How to Help Your Teen Balance Sleep, Screen Use, and Exercise

by Screen Time Team on 13/03/2019
Teenage girl looking at her mobile phone.

Teens Spend More Time With Screens

One of the biggest problems is that there are more and more screens in our daily lives. Even a teen that forsakes the smartphone and cracks a book rather than opens Netflix, or is compelled to thanks to parental control apps, is still likely going to spend some of their school day, and do some of their homework, in front of a tablet or laptop. If they’ve got a job, they probably need to use certain apps to get their paycheck and schedule shifts. And of course, even the most phone-averse people get texts from friends.

However, excessive screen use may be knocking our rhythms off-balance, and teens are particularly vulnerable. Research is also showing that exercise is important for healthy teens to become healthy adults. So how do we balance screens, sleep, and exercise?

Create A Family Plan

It helps when the whole family is on board, so develop a plan for the whole family, such as phones off after a certain hour of the day, a certain amount of time set aside for family activities like hiking or cycling, and a commitment to get to bed at a reasonable hour. That way, everyone is supporting everyone, making it easier to stick with it.

If you’re confronted with some skepticism, simply turn to the science. There’s plenty of evidence that certain types of social media use, using phones late in the evening, and other aspects of screens can be damaging to our mental health and our sleep schedules.Sometimes teens forget that being with others in person is better than texting.

Three teenagers sitting and talking.

Encourage Non-Screen Activities

Teens often need activities for more than just working out. Spending time in a group activity, especially a team-oriented one, builds social skills and emotional intelligence. Encourage your kids to pick a physical activity they like, whether it’s a team sport or a club that volunteers outside, and the screens will usually stay tucked away on their own.

Limit Unnecessary Screen Time

There are times of the day where screens just need to be put away. Nobody should be checking their phone at dinner, during family walks, or when they should be doing chores. Parental control apps can be used to enforce these standards by setting certain times when the phone is off, period, or by limiting what apps can be used at what times, and what they do. That way homework time doesn’t become video game or chatting with friends time.

Screens will be a part of our lives no matter what. Smartphones and laptops are simply too useful for us to throw them out completely. But we can use them in unhealthy ways early on, and form habits that are hard to break, so teaching our kids now to treat them carefully will pay off when they’re adults. To learn more about how parental control software can help, sign up for Screen Time, risk-free.

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Is Your Child’s Tech Use Harming Their Literacy Skills?

by Screen Time Team on 06/02/2019
Young teen mowing the grass.

Adults Actually Read Less

Credit due to the children: They’re reading, and we’re not. A Pew Internet study of our literary habits found the people least likely to sit down with a book were actually those 50 to 64 years of age, followed by the 30-49s and the 65 and older crowd. Some of this has to do with children being expected to read textbooks, file book reports, and otherwise engage with text at school, but also kids have more time to sit down with a book, and arguably more opportunity to sit down with one. After all, their schools usually have a library in the building.

That said, however, we live in a society of more distractions than ever. Social media, streaming TV, the texts and calls of friends who may be upset without a response, and even online texts such as long-form essays hosted on websites all compete with books, print and electronic, for time and attention, even if we’re trapped indoors

Part of the reason past generations were so literate was really there was just a lot less to do; our grandparents probably would have struggled to prioritize social media, Netflix, Spotify, and friends texting too. The question really becomes how to get kids to value books. And there are a few simple steps you can take to do that.

Teen sitting on a couch reading a book.

Building A Book-Friendly Family

  • Lead by example. If you read, kids will read.
  • Don’t force it. If you have bad memories of books you hated reading for school, why inflict those on your kids? Let them explore books and find the books they like reading. The same is true of quitting reading a book for pleasure. If they don’t enjoy it, why slog through it?
  • Ask them what they’re reading, for pleasure or for school. If they like a book, ask why, and if they don’t, follow up.
  • Remember that reading is a skill, and like any skill, it improves with practice. Kids who weren’t big readers before will get the hang of it once they find books they like.
  • Ensure children have access to books. This can mean a trip to the library, a shared family Kindle, a visit to the local used bookstore, or just buying age-appropriate books and keeping them in the house.
  • Don’t pick books based on “quality.” Let kids find books they like, instead of forcing them to read “classics” or the books you like.
  • Start a family “book club,” where you all read the same book, or each read a different book and tell each other about it.
  • Set aside time in the day for the family to read. Use parental control apps to shut down screens and just read together or separately.

Finding time in the day for the little things can be tough, especially with a smartphone at your side and a kid’s attention span. Screen Time parental control software can help. To learn how, try it for free.

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How Technology Is Changing the Concept of Peer Pressure

by Screen Time Team on 30/01/2019
Group of three teen boys looking at and using their phones.
Kids respect and listen to their peers, sometimes too much.

Peer Pressure In The 21st Century

Peer pressure itself hasn’t changed much. There’s both direct pressure, with friends and acquaintances making demands, and indirect pressure, the “everybody is doing it” form of pressure. What’s changed is how it’s communicated.

The direct form has quite a bit of overlap with cyberbullying. Incessant text messages, tagging people in posts, and the classic method of constantly calling and demanding attention are some forms. Social media in particular can make life difficult, as it’s hard to sort your friends from your “friends.”

Indirect takes the form of social media, in particular. A good example is the endless succession of “challenges,” ranging from the goofy to the dangerous, that sweep across social media. The prospect of popularity, paired with the psychological manipulation that are part and parcel of social media design, can push teens into actions and statements they’d normally consider a bad idea.

And, of course, it’s now omnipresent. If you search any of those aforementioned “challenges,” you’ll find a steady stream of thousands or even millions of entries, arriving every minute of every hour for days or even weeks on end. It’s one thing to be told everybody’s doing something, and quite another to have a constant stream of proof in your pocket.

Where does this leave kids? And how can we help?

Mother and daughter looking at a cell phone together.
Kids need parents, grandparents, and other family members as well as friends to fight peer pressure.

Fighting Peer Pressure

The most basic method is the way we’ve fought it for years: Education. Teach your children about peer pressure and to get them thinking about why their peers are pushing them to do or say things. Is there an ulterior motive? What will be the effect on them and the people they love? Is this something worth doing, or is it conformity for the sake of conformity?

Next, teach them about how social media works. Some have argued that social media is a “Skinner box,” a machine that feeds us “pellets” of little emotional boosts so we’ll stay on the site, constantly scrolling, staring at “content” and therefore, ads. Show kids how it works, explain the psychology behind it, so they can see it in action, and make sure they keep in mind as they go among their peers. Remind them that their social media feeds are their spaces; they can mute, unfollow, block, or otherwise get rid of people who are making them uncomfortable.

And remember, you can show them how to handle this by example. Peer pressure doesn’t evaporate once you become an adult. Show your family incidents of peer pressure you have to deal with, discuss how you handled them, and why you chose that particular strategy. That’ll help your kids deal with these situations in their own lives.

The technology has changed the perception of stereotype thinking’s about the world and Peer pressure.

Need help controlling peer pressure online? Parental control software (including Android and iPhone parental controls) can help;  learn more about Screen Time to get started today.

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How to Prevent Kids from Making In-App Purchases

by Screen Time Team on 16/01/2019
Two teens sitting in front of their laptops or tablets.

Turn Off In-App Purchases

Fortunately, shutting off in-app purchases can be done with any phone. In iOS:

  • Open Settings, then choose “Screen Time.” Enable it if it’s not already enabled.
  • Tap continue, and then choose the option of “This is my iPhone” or “This is my child’s iPhone.”
  • If it’s your phone, you’ll be asked to choose a passcode. If it’s your child’s, you’ll need to follow the prompts and set a Parent’s Passcode.
  • Tap Content and Privacy Restrictions, and enter your passcode. Then activate Content and Privacy.
  • Choose iTunes and App Store Purchases
  • Select In-App Purchases and set it to “Don’t Allow.”

For Android

  • Open Google Play
  • Open Settings
  • Go to “User Controls”
  • Choose “Set or Change PIN” and pick your PIN
  • Go back to User Settings and activate “Use PIN for Purchases.”

Parental control software can also block apps and in-app purchases, and should be installed before kids get their phones. Parental control software is the ideal adjunct to built-in iPhone parental controls and any Android parental control app that comes standard with the device, because it allows parents greater control over kids’ device use.

Teen girl taking a photo with mom.

Explain The Issue

When discussing this issue with your children, make a point of sitting them down and walking them through the app and why you don’t want them to make in-app purchases. Many apps prey on our cognitive biases towards money; we understand concrete resources, like having only four apples, very well, but abstract concepts like money are a bit trickier for our brains, child or not.

The trick is to tie it to reality, for them to understand these digital purchases have physical consequences. For example, you might open the various power-ups in a game and have them work out the math relative to their allowance. Anchor it to something concrete they enjoy, so that they understand they’re trading off pleasure now for something else later.

Set Rules

That said, you don’t need to cut kids off from apps completely, just ensure that you have a degree of control financially. There should be rules about what kids are allowed to buy and how much they’re allowed to spend. For example, if kids have an allowance, you can let them spend that allowance digitally on songs or games. Kids should need to ask you to enter a passcode or similar before they can buy something, which has the added benefit of letting you see what they want to buy.

With games that have in-app power-ups, it may not be worth the trouble to allow them on the phone. Many games use a “Skinner box” method, of stimulating the player just enough and then demanding they pay to continue, and not even adults are entirely immune to this form of manipulation. Look over games that use in-app purchases and ask yourself if they’re worth the trouble, and make a point of teaching kids about how these games try to manipulate them.

Do you want something beyond built-in iPhone parental controls and Android parental control apps that come standard? Would you like extra help keeping in-app purchases in line?  Try Screen Time for free and discover the benefits for yourself.

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Be aware of how much of your kids’ data is being shared in 2019

by Screen Time Team on 03/01/2019

Smart choices lead to safer kids.

Our phones, and the phones our kids use, are often collecting and sending out enormous amounts of data. While the idea of a child being tracked by somebody who means them harm is almost completely a Hollywood fantasy, there are other concerns to consider. For example, marketing that targets children and forms a “profile” of them before they’re adults who know what they want. But while you can’t entirely block data collection, you can tightly control it.

Control App Installs

Parental control apps can help you control app installs, which is a big part of the privacy battle. A shocking number of apps thrive not on ads or even sales, but on collecting data about you without your knowledge and sending it to third parties. The only truly effective way to prevent it is to carefully limit the number of apps downloaded to a specific phone, especially apps that are designed to appeal to kids. Use software to block certain types of apps, such as free games, and have a process in place for your family to discuss which apps they want to download.

Look At App Permissions And Phone Settings

Major app stores will have a set of “permissions” you agree to when installing the app, and any app your children want to download should be scrutinized closely. It’s a safe bet that the more permissions the app wants, such as access to your photos, access to your location, and similar data, the more likely it is to be collecting and selling that information to the highest bidder. If you don’t like the permissions an app is requesting, it’s better to leave it on the digital shelf unless it’s absolutely necessary. You can also cut apps off at the pass by disabling certain features, like Bluetooth and GPS, using iPhone parental controls or Android settings.


Protect their privacy.

Limit Online Time

Another way to control data collection is to limit how often kids use their phones. You likely already have rules in place that limit phone use over family dinner, during homework time, and after bed. This may already be enough to keep data collection to a minimum, but if you’re considering putting in limits, this will just be another incentive.

Teach Children About Data

Knowledge is the best defense against anyone who wants to exploit you, so kids should be taught from an early age how these systems work, why they do what they do, and how to defend against them. The most insidious thing about this data collection was that it was done, to some degree, with our consent and by small degrees. One app, by itself, can’t get enough data on you to matter. Hundreds of apps constantly gathering data is another matter entirely.

Teaching kids to be smart consumers is always time well spent, and as they understand the people selling them things are not their friends, they’ll develop good habits and critical thinking around products of all sorts, not just apps. If you’d like the ability to remotely approve any apps before they are downloaded by your child onto their device, Try Screen Time for Free!


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

by Screen Time Team on 16/12/2018


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:


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.


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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Three easy offline activities to keep the kids distracted this Thanksgiving

by Screen Time Team on 07/11/2018

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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How to Protect Your Teen from Porn and Sexting

by Screen Time Team on 03/10/2018
Person using their phone.

They’re not going to put down the phones entirely, but they can understand how to use them intelligently.

It’s Awkward. That’s OK

Many parents are surprised to discover it’s not the mechanics that are the most awkward or embarrassing. To sit your kids down and discuss sex means you’ll be discussing some personal intimate emotions that you probably don’t share with even your closest friends. Most of us don’t have much practice in talking about how sex makes us feel, but that’s OK. Really, that’s the point you should be making: Sex is about far more than the physical act. One of the problems with porn and sexting is that they can’t capture the unique emotional fingerprint each person has when it comes to sex. This can leave adolescents more confused than ever.

Many, if not most teens don’t necessarily have the emotional tools or the will to discuss their most intimate part of themselves with you.

Closeup of person sitting at a table using their cell phone.

Parental control apps should be accompanied by strong parent-child communication.

Talk About Your Concerns And Expectations

Anybody can talk to teens about peer pressure and cyberbullying, but they tend to think, fairly or not, that only their peers understand what they’re going through. What you can do is be honest with them about what you’re concerned about, what you expect from them, and why. Teens want to be treated like adults, and avoiding treating them like children will go a long way. If you level with them, they’re more likely to level with you. Sex is a complicated topic, and if you give them room to discuss their feelings, they’re more likely to do so.

Expect Some Rule-Breaking

Unlike many, many other topics, this is one in which rule-breaking of some sort may well be inevitable. Teens are curious about sex, and as we said, they’re still shaping the mental tools they have to deal with it. So are their friends, and the parents of your teen’s friends, and a united front is extremely rare. While you can’t control what they do everywhere, you can anticipate and block some rule-breaking with parental control apps. In some cases, it’s better to remove temptation until teens know how to handle it.

How Parental Control Apps Can Help

The texting associated with the phone itself may not be a primary communication channel for your teen. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and other downloadable messaging apps often become their de facto communication channel. Some parental control apps, like Screen Time, allow parents to approve or reject the downloading of apps, so you can be confident that you know which texting channels are available to your child. Screen Time also provides information on app usage, so you can see which apps your child uses most.

While you may not be able to read individual  messages, you do have oversight over which messaging apps kids use, and can keep up with how often they use them, which can tip you off to potential problems. The content of the messages is something that warrants a one-on-one conversation with your teen, so it’s important that you maintain regular communication about rules, sex, and smartphone use at all times.

Sex isn’t a simple topic, even for adults. For teens, it’s even harder to sort through the many conflicting demands placed on them. It’s going to take patience, honesty, respect, and listening to help your teens through a challenging stage of life. The Screen Time parental control app can help;  try it for free.

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Schools Ease Up in Smartphone Policies: Should You?

by Screen Time Team on 29/08/2018
Group of teenagers walking and using their smartphones.

Kids now have smartphones in school, but the rules shouldn’t change.

Rules Are Rules

To start with, schools aren’t simply letting kids goof off on their phones during third-period math. There are still a set of baseline rules that schools require kids to abide by, even if the school has dropped stricter policies. What’s changed is the approach, as society accepts smartphones, and the availability of parental control apps for cellphones have given parents better tools for monitoring kids’ smartphone use.

Most schools are dropping outright bans not because the kids have won, but because the smartphone is such a useful tool in the classroom when used correctly. Remember, just a decade ago, the “smartphone” was a novelty and a luxury available only to a select few. If kids had phones, they were mostly used to talk or send texts. While we may have called the latter “passing notes” back in the day, it’s still been against the rules the entire time. But most teachers don’t mind that kids are able to tap into a deep well of human knowledge. Schools instead are increasingly asking parents to put some form of parental control app on their teens’ smartphones.

Besides, the issue was never with the item, but how it’s used. Teens are more susceptible to smartphone abuse, and that needs to be considered by any parent. So, how can we balance the usefulness of smartphones against their addictive potential?

Teenager sitting using their smartphone.

Is a tool or a distraction?

Smarter Smartphone Rules

  • Know the school’s policies, in detail. Especially if the school is requiring any smartphone to have a parental control app installed, parents should know what standards kids are expected to abide by.
  • Remember that school and home are two different places with two different needs. Even if kids have more freedom to use their smartphones at school, that doesn’t mean you should allow them at the dinner table or during family time.
  • Kids need to understand that they need to be respectful and accountable, and why the rules are in place. It’s easy for kids to write off rules as unfair, especially if they seem arbitrary, so explain why you’ve chosen the rules for your family.
  • Always talk to your kids about smartphone use and let them know that they can come to you with any issue, no matter what. Often kids just need somebody to share their concerns with, and being able to talk them over is a relief for them

There’s no perfect solution to balancing the different spheres of life your kids will deal with. School, home, work, and the houses of friends will all have different rules, different requirements, and different standards that kids will just need to learn to balance. But if they know they have a friendly ear and a firm but fair parent, they’ll get the hang of it. To learn more about parental control apps and how you can schedule what your kids use on their phones, sign up for Screen Time.

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Your Teens May Want Help Curbing Their Smartphone Use

by Screen Time Team on 01/08/2018
Group of people using smartphones.

Teens love their phones, but they might need help putting them down.

Stop It Before It Happens

The simplest method is, especially if your teen is about to get their first smartphone, just to stop the problem before it starts. Use tools like Android and iPhone parental controls to block certain apps, set specific rules about when the phone can be used and for what purposes, and have clear and fair punishments in place when those rules are violated that you can enforce, like deleting apps and no phone at bedtime.

Have An Honest Talk

The first step is to give your teen some perspective. For example, if they’re checking an app or playing a game to the point it interferes with their homework, their job, and their social life, you should ask them about why this is. One important discussion to have is about the “Skinner box,” the infamous psychological experiment where a rat was put in a cage with a button that occasionally dispensed a treat, and which taught the rat to keep hitting the button, to the detriment of everything else.

Some argue certain apps are like these boxes, and while the science is more complicated with the human mind, it’s not a bad analogy. Social media and games offer us a small reward, such as a like or a powerup, and we keep playing. Once we become aware of the cycle, we can fight it.

Young teen looking at her tablet while leaning against fence.

Phones are useful, but they can also be addictive.

Make A Plan

Once your teen can face the problem, you can make a plan to solve it. This should involve a mix of parental control software, scheduling, and self-awareness. For example, if one app like Snapchat is the problem, you might delete the app, set a rule about when phones are allowed at home, giving your teen a little time to do work, answer emails, and so on, and then have a strict block on having a phone in bed. To enforce the rule, you might install an app to block the downloading of other apps, or certain apps, without your express consent via software.

Ideally, your teen will be on board with this plan. But if not, they should at least understand the reasoning behind it. A conversation about the problem is part of the solution, in this case.

While parental control software and Android and iPhone parental controls are incredibly useful tools, the key to stopping smartphone problems is to get your teen to admit there’s a problem in the first place. Once that happens, you can begin truly fixing the problem. To learn more about how to schedule phone time and enforce the house rules about phones, try it for free.

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