task.

Ready to learn more? A free trial can help you get the hang of using a parental control app and decide whether or not it’s right for your family. If you’re interested in finding out which parental control features you like best, try Screen Time for FREE Now!

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2 Tips for Encouraging Your Kids to Play Outside

by Anna Hughes on April 20, 2017
Do your children spend as much time outside as you did when you were their age? Probably not. The culture has changed, so it's understandable. Not only are there more screens than just the television to keep your kids busy indoors, there are also more safety concerns and more of an emphasis on planned, structured activities than there used to be. However, if you’re like many parents, you may be starting to worry that your children are missing out on something by spending so much time inside. The following are some tips for encouraging your children to get out into the fresh air.

Appeal To Interests They Already Have

If your child has learned the habit of playing indoors or sticking with structured activities over the years, they might be resistant to efforts to get them out of the house without a specific plan. Show them that they can pursue some of their existing interests outdoors as well as indoors. Does your child love taking pictures on their phone or tablet? Suggest that instead of selfies, they take pictures of birds, trees, or flowers. Show them how to use different types of cameras, not just the one on their smartphone. Your child may discover an interest in birdwatching or nature photography this way.

If your child likes playing building games, like Minecraft, they may enjoy actually building something. Help them make blueprints and find materials to build a birdhouse – or even a tree house! A child who enjoys drawing or painting indoors may also appreciate gathering materials outdoors for a nature-based craft project. Appealing to your child’s existing interests can help overcome any resistance they might have to abandoning their usual routine for some outdoor play.

Team Up With Other Parents

Parental control

Give your child more room to roam by teaming up with other parents.

Your child needs other kids to explore and play with, but chances are that you’re not the only one whose kids spend too much time inside. It’s not just screens that are keeping kids indoors – often, it’s also parental concern about strangers and various dangers that children might run into if they’re allowed to roam too far.

The truth is, the statistics say that kids are probably safer outside today than they were when you were a kid. Crime is down, and so are pedestrian, bicyclist, and car accident deaths. But if you’re worried, you can team up with other parents in your neighborhood to keep your kids safe while letting them have some freedom. Make an agreement to watch out for each other’s kids, and alert each other if you see each other’s kids misbehaving or ignoring agreed upon boundaries. The aim should be to make sure that your children have some loose supervision, but no hovering adults. This way, your child has a safety net, and all the parents in the immediate area can feel more comfortable sending their children out for some unstructured play, which gives your child more playmates. It’s a win-win!

Make sure that you also set limits on your children’s screen time. It’s easy for kids to get absorbed in games or social media and forget to do other things, even if they’d like to. A parental control app that sets limits on your kids’ screen time can help remind them to take some time to enjoy the outdoors — and it can make your life easier! Learn more now!

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How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Kids?

by John Hargrave on April 13, 2017
The subject of how much screen time is good for kids has been around in some form or another for years, ever since televisions became common household items. Now, the subject is more hotly debated than ever, with not just televisions but computers, tablets, and smartphones screens monopolizing more and more of everybody’s time. You want your child to be familiar with the current technology – after all, it will probably play a significant role in their adult life – but on the other hand, you know your child also needs time for unstructured play and face-to-face communications. Here are some things you should know about screen time and your children.

Age Recommendations

When it comes to small children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some specific recommendations, such as restricting screen time to an hour a day for children between the ages of two and five. However, the guidelines are less specific for older children. And if you’re the parent of a tween – those years between nine and twelve – the lack of specific guidelines can be frustrating. This is just the age when children begin to become more interested in screens as a social tool, and if you’re not careful, those screens may seem to take over their lives.

However, there are some good reasons for the less specific guidelines. Children at this age can put their devices to good use as educational tools, and screen time has become an important part of a child’s socialization with their peers. No child wants to be left out of their social group, and texting and social media are as critical to this age group now as passing notes and having long telephone conversations was a generation ago. The important thing for this age group is not so much the specific amount of time they spend on the screens – the important thing is to find a healthy balance.

Creating a Balance

Parental control software

Keeping screens out of bedrooms can help prevent overuse.

You can’t expect your child to find a balance on their own. Some children may be able to do that, but most need a parent’s help. As you may have discovered for yourself, screen-based activities can be compelling and even addictive, and it’s hard for a child to tear themselves away on their own. You can help by setting clear boundaries for screen use.

Designate screen-free times and places in your house. You might restrict screen use in the bedrooms, for example, and ban phones and tablets from family dinners and movie nights. Arrange outings and get-togethers for your child and their friends, and insist they stay off the screens when they have company over. Encourage participation in sports, music, or other activities that can’t be done while looking at a screen. Don’t forget to practice what you preach – follow your own rules for using devices, and make sure that you put down the phone or get off the computer when you’re interacting with your child. They’ll follow your example.

Using Helpful Apps

Of course, a parent can’t be everywhere at once. But technology can help you enforce the boundaries on your children’s screen time with apps that do some of the work for you. You can set them to lock the device after a certain amount of time or at a certain time of day, for example. That way, even if you’re not there to see it, you’ll know that your child is following your guidelines for screen use and maintaining their healthy balance.

To find out more about how Screen Time can help you manage your child’s devices in a healthy way, try it for free.

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How to Establish Boundaries for Your Kids’ Mobile Device Use

by Anna Hughes on April 5, 2017
It can come as a surprise when your kids start to neglect their toys and board games in favor of smartphones and tablets. But for this generation of children, those mobile devices are an important part of socializing with their peers, as well as entertainment and useful educational tools.

However, it’s all too easy for the screens that your child uses to suck up more and more of their time, until they aren’t doing anything else. Mobile devices themselves aren’t the enemy, but it’s important for your children to have limits and boundaries so that they also have time for unstructured play and face-to-face communication. Here are some helpful strategies for establishing the boundaries that your kids need.

Set the Rules Early

Don’t wait for screen time to become a problem before you begin laying down the law. When you give your child their first mobile device, that device should come with a talk about the rules and responsibilities that accompany it. After all, this isn’t a doll or a stuffed animal – mobile devices are expensive tools that have risks as well as benefits, so they necessarily warrant more ground rules than other types of toys.

Children are more likely to resist rules about their mobile device use if they first become used to having no limits on their screen time, which is why it makes sense to establish ground rules early. However, if you have children who are already used to having unlimited access and you’d like to set new limits, it’s not impossible. Be up front about your concerns so that your children understand why there are new rules, and make it clear that following the rules is the price of having the devices.

Set a Good Example

If your main concern is that your children are spending too much time on their screens and not enough time on other activities, you may need more than just rules to help your kids learn to use good judgment when it comes to their screens. You may need to set a better example yourself.

Do you answer your phone at the dinner table? Do you find yourself checking texts or emails while talking with your children or other family members? Keep in mind that your children are imitating the things that they see you do. Consider curbing your own use of screens, and having a discussion with your kids about limits on mobile devices that make sense for the whole family – like no screens at the dinner table or no screens after a certain time of night. That way, not only do you preserve or increase your family time, you also show your children the importance of boundaries for everyone, not just for them.

Let Apps Help

Parental control software

Remember that mobile devices are useful tools, even when it comes to setting boundaries on those devices. You can’t be everywhere at once, so consider using a parental control app to help establish and support the boundaries you set.

There are apps that you can set limits on how long your child can use a device, locking the device when the time is up. You can block unwanted apps, require approval for your child to download and install apps themselves, and allow your child to earn extra time or pause their device when you want them to take a break. These parental control apps can make enforcing limits easier for you and respecting those limits easier for your kids.

To find out how a parental control app can benefit your family, try it for free.

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The Top Benefits of Unstructured Play for Children

by John Hargrave on March 31, 2017
Children’s toys and games have evolved dramatically in recent years. Many have come to resemble adult tools and forms of entertainment – there are computers, mobile devices, and robotics aimed for and marketed to children, as well as complex gaming systems and web sites full of activities and interactive features. There are obvious advantages to these forms of entertainment – kids today have access to all kinds of information and educational content. However, unstructured play away from screens and electronics is still critical to a child's development. Here are some of the top reasons it’s important for kids to enjoy unstructured play.

Imagination Building

Screen-based toys and structured activities lay out a course of action for kids to follow. There’s value in that, but there’s also value in allowing kids time to create their own activities with whatever materials happen to be lying around. Unstructured play encourages kids to use their imaginations and be creative, and developing creativity is important to your child’s future.

The child who looks at a pile of sand and sees the possibility of a castle could be the ground-breaking architect of tomorrow. The child who sets up a mock classroom to teach their dolls or pet cat today could be an innovative teacher tomorrow. Being creative and able to imagine and pretend is important for everyone. Creativity helps with problem-solving, innovation, and planning. Children who spend plenty of time on imaginative play even develop a better ability to empathize with others, as they learn the ability to imagine themselves in other people’s shoes.

Social Skills

There are many ways for children to socialize, from school to team activities to online interaction. However, some of the most important social learning happens when there’s no adult directing the activities and no website TOS to follow.

In many spaces and under many circumstances, adults create social rules for children to follow and step in to settle any conflicts that do flare up, and that’s appropriate. But children also need to experience conflict and conflict-resolution on their own, within reason, and they can do that when they’re able to engage in unstructured play with their peers. This helps them learn more than just how to follow social rules – it helps them learn how to build and maintain interpersonal relationships even when there are no rules, or when no one is around to enforce them.

Brain Development

Unstructured play can also help children grow in ways that aren’t obvious on the surface. Playing helps children’s brains make important connections between nerve cells. These connections help develop everything from fine and gross motor skills to the ability to plan and anticipate the consequences of decisions.

Parental control apps that help parents manage their kids’ screen time can support parents as they try to find ways to encourage both structured and unstructured play. To find out how parental control apps can work for your family, learn more now!

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Calling all Screen Time users… We have exciting news…

by Anna Hughes on March 16, 2017
...Our Web History Monitoring function just had a makeover. If you are Screen Time subscriber and your child has Android Marshmallow or Nougat on their device, keeping your kids safe online just got a whole lot easier.

 

…Our Web History Monitoring function just had a makeover.

If you are Screen Time subscriber and your child has Android Marshmallow or Nougat on their device, keeping your kids safe online just got a whole lot easier.

Once you’ve gone through the simple setup process, select ‘Web History’ from the main menu. There you will find a list of all of the sites that your child has visited during their ‘Play’ time.

Your screen will look a bit like this:

So at a glance it will become immediately obvious if your child has been on a site you don’t recognise. At which point you can check the site in question for any content you don’t feel is suitable.

This list will also reveal what your child has been searching for (if they have searched within a browser app). 

OK so your children might feel like they are being snooped on. But we’re not about snooping. We’re about good, honest parenting.

We designed Screen Time, our parental control app, with our kids best interests in mind. Everything from improving their time management skills to guiding them towards a healthy online/offline balance.

Did you know, according to a recent survey conducted for the Children’s Commissioner by Mumsnet, 73% of parents are concerned about their children accessing inappropriate material online?

There are already parental controls set up on some devices to help block inappropriate content, as well as search engine filters such as Google’s SafeSearch. However these aren’t 100% accurate. Which, for us, means they aren’t good enough on their own.

Our Web History monitoring feature adds extra reassurance that your child is surfing safe.

We know this feature is something our Android Marshmallow and Nougat users have been requesting for a while now and we always aim to please. So if you’re planning on giving it a try, do let us know how you get on either via the comments below or our Social Media channels. We’re always on hand to help too so if you have any questions, just ask.

We already have some happy customers 🙂

“Beautifully done. You guys rock!!!”

“Nice! Thanks for this update. Exactly what I’ve been waiting for.”

“Working flawlessly, including searches and cards in Google now, such as articles.”

“Fantastic!”

Our lovely Screen Time subscribers, March 2017

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