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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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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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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Nail Screen Free Week with the Family Screen Time Pact

by Screen Time Team on 30/04/2018

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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How to Limit the Time Your Child Spends on their Phone

by Screen Time Team on 18/04/2018

Screen time

Set An Example

To start with, look at how you use your phone. Make a diary of phone usage and what you’re doing, and sort out how much time you spend with your phone as a tool versus how much you use it idly, and then focus on cutting down on that. Or consider installing a parental control app and locking off your idle time games and the like for a few days and see how things change. It might surprise you how much time you spend looking at your own phone, and if you stop using your phone, your kids will notice.

Design A Schedule

Another method is to set a family schedule for screen time. This schedule can be flexible and tied to needs. For example, if kids have a phone to use as an assistant at the table while they do homework, that use probably doesn’t need to be that restricted. But set a schedule, for the whole family, and make sure everyone holds each other accountable for sticking to it. If your children have a say, and you abide by the same rules, they’ll follow your example.

Parental control apps

Install Parental Control Apps

If usage has gotten out of control, or you simply want to ensure that there’s a method to “ground” kids by shutting down their phones if they break the rules, parental control apps can be a useful method of keeping phones locked off. The phones can be set to be unlocked only during certain times of day, or can be set to only be unlocked when a parent agrees to it. This can also be a good option in cases of shutting down cyberbullying or enforcing other rules, such as discussing what they’re saying on the internet and who they’re talking to.

Disable Their Phones

Another tool, especially if there’s bad behavior, is the “nuclear option” of parenting, namely taking the phone away completely, or simply disabling certain functions physically or with software. For example, if they’ve racked up a large phone bill, you can pull out the SIM card, which will keep them off cellular networks, or you can delete apps that hog data off their phone and block them from being reinstalled. This is a bit drastic, though, and really should only be used when there’s not another solution to the situation. Be sure explain why you’re doing this in the first place, and make it clear which rules were broken and the length of the punishment.

With the right tools, the right conversations, and most importantly, the right attitude, your kids will have a healthier appreciation for screen time, and a respect for when and when not to use screens. The Screen Time app gives you the tools to achieve this – click here to try it for free. Learn how to make your phones work for your family, and not the other way around.

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When Other Parents’ Screen Time Rules Differ from Your Own

by Screen Time Team on 11/04/2018

Screen time

Ask Beforehand

The first step is to ask the parents of your children’s friends their house rules around screen time. Every house is different, and those differences usually have some fairly important reasons behind them. For example, some kids have hobbies like toy engineering or video game design these days, or they may be taking classes about computers and code, so they need a bit more access to screens to study.

Also, remember that parents aren’t out to undermine other parents. We just naturally assume, unless we’re told otherwise, that rules jump from house to house. We’ve all stumbled over a rule we weren’t told about, such as a limit on certain foods or your children’s friends not being allowed to watch certain TV shows or movies. So, before they head over, make sure you’ve been told the rules of their house and also make sure parents there understand what your rules are when their kids come over.

Talk It Over

Kids know the rules, and they also often know you know if they’re breaking them. This is why discussing the reasons behind the rules is particularly important when laying them down. If kids understand that the rules are there for their benefit, not because you just don’t like their Netflix habits, they’re a lot more likely to abide by them. Before they go to a house with different rules, remind them of why the rules are in place and talk about what they should do instead of staring at a screen.

Screen time

Shift Schedules

Another trade-off you can do is simply to shift around the screen time available. If they want to go over to a friend’s to play video games, that means that when they come home, video game time is over with. Don’t forget, especially for when kids need to do homework with friends, that parental control software can, for example, allow sites needed for homework while blocking social media sites and games. So, if they’re going over to do homework, you can ensure they stay on task with a few clicks.

Limit Available Screens

One useful strategy, especially when your kids are going over for fun, not to do homework or work on tasks, is to exercise the ultimate in parental control software: Namely, telling them the tablet or phone stays in the house. Granted, this technique won’t make you the most popular, and it may not guarantee, entirely, that the screens stay off. But if it’s a concern, and the screens aren’t strictly necessary, there’s no reason to send them over.

Navigating other households and their rules doesn’t have to be tricky. With some good conversations, and good parental control software, you can send your kids over to a friend’s house confident they’ll stick by the rules. To learn more, try it for free.

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Kids’ thoughts on Screen Time

by Screen Time Team on 26/02/2018
Screen Time Kid's bad reviews

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

And who can blame them? If it weren’t for Screen Time, their parents wouldn’t be able to set daily screen time limits; instantly pause their devices remotely, or set schedules to ensure they’re unplugged when they’re supposed to be.

One day our children will realise how awesome their parents are for using an app to guide them towards a healthy online/offline balance. Because no one wants their entire childhood to be remembered as one long game of Minecraft. (Do they?)

Until then, the kid’s reviews of our app will continue to appear. And they ain’t pretty. But some are too good not to share. Here’s one of our favorites: 

Want to give Screen Time a go? Try it for Free! 

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How to use parental control apps to limit iPad usage

by Screen Time Team on 14/02/2018
Parental control apps are a parents best friend

How much tablet time is too much?

  • “Hard” Times

“Hard” in this case refers to times that kids shouldn’t be using their screen time allowance, like bedtime, meal times, school, and other scheduled times where they need to focus on what’s happening or simply need to not look at the screen. These can be a bit flexible, of course; if kids are up late and don’t have anything else to do, you should have the discretion to let them play a game or read a book. But once they’re tucked in, the tablet should be firmly under control, either out of the room or locked down using one of the parental control apps on the market, like Screen Time. 

  • Work Times

There are other situations where tablet use is appropriate, but only in certain ways. For example, kids might need tablets when they get home from school to research book reports, to use as calculators for complex math and science tasks, or other homework-related chores. It’s OK to loosen up the parental control a little bit for these tasks. Just be sure to sit down with your kids before the school year starts and lay out what the rules are and what the consequences will be. You might also consider setting a specific control for “homework” time that only allows certain sites or apps to be allowed, or to have a tablet that’s solely for homework, with no apps other than ones that get tasks done.

Parental control apps are a parents best friend

Play is a good thing, but there’s always too much of a good thing to consider.

  • Free Time

Then there is, of course, free time, which kids are free to spend as they want. Here is where you can really loosen up, as long as they understand that free times doesn’t sprawl over into work or bed. Here, the best guide is to be a role model. If you’re spending your free time staring at a TV or playing with your own tablet, then they’re likely to imitate. But if you do other things with your free time, that’ll help kids understand that just because they have a tablet doesn’t mean they have to use it all the time.

  • Setting Schedules

Once you know what all these times are, sit down with your kids and write out a schedule. Put it down and talk about why these screen time rules are in place. Make sure they understand the rules, both the why and how, and establish some consequences for breaking the rules. For example, if they throw a fit about a game or refuse to stop playing it, they should understand that deleting it off the tablet for good is on the table.

Be sure to revisit these schedules regularly, especially when their schedules shift, like over the summer. If kids understand that they’ve got a say, they’re more likely to go along. Need help instituting parental control? Screen Time Labs can help. Try it for free!

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Parental Control Software Advice When Your Child Loses Their Phone

by Screen Time Team on 31/01/2018
Parental control software

Sometimes a phone is gone for good.

Confirm It’s Completely Gone

The first step is to confirm it’s completely gone. All bags should be checked, all homes should be called, all steps should be retraced. Often, as parents quickly learn, what’s thought vanished forever has just taken a short reprieve inside the couch cushions. But sometimes it really is lost, or temporarily vanishes in such a way that it’s not coming back, such as a visit to the inside of the tub.

Remotely Wipe It

With any lost piece of electronics, but especially phones and tablets, you’ll want to use a remote access app to wipe the device completely. This will ideally delete all apps, all passwords, all personal information, all contacts, and any usage history from the device, but you should check with both your service provider and the device’s manufacturer to see what gets cleared out and what doesn’t. Even if it’s not complete, though, a wipe will ensure privacy and safety. And remember, in the case of phones, to disconnect or transfer the number as appropriate.

Change Passwords

Also, make a point of changing all the passwords connected to the phone. Ideally, you’ve limited these to a few things, like a streaming video account, that won’t be a big deal if they’re temporarily breached. But if there are credit cards connected, you may want to place alerts on those and change your password access to them via the internet as well, just to be safe.

Parental control software

RIP iPhone. Now do you get your child a new one?

Discuss Consequences

The next step won’t be fun, but it will be necessary. Simply put, there needs to be some sort of consequences of losing the device. It can, of course, depend on the situation; if their phone was in their bag when it was stolen, or if it got knocked out of their hand by accident, there’s not much they can do. But in situations where it was carelessness or frivolousness that means a lost device, then there has to be both serious talk about whether or not they get a replacement device and, if they do thanks to school or homework needs, what the rules will be around that device to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Delay Replacement, If Needed

Consider a “cooling-off” period before you replace a device, as well. Often kids will need a little time away from their devices to fully understand the magnitude of what a lost device means. Once it’s been gone for a while, they will better appreciate it and value it, and hopefully not lose it again.

Place Limits

Finally, make a point of placing limits on device use, apps, and what hours they can and can’t use it. Even something as simple as an app locking off the device until after school hours and before bedtime can be useful for teaching kids about keeping devices in their pockets and bags, where they can easily be found. If you need help setting limits, parental control software may be the right tool for you. Best of all, you can try one for free!

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Confused About Guidelines for Parental Control Over Screen Time? Start Here

by Screen Time Team on 17/01/2018

Parental control

Use The Limits Already Built In

It starts with the limits you have already built in. Your kids likely already have some form of schedule; they go to school, they do their homework, they have dinner, have some leisure time before bed, and then off to bed they go. That’s usually the best place to start, as you’re working from already established limits. You’re likely already enforcing a policy of no screens after bedtime and using computers only for research during homework, so that gives you a place to start.

Set Standards

One of the most effective ways to make rules is to involve everyone in the rulemaking and explain why certain rules are the way they are. It also offers a framework for you and your family to work in to shift the rules as needed. If, for example, your kids need to bring their tablet to school for a project, leave room to allow that while making clear it can only be used for school, and there will be consequences if your leniency is abused.

Set Punishments

Even the best kids break rules, but before they do, they should understand the stakes. Make a point of setting clear, fair punishments, so kids understand exactly what they’re getting into if they get caught.

Allow Appeals

There are going to be moments where kids ask for more screen time. They may be snowed in, they may be sick, it may be a long vacation and you’ve gotten through every other craft project and destination you’ve wanted to visit. In these situations, it’s OK to give them a little more screen time, while making clear this is a special exception, not the new normal.

Parental control

Sometimes, screens are useful.

Rules Should Go Beyond Time

Anybody who has been forced to turn off a game console or shut off a TV show knows that kids get very, very upset when their favorite thing is taken from them. And in some cases, kids can overreact so much, or begin misbehaving in order to get more time with a game or show, that you’re going to be forced to step in. Or, hey, sometimes it’s just for your own sanity; there’s only so many times you can hear a TV theme song without starting to root against the heroes just a little bit. So create rules for parental controls that respect your need for sanity and limit overindulgence.

Be A Role Model

Kids often learn good or bad habits from their parents, which is probably pressure enough. But it underscores the importance of good behavior on your end. Rules should apply to the family, at least between wake-up and bedtime, and if we want our kids to stay off screens, we all need to lead by example. Even if it’s not a real problem, it’s not going to kill any of us to play fewer games on our phones.

Need help enforcing your family rule? Sign up for Screen Time.


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