Three easy offline activities to keep the kids distracted this Thanksgiving

by Anna Hughes on 07/11/2018
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!)

 

 

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Nail Screen Free Week with the Family Screen Time Pact

by Anna Hughes on 30/04/2018
Screen Free Week is great in theory, but asking kids to switch off their devices can be painful. Enter, the Family Screen Time Pact!

The Family Screen Time Pact

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

We get constant feedback from parents about how beneficial the screen time app has been to their children and family as a whole. These compliments often come with: “After the initial arguments”.

So we are here to help. We have developed a fun way to help you, the parent, introduce Screen Time to the family. It comes in the form of ‘Our Family Screen Time Pact’ – a simple contract between parent and child on the use of mobile devices to help your children understand that small but complicated word – Why?

But be warned, it’s a two way street, what you ask your kids to do, you too need to adhere to.

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

Download the Family Screen Time Pact!

 

Or if you want to give Screen Time, Try it for FREE! 

Screen Free Week runs from April 30 to May 6 2018. Find out more here

 

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

by Anna Hughes on 20/12/2017
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! 🎅🏽

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Five Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids this Holiday Season

by Anna Hughes on 29/11/2017
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.

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Four Ways Technology Has Made Parenting Easier

by Anna Hughes on 08/11/2017
Focusing on the downside of kids and technology is easy. Stranger danger, cyberbullying, and plain old bad behavior, from profanity-riddled rants on Twitter to tasteless pranks on YouTube, seem to be in the news and our lives constantly. That makes it easy to miss the upside of technology and parenting, and how it solves a lot of problems. Stop and consider the following:

Parenting hacks

Libraries Are At Your Children’s Fingertips

While the modern library has become far more than a place to just borrow books, and families still go there to enjoy activities and relax in a lovely public space, when kids need information, they can now easily find it on their smartphone or tablet. Whether they need the full text of a public domain book to find a quote for a book report, need access to government data to make a point in a research paper, or just want to find out more about the world and explore it, they’ve got a vast wealth of data just a few clicks away.

Education Is Handier

One big advantage of phones and tablets is they can be filled with educational games and tools. Kids can point their phone at the night sky and discover constellations, play with virtual chemistry sets, chase Carmen Sandiego around the globe, and more, from their phones. Also useful is the fact that educational materials, like podcasts, are just a click away, letting kids explore science, history, and literature more deeply. It is as if you have your own professor in your pocket.

Parenting hacks

Tablets are keys to learning.

Communication Has Never Been Easier

Think back to when you were in middle school or high school. Remember having to be near a phone, in case your parents needed to find you? Now, you probably just send your kids a text, call them, or contact them on WeChat, Facebook, or a host of other messaging tools. One of the nice side effects of a phone in every pocket is that you and your kids can always be in touch, instead of having to lurk near a phone or keep track of a suite of phone numbers.

You Know Where They Are

Thanks to GPS, mapping capabilities, and other tools, it’s never been easier for kids to find their way home, or for you to find your children. Even setting aside child-tracking apps, finding a phone, even a phone’s precise coordinates, is a simple task. Some parents even use “geofencing” apps to set limits about where teens can go; if they wander outside those limits with their phone, you get a ping.

Having complicated feelings about technology is normal. Even as it makes our lives easier in some respects, it introduces or aggravates new problems. We’ve all had to deal with the misbehaving family member on Facebook, where before we just ignored them the few times a year we saw them. But technology has upsides, and it’s important to remember and embrace those. Kids reading more books, playing more games, learning more about the word, and being in touch is a good thing. Of course, when it’s time for screens to be put away, the right tools can help you find that balance. Contact us to learn more about Screen Time.

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Calling all Screen Time users… We have exciting news…

by Anna Hughes on 16/03/2017
...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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The National Day of Unplugging – How to get the kids to switch off without a meltdown

by Anna Hughes on 24/02/2017
The National Day of Unplugging is nearly upon us. For a full 24 hour period, running from sundown to sundown, people are switching off all of their devices, and potentially having, dare we say it, real life, face to face interactions with other humans.

The National Day of Unplugging is nearly upon us. For a full 24 hour period, running from sundown to sundown, people are switching off all of their devices, and potentially having, dare we say it, real life, face to face interactions with other humans.

For the Screen-Lover of today, the suggestion of having zero access to a smartphone or tablet for a full 24 hours can be a daunting prospect. For some it’s the thought of losing communication with friends on Snapchat or Whatsapp. For others, it’s not being able to play their favorite game. And then there are those for whom the very idea of being unable to share an image of their freshly sliced #avocado on Instagram, is the stuff of nightmares.

“People won’t know what I had for lunch”, they’ll say.

So asking the kids (and, let’s be honest, the parents) to switch off their devices for a whole day is a tall order for many. And of course will lead to the classic question: WHY?!

Well kids, here’s why!

Because parents everywhere have been told that screen time should be reduced for the sake of their child’s health. However, some new research released by the department of psychology at Stetson University in Florida, has found that kids can spend 6 hours per day staring at a screen without “even minor negative outcomes,” *

This is all very reassuring, but we at Screen Time Labs are big believers that, while there is an awful lot to love about smartphones and tablets, nothing boosts the endorphins like a day outdoors in the fresh air. (Check out our top tips on how to get your kids to agree to put down their devices and join you outside).

Convincing a child of this when they are heavily engrossed in a game of Minecraft could of course prove challenging.  Which is where our app can help. And here we have our top tips on how to switch off your kids devices without a meltdown:

Pause your child’s device from your own handset

Our app allows you to go all ‘He-man’ on your kids – you can have the power over their device. So if you like, you can ‘pause’ their smartphone or tablet simply by pressing a button on your own handset. To avoid winding them up too much though, we recommend you at least send them a 5 minute warning first. Because no one likes being rudely interrupted. We also recommend you do the following:

Set daily time limits for screen time

The key to stopping those ‘switch off’ rows is to ensure all parties  – parents and kids – are clear about the rules from the outset.

One way of doing this is to agree on a daily time limit. Inviting the kids to help with this decision not only gets you working together, it gives them, (particularly tweens/teens) a chance to take responsibility for their own behaviour. Our app has a useful feature that enables you to do just that using your phone. And if you’d like for you child to still be able to access some apps even when their time is up, you can use the settings to ensure some of their apps are blocked, and others aren’t.

 

Draw up a family screen time pact.

Reduce chance of meltdown by being fair. This is a simple contract between parent and child on the use of mobile devices. Edit and print this one to save time. Work together with the kids to decide upon the rules so they feel like they are getting a say.  It could include rules about how much screen time is allowed each day and when devices are and are not allowed to be used. Stick it to the fridge, this way it will stay present as a reminder to all. 

It’s up to you and your kids to decide the penalty for breaking the pact. But be warned, the contract is a two way street, what you ask your kids to do, you too need to adhere to 😉

To find out about all of the other cool features available and to download the Screen Time app, click here

And if you are joining in with The National Day of Unplugging on March 3rd-4th, good luck!

What will you do when you’re unplugged?? Let us know in the comments below!

Here’s what some of us at Screen Time do when offline…

IMG_2713

 

 

Polly, Designer (and feline related venue supporter)

 

 

 

 

IMG_2718     Nick, Developer (Spot the dad with small kids)

IMG_2717    Nick, MD (and part-time lumberjack)

IMG_2715    Anna, Content Manager (Occasional over-sharer)

IMG_2716

 

 

Jordan, Digital Marketer (cheating a little here with his offline suggestion)

 

 

 

 

Find out more about National Day of Unplugging click here.

*The lead author, Christopher J Ferguson, from the department of psychology at Stetson University in Florida

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How to stop nagging your children

by Anna Hughes on 17/02/2017
We are loving Miriam’s review of our app this week. No parent wants to be the Bad Cop, right?! “This is really easy to use. It's making a huge difference in the amount I have to nag. I'm now 100 percent consistent because I don't have to remember to follow through. It's like an automated bad cop. I like being the good cop.”  Miriam, Feb 2017

 

If we had a dollar for every parent who told us that our app has helped put a stop to nagging in their house, we’d… be heading out for a much better than normal lunch, we can tell you.
And Miriam has an excellent point about the parent’s struggle to remain consistent with promises, threats, rewards and punishments when it comes to the kids.

We can help with that. Just set the Daily Time Limit on your child’s device, and let the Screen Time app take the blame at Switch Off time.

Then all that’s left for you to do is to sit back and enjoy your new harmonious (or at least, noticeably less shouty) household.

Try it now for FREE if you haven’t already.

Do you have any other good nagging prevention strategies you’d like to share?

Tell us all in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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8 ways to get your kids off the couch during The Big Game

by Anna Hughes on 02/02/2017
We at Screen Time are big believers in having a healthy online/offline balance. Which is why we made our app - to help parents to have more control over the amount of time their kids spend on their devices. The Big Game is fast approaching, which means a whole lot of screen watching is in store - roughly 4 hours of it depending on how keen a fan the viewer is.

 

That’s a lot of time spent on the couch. And with 22 people (or 23 if you include Lady Gaga) running around and working up a sweat on said screen, there’s some inspiration right there to follow suit and burn off some energy.

Or at least the kids can while you eat chips and point.

We’re not about to suggest switching off the TV during such a momentous occasion. There’s no need for such extremes when there are commercial breaks to be taken advantage of.

In the time it takes to see various individuals joyfully glug a fizzy drink, an 11 year old could do 20 push ups. Or master the art of ‘Ball Spinning On The Finger’. Or jump up and down on the spot if they’re a bit younger.

In doing so, the child in question will burn off energy, increase levels of happy hormone, Serotonin, and decrease chance of door slamming. At the same time, the parent can be relieved of any guilt they may have experienced in relation to 4 hour TV-athon. Everyone’s a winner.

As an incentive, perhaps the kids could be rewarded with some cheeky Bonus Time on their device using our app

We here at Screen Time HQ like to practice what we preach. So, in the name of helping others achieve that online/offline balance, we bring you our very own…Screen Time Commercial Break Challenge!

Watch as Screen Time team members, Polly, Anna, Nick and Neil demonstrate their ball skills attempts, push ups and ‘going up and down stairs’ techniques, all in the comfort of our Bristol office.

(Please be assured that no one was harmed during the making of this video. Apart from maybe Neil, during the Push Up Challenge. Sorry Neil).

Disclaimer: Take care doing these exercises. We are Developers/Designers/Customer Supporters. We are definitely not Chuck Norris.

The Screen Time Commercial Break Challenge

 

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

by Anna Hughes on 06/01/2017
Happy New year from Screen Time! (We’re not sure when you’re supposed to stop saying that either). At Screen Time HQ, we’ve been discussing our New Year’s resolutions. The standard ones have inevitably been thrown in (join a gym, eat more healthily, slightly reduce Prosecco consumption), as well as a couple of less traditional ones involving underpants (see graph for details).

 

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

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

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

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

 

“It takes the fight out of managing screen time”  

Aleah LaFrancis. Screen Time user

 

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

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

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

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

 

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