New Feature! Screen Time just got more…flexible

by Anna Hughes on December 21, 2017
Stop the press! We have a new feature. You can now limit your kids screen time based around your own daily schedule.

Be it a piano lesson, homework, chat with grandma, whatever you like. You can set up as many schedules as you need for however long you want. Total flexibility.

What do we mean by a ‘schedule’?

This new feature lets you choose different times of day for your child’s apps to be blocked. So you can set schedules to ensure your kids are unplugged when they’re supposed to be. If you don’t want your child to be distracted, simply set up a schedule to manage their screen time.

But isn’t that what the Bedtime and Schooltime Blockers are for?

Yes, it was already possible to block your kids’ apps using the Screen Time Bedtime and Schooltime Blocker features. But the times of day during which apps could be blocked were restricted.

And who are we to decide when your kid’s devices should be blocked?

So now we’ve changed things so that you, the parents, can choose exactly when your kid’s devices are off limits and for how long. Parental Control has never been so flexible 🙃

What else do I need to know?

Flexible scheduling at School

We’ve replaced the School Time app blocker with School a.m. and School p.m. So if you wanted to let your child have access to their apps during lunchtime for example, then you can.

Name it!

When you’ve decided on the times of day you’d like your kid’s apps to be blocked, you can give that period a name. You might for example want to call 2pm-4pm ‘Tree Climbing time’ or ‘Create a masterpiece’ time.

Or simply select from our suggestions, like ‘Homework Time’ and ‘Outdoor Time’. You’re welcome 🙂

Plenty of warning for minimal agro.

We’ve also included a new handy status bar which makes it easy for everyone to see when the next Schedule is due to commence. Because nobody takes well to being rudely interrupted without warning. 

Farewell Free Play mode

Free Play mode will no longer exist once you have updated your app. But Free Play fans fear not! Simply switch off the new Schedules feature and manage your kids screen time by setting Time Limits and/or by using your Pause and Play buttons.

Free Play reinstated (23rd Dec)

Update: we’ve had a huge response from parents after we removed Free Play Mode from Screen Time. We’ve listened to what you’ve said and we’ve brought back Free Play Mode! You will find it in Screen Time as usual, and you’ll be able to use it with schedules.


Want to give Schedules a try? If you’re already subscribed to Screen Time, simply update your app

New to Screen Time? Then sign up for a free 14 day trial.

Or if you are already signed up for the free version of Screen Time, upgrade to the Premium package today to benefit from Schedules and all of the other features that come with it!

How did you find Schedules?! We’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know in the comments below!

read more

6 reasons to install Screen Time on the kids’ new devices this Christmas

by Anna Hughes on December 20, 2017
Getting the kids to switch off their brand new device this Christmas, or any other time for that matter, can prove...challenging. Here is where a parental control app like Screen Time steps in to save the day.

 

The real challenge at Christmas is the juggling act involved with keeping everyone – big kids, small kids AND grown ups – happy, while avoiding conflict and cross frowns at all costs.

It’s a day of high expectations from all parties. The parent would prefer the day to resemble his/her childhood Christmas. And the kids have their own ideas. Ideas which can quite often involve a device of some sort. Especially if they just unwrapped a new shiny one from under the tree. And this is when problems occur.

Attempt to switch their devices off mid game/selfie, and the festive period is less ‘ho ho ho’ and more, ‘Blue Christmas

Thankfully our app is pretty good at putting a stop to such conflicts.

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

Presents!

Screen Time feature: Daily Time Limit

Present unwrapping is easy screen-free time. Unless unwrapping…something with a screen. Will this be your child? Solution: get Screen Time uploaded onto their device before you wrap it for full festive control from day one. Set a Daily Time Limit of your choosing and their apps will stop working once they have reached their daily allowance. Don’t let their big day pass in a device bubble! 😀

Food Preparation

Screen Time feature: Awarding Bonus Time

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

Begrudging call to a family member

Screen Time feature: Task List

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

The Feast

Screen Time Feature: Instant Pause

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

The Games

Screen Time feature: Schedules

Schedules is a brand new feature of ours! Select times of day that you would like your child’s apps to simply…stop. Before you wrap their device, why not install Screen Time and set up a ‘Family Games’ time. So when it’s time for that annual game of charades to begin, their device will automatically stop working for the length of time that you chose during setup. Let Screen Time be the bad guy! Who knows, they might have so much fun they forget to switch their device back on before the day is done.

Bedtime

Screen Time feature: Bedtime Blocker

Grown ups snoring on the sofa; the closing credits of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ are blasting out of the TV – this can mean only one thing: Christmas Day is complete. For the adults at least. The Bedtime Blocker is there to ensure kids can’t use their devices at that crucial time of day when they should be winding down and screen free. Seeing as it’s Christmas though, why not change the kids Bedtime Blocker on their device to a bit later than normal? Chances are they’ve earned it.

Merry Christmas from all at Screen Time! 🎅🏽

read more

How Parental Control Apps Improve Family Communication

by John Hargrave on December 20, 2017
“But aren't using parental controls and software just making the machine do the parenting?” Some parents are reasonably concerned that just setting limits and walking away is bad parenting. But that misunderstands what tools like Screen Time are for. As we'll see, it's a bit like arguing that a wrench is bad when you can just turn a nut with your fingers.
Parental controls

Your parenting is the most important parental control.

Parenting And Parental Controls

Parental controls are, fundamentally, tools. Just like the wrench doesn’t hop up and turn the nut for you, parental controls aren’t designed for you to just lock off devices at your convenience. They’re designed to help you create and reinforce boundaries.

Keep in mind, there are far more tools than just parental controls, and some of them not even your kids see. Special apps for children such as YouTube Kids, for example, or the rigorous codes and carefully enforced social standards on Nintendo’s portable consoles are two other examples. But none of them fully work unless kids understand why those boundaries are there, or if they see them as unfair restrictions imposed on them for no reason.

As every parent knows, even the sweetest, most well-behaved child can find themselves outside the boundaries, either by accident or by design. Maybe a “friend” gets around the controls, or perhaps the software fails in some way and they see something they can’t process or don’t understand. This is the point where parenting kicks in. So how do you better use these tools to help your family?

Parental controls

Work together as a family for a safe internet experience.

Working Together

It starts with the conversation you have about boundaries. Sit your kids down and lay out the rules you’re setting up, how you’re enforcing them, and why they’re being set. But don’t make it a lecture; make it a conversation. Ask them questions: How long does it take them to do their homework? What resources do they need? What are they most interested in on the internet?

You get the last word, of course. Bedtime is bedtime. But leave room for flexibility and changes, and write out the rules and make sure they understand both the reason behind those rules, and that you’re willing to revisit those rules and change them.

Another important conversation to have is how the internet can be a tough place. The common conversation is about “blue” content, but there’s much, much more on the internet kids can stumble over they might not be able to deal with. Hate speech, verbal abuse in chat rooms, and other things they need to be able to talk with you about if and when they see them will turn up. They should understand that if something scares them, hurts them, or otherwise makes them uncomfortable, that coming to you should be the first thing they do, and not to worry about how they came across it until later.

Any family’s internet rules are going to be a work in progress. New technologies, kids growing into new responsibilities, and other needs will shift the rules. Parental controls are simply a way for you to keep a handle on the rules and ensure they’re enforced consistently and fairly, and Screen Time can help. Contact us to learn more.

read more

5 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on YouTube

by Anna Hughes on December 13, 2017
Kids love YouTube, but it takes only a few clicks to reveal that the vast majority of YouTube isn't for kids. In fact, quite a lot of things even nominally aimed at children aren't actually for kids. So, how do you help your kids get the best out of YouTube, while protecting them from the worst?

Internet monitoring

Talk To Them

Before you do anything, sit your kids down and lay out a few rules and more importantly, why you have these rules and how what might fall under them might change. YouTube is tricky, not least because even “kid-friendly” YouTubers and others can turn out to be anything but. The scandal over PewDiePie, one of the most popular YouTubers who performed a racist stunt and proceeded to make things worse in his attempts at “damage control” were enough to terrify many parents right off the site.

Make sure your kids understand the rules are, and leave room for kids to come to you to ask to watch something. And if something changes, talk to your kids about why.

Watch With Them When You Can

Screens should never be a babysitter, and even the most innocuous television is something you should keep an eye on. YouTube is anything but innocuous, so when you can, watch YouTube with your kids, or at least be in the room and keep an eye, and an ear, out for what’s unfolding on the screen. And be sure that your kids know you’re there to talk if things seem strange.

Use The Right App

YouTube has a kid-friendly app called YouTube Kids, available for most screens and platforms. For tablets, phones, and so on, set your kids up with that app instead of the main YouTube app. It’ll filter out “inappropriate content” and will let your kids watch without you worrying.

Fair warning, though, that what’s “inappropriate” is decided by the YouTube community, and if your middle schooler has a report on, say, breast cancer, they may not be able to find videos. So plan ahead and be ready to help.

Parental monitoring

Know The Site

There are several tips and tricks you can use to make YouTube more kid friendly, like enabling a safe mode by scrolling down to the bottom of any YouTube page and clicking Yes on a radio button, or using the site’s quiet mode. There are lots of tips and tricks, not to mention browser extensions and other parental controls, that will ensure your kids have a safer time on the site. Spend a few moments familiarizing yourself with them, and make sure to use them.

Control Screens

Finally, take a moment to install tools to control when kids watch YouTube, or otherwise use screens. Keeping screen time to certain times of the day will ensure kids don’t wander to places in the internet they shouldn’t, and will keep YouTube videos you don’t want them to see a bit further away.

YouTube, used properly, can be a truly great resource for kids and parents alike. But, like any website, you need to apply a little common sense to use it safely and get the most out of it. For help with YouTube, and the internet in general, try ScreenTime for free.

read more

5 Family New Year’s Resolutions to Keep in 2018

by Anna Hughes on December 6, 2017
With a new year comes resolutions, and many families are making resolutions as a group. But while making a resolution together is a great way to hold each other to it, what should you resolve to do? Here are a few resolutions your family should find worth keeping as the page turns on a new year.

Parental monitoring

Eating Family Meals

Sitting down to eat together can become a tricky business in a world where everything seems to be moving faster, with more demands on our time and more needs we have to get in front of. So, make a point of setting up time to just share as a family, particularly family dinners. Whether you all agree to sit down to pizza after a long day, or set aside some time as a family to prep, cook, and eat together, work out a regular block of time where you can just sit and talk—no phones, no distractions.

Start A Family Exercise Plan

It’s a fairly common resolution a lot of people make when the new year arrives: This year will be the year they get off the couch and become healthy. And it’s a noble, if tricky, goal for us to reach, and that’s where the family comes in. Set a goal that everyone can participate in to get healthier, like running a 5K as a family or conditioning for a family vacation to bike a set of mountain trails. Even just working on exercise videos as a family will help bring you closer together, and get you fit while having fun to boot.

Build A Family Project

Every family has a big project that it needs, or wants, to get done, whether you’re erecting a shed in the back to finally get those tools out of the basement, or want to finally get a treehouse built to play in. So, in the new year, work out how to set aside some time and money and make that project happen. Of course, how ambitious it will be will depend, heavily, on both your skill set and where you live, but make a point of pushing yourself, so that everyone learns something.

Parental monitoring

Do Charity Work Together

Sometimes, it can be tough to get kids to see a perspective outside their own. That’s pretty normal, but one of the ways you can get them to think beyond the world they know is to volunteer as a family. Even if you just spend an hour every week helping at a soup kitchen or working in a nature preserve, it’ll be valuable both for giving back to your community and for showing your kids there’s a much broader world.

Spend Less Time On Screens

One of the realities of the world is that there are a dozen different things vying for our attention. Tablets, smartphones, laptops—they’re all pinging. Instead of letting them distract you, set up times when families will put down the screens, and make a family resolution to watch less TV, play fewer games and do more with each other.

Need help getting your kids away from their screens? Screen Time is the app you need. Try it for free!

read more

How to manage your kids screen time in the ‘Smart Tech’ age

by wpengine on November 29, 2017
This is a guest post brought to you by Freelance writer, Digital Artist and Father of 3, Scott Reddler.  

For tech savvy parents who want the best in advanced systems for their homes, smart technology has become the way to go. From smart, internet-based televisions, thermostats, baby monitors, and other voice controlled devices, there are innumerable benefits associated with integrating smart technology within today’s modern living spaces.

Not only are devices connected to one another, but homeowners can now save time by monitoring their homes remotely, and build much needed flexibility into their often hectic schedules, all through the click of a button.

Today, the entire family can benefit from homes that are equipped with smart technology. This is especially true for children of all ages who regularly rely on smart toys and other devices for both learning and entertainment. However, with the presence of such technology comes the need for parents to effectively monitor just how much time their children are spending on such devices. Pediatricians suggest limiting screen time when it comes to technology and not without good measure. Too much tech time has been proven to reduce the amount of physical activity children participate in, it can limit their social skills and it can even hamper their cognitive development. These are detriments that can all be avoided with the right household guidelines on when technology should and should not be used.

Parents can take many proactive measures when it comes to setting healthy limits on their children’s use of technology. For instance, parents can set time limits on screen time. They can also establish parental controls on individual devices that place limits on what children have access to while also monitoring their children’s digital behaviors. When determining what is appropriate for the child consider their age, maturity level, and the unique needs of the entire household. In the end, parents can put safe measures into place that are beneficial to their children’s well-being while still incorporating some of the latest and most pioneering advances in technology within their homes. The following is a great infographic that we’ve put together that further explains some of the common ways children use smart technology and how you as a parent can help to monitor your child’s tech usage.

Scott Reddler is an active software developer, water sports fan, and a loving and enthusiastic father of three. He uses his knowledge of new technology to understand how social media and apps are changing the parenting landscape. He enjoys taking his children out for boat rides and exploring his lovely state of Florida. Twitter: @Scottreddler

 

 

 

read more

Five Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids this Holiday Season

by Anna Hughes on November 29, 2017
How do we connect as a family during the holidays? It's a question we all face every year. Even with school pressures temporarily lifted and free days on the calendar, it can still feel like a struggle to spend quality time. So try these tips to bring your family together this holiday season.

Parental control software

Involve Your Kids

The holidays are a huge amount of work for everyone, so bring your kids into the mix to help out and learn how it works. Talk them through a holiday budget and show how you afford presents for other family members. Bring them into the big holiday party you’re throwing at the house and have them help plan, decorate, and cook. If you’re putting together a big meal, they can help you pick recipes, plan the grocery shopping, or otherwise get involved. Have a present-wrapping party where you watch holiday movies and get gifts wrapped. The kids can even make holiday cards for close family members. It’s a fun way to both lighten the workload and spend time together.

Have A Family-Only Holiday

Part of the reason the holidays are stressful is that they’re so busy. We’re gathering presents, planning out meals, and driving mile after mile to get to family. So, a bit before the holidays, take a moment and have a family-only gathering. It could be a white elephant or a Yankee swap, or simply a day set aside entirely for the family to spend together. Step away from the stress, bring the family together, and just enjoy each other’s company for a while.

Go Outside

The weather outside, so the jingle goes, is frightful over the holidays. But just because it’s cold or occasionally rainy doesn’t mean every day means being cooped up. When a sunny day is coming up, make a point of doing something outside, whether you’re playing in the snow, going to a park in places that are more temperate, or even just catching a movie or having a lunch away from the house together as a family, going outside will relieve cabin fever and ensure some family time together.

Parental control software

Make Gifts

Increasingly, we’re finding that we, as a society, are tired of buying things we don’t need. So handmade gifts of all sorts are becoming more and more popular, from knit sweaters to homemade sweets. A great family project would be to work out who would enjoy what, whether it’s a jar of handmade pickles or a handbuilt “cookie kit.” And then, you and the kids work together to assemble these gifts. It’s not only educational, it’s fun, and it makes the gifts you give a bit more personal.

Shut Off the Screens

Finally, limit screen time during the holidays. Especially for kids who can have entire weeks off from school, the temptation to just stare at a phone or an iPad all day can be enormous. Setting rules for, and strictly enforcing, screen limits with parental control software will ensure families spend time together, instead of just next to each other.

Need help getting kids to put screens away? Contact us.

read more

Making the Most of School Days with Screen Time

by Anna Hughes on November 22, 2017
How do we keep our children focused in school? We all remember what school was like back in the day, and that was before the era of smartphones, portable game consoles, and other items that can suck in our attention and keep it firmly away from the teacher, no matter how good they are. Yet kids also need phones to contact you, look up directions, and make use of other features. How do you balance those needs with the need for focus?

iPhone parental controls

Teaching, And Enforcing, Responsibility

Often, in situations like this, it’s a balance between education and enforcement. Just like anybody else, kids will often object, strenuously, to rules they see as unfair or unevenly enforced, and want to know the justification for a rule. Some might even complain about a lack of trust. So, before you give them a phone, have a plan and rules in place.

Start with a family meeting before handing over the phone. Lay out the rules of owning a phone and how the obligations of school come first. These will depend on the family and your children: Some make phone time dependent on grades, others make phone usage outside of communication and emergencies a privilege. Think about how you want your kids to use their phones, and make a point of asking them how they plan to use them.

Don’t hesitate to set specific boundaries. Young minds are still developing the experience and tools they need to grasp the consequences of their actions, and as we all know, that can make them all about the immediate experience with no understanding of the long term. So they’re not necessarily going to see the long-term good, requiring you to step in.

iPhone parental controls

So, before you hand over the phone, install tools that let you control how it’s used and when. Screen Time, for example, lets you block off times where kids need to focus on school, not on friends. Make it clear both why these blocks are in place and that it’s a matter of education, not punishment. Give kids the space to ask questions about rules and why you’ve implemented them.

Also, make it clear what violating these rules will entail. Consequences should be both positive and negative, and there should be a clear line between actions and their results.

Changing Rules Over Time

Any system you lay down will need to be flexible. They might ask you to loosen up the rules for vacations, days off, and other situations where they’re not at school or have nothing to do. So work out what’s acceptable on days off, what’s contingent on homework, and other rules.

Remember, your rules will change over time. As kids get older and take on more responsibilities or after-school actions, it may become a bit fuzzy as to what’s school and what isn’t. Should kids have their phones free when they’re waiting around on the bench for soccer or softball? That’ll be up to you, and potentially, their coach or the adult in charge.

But, no matter what, have rules in place, and remember that Screen Time can help. For more about Screen Time, try it for free.

read more

Three easy offline activities to keep the kids distracted this Thanksgiving

by Anna Hughes on November 16, 2017
Thanksgiving, in an ideal world, is a valuable time to be with our families. To laugh, to embrace one another, to joyfully reminisce about the good old days. To make new memories and enjoy a day full of meaningful conversations with loved ones. This scenario is of course completely fictional for most. Anyone with children who claims their Thanksgiving was in any way straightforward or dreamlike, is probably bending the truth quite significantly. Especially if they were the ones hosting the festivities.

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

It is definitely tempting to give the kids some bonus screen time on their tablet or phone just to keep them out of the way while we dress and stuff the turkey, set tables, quietly glug eggnog etc. With the parental controls Screen Time provides, this is easy to do without the usual fear of overindulgence/online dangers/switch-off meltdowns.

And that’s fine.

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

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

Who knows, you might even bond a bit too.

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

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

 

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

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

Successful AND unsuccessful attempts are all welcome! Good luck 🙂

Mini Pumpkin Pies (Thank you @crafty_morning)

Turkey Cupcakes (Thanks @MarthaStewart)

Turkey Paper Bag Puppets (Thanks @1littleproject!)

 

 

read more

How to Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores Without Complaining

by Anna Hughes on November 15, 2017
Chores are an invaluable part of childhood — at least according to parents. Kids have a different view. But while kids and parents may never entirely agree on the joys of raking leaves, you can at least get them to lift a finger without complaining. But how?
Parental controls on iPad

Chores build responsibility. But how to get kids to do them?

Build Structure

It all starts with structure. Part of the problem with chores, as anybody who’s ever heard (or said) “I’ll do it later!” is time management. We all know that chores seem like they’ll take longer than they actually do and that it’s more fun to watch TV and text friends. So, build some structure into the day. Set aside a block of time, every day, that’s “chore time” for the whole family. Create a rotating chore schedule so nobody’s doing the same thing at the same time every day. Or set up a game structure where whoever does the most chores for the month wins a prize. It doesn’t need to be rigid, but structure decidedly helps.

Explain Why Chores Are Good

Some kids are obstinate, true, but more often than not, kids are like adults in that they don’t like doing boring things that they don’t understand the motivation for. Imagine explaining your day to your eight-year-old self. Would they jump for joy at the idea of attending meetings, doing laundry, or waiting in line at the DMV? Probably not! But we do these things for what they get us, and if kids have an understanding that they’re building skills and that a cleaner house is a good thing, they’re more likely to get behind the idea of chores.

Parental controls on iPad

Hard work leads to rewards.

Tie Chores To Rewards

A good way to resolve two parenting tasks at once is to tie rewards like time with screens to chores done. You can do this any number of ways; every hour of chores can be “paid” with a set amount of screen time. Or a certain number of chores done leads to a day out at the movies, or more time with friends, or any of a set number of other things kids want. The idea is to get them associating chores with good things, not punishment.

Do Your Chores

Every parent knows all too well kids imitate what they see from the adults around them. If dishes pile up in the sink and the yard goes unraked, kids will assume that housework is somebody else’s job. After all, you don’t do it, why should they? So, if you want your kids to do their chores, you have to ensure you’re getting yours done. This shouldn’t be a source of guilt, however; you shouldn’t be scrubbing toilets while running a fever. Just make a point of setting a good, healthy example.

Chores will always probably be a point of disagreement, no matter how in-step the family is, and no matter how carefully you structure time and set up ways to do it. Push comes to shove; nobody enjoys chores, just the things they do during chores. But with a little conversation and a little agreement, everybody can pitch in and get the house clean. One thing that helps? Taking screens off the table until chores are done. Sign up for Screen Time now!

read more