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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How to Limit the Time Your Child Spends on their Phone

by Anna Hughes on 18/04/2018
Our phones have quickly become part of the fabric of our everyday existence because they're just so useful. They give us directions, they keep us on task while we're stuck waiting for appointments, they're cameras and research directories and so much more. But they can also suck us in, and kids, even more so. If you're concerned about how much screen time your kids are racking up with their phones, here's how to install some limits.

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 Anna Hughes on 11/04/2018
You're concerned about screen time with your kids. You've set rules, you've laid down schedules, you've installed parental control software, and you think it's all settled. Then they come home from a sleepover where all they did was play on their tablets all night. So, what do you do when different homes have different rules?

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 Anna Hughes on 26/02/2018
It may come as no surprise that kids don't love Screen Time.
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 Anna Hughes on 14/02/2018
How much screen time on the iPad is too much time? Just how much is too much can vary from family to family, but there are some solid rules about when the tablet should be put away any family should have in place. And parental control apps can help in a big way.
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 Anna Hughes on 31/01/2018
“Mom, where's my phone?” might be the most chilling words a parent hears in a given week. It means overturned couch cushions, retracing steps, and probably a few tears over the lost phone, and then definitely an absolute flood of tears over the consequences of losing it. It's enough to make you forget that technology in many ways makes parenting easier. So, when a phone vanishes, what should you do? Can parental control software help out?
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 Anna Hughes on 17/01/2018
How much screen time is enough for kids? One article insists they're more dangerous than playing in the street, while another will tell you it's no big deal. Parents have enough problems without figuring this out, so we've put together some common-sense guidelines to help parents decide when a screen's been on long enough and what parental control measures are appropriate.

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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Should You Limit Screen Time When Kids Are Sick?

by Anna Hughes on 10/01/2018
What rules go out the window when kids are sick? Every parent has to decide for themselves what being sick means for kids and the house rules. Sometimes you just need to be a bit more lenient when you've got a lot to do. But even when kids are sick, it's good to limit screen time, even if it means they get more than normal. Screen time parental controls don't have to go out the window when your child is sick.

Keeping Sanity

Nobody should dub you a bad parent because you didn’t limit screen time as much as normal. You can’t read Chicken Soup With Rice to your kids for five hours straight. You’ve probably got no end of things to do, both to treat your kids’ illness and to do around the house. You can’t help your kids if you’re going bonkers.

So, at points where you’re out of options, or just simply they don’t have the energy to do anything else, it’s OK to resort to a little screen time and give them the tablet and let them know you’ll just be in the next room. Sometimes they don’t have the energy, or you simply need them out of the way while cooking dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, or dealing with other household concerns. That’s not at issue. It’s simply a question of setting the right standards and enforcing certain rules.

The Rules Are Relaxed, Not Gone

Start by pointing out this is a special occasion, and this isn’t going to be the new normal. Then make it clear that you’re still going to limit screen time, no matter how sick they are. Especially if you’ve got the time to do other activities, you should still limit screen time, sit with them and pick out some activities.

This can be pretty much anything. You can read to them, or do simple crafting projects that occupy their time and take their minds off being sick. And, of course, if they begin drifting off or don’t have the energy to do anything else, you can put them to bed.

And there are some rules that simply aren’t negotiable. Bedtime is a good example, and it’ll probably be shifted earlier simply because getting enough sleep is the best sick fighter. Similarly, if you have rules about how long TV can be watched or video games can be played, those should still be in place. They should switch off from screens on a regular basis anyway if only to give themselves a break. Even with sick kids, the benefits of time limits on device use still apply.

Should parents limit <a href=

screen time when kids are sick?” width=”600″ height=”380″ /> Is there such thing as too much screen time when the kids are sick?

Similarly, if the new rules are broken, some punishments should still apply. Especially if kids are sick, they need to abide by rules about rest, they need to take their medicine no matter how nasty it tastes, and generally need to behave properly, within reason. There are some rules in the home that stand no matter how sick you get.

Nobody enjoys being sick, and it can be a challenge with an adult, let alone a child. But, with properly enforced screen time parental controls, relaxing rules where you need to, and working together, you and your children can get through any sick day. To see how Screen Time can help settle bedtime and homework issues, sick or not, try it for free!

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Finding Balance Starts with Modeling Good Behaviors

by Anna Hughes on 10/08/2017
“How do I get my children to put down their screens?” Many, many parents ask this question, and there are plenty of answers to it. But one of the key answers is that kids learn by watching their parents. If your kids are spending all their time looking at screens, did they learn it from you? And if so, how can you change their approach?

Parental control for iPhone

Modeling Behavior

You are by far the most influential person in your child’s life. They learn everything from YOU. Especially with day-to-day behaviors, how you treat yourself is how your kids, often, will treat themselves. So, how they use screens will be inspired—at least in part—by how you use them.

This is not to say how your kids use screens is your fault, and beating yourself up is counterproductive. Behavior, yours and theirs, isn’t set in stone and can easily be shifted. But first, you need to understand what behavior you’re showing.

Start by tracking how you use screens, and why you use them. Smartphones are the Swiss Army knife of modern living, after all, and you likely use your phone for everything from getting directions to tracking down recipes. And this is good modeling; showing your kids that you use it as a tool, not a distraction, will help them think of it differently.

Secondly, look at the times you don’t need to use it. Would you be better off reading a physical book than staring at your screen? Do you turn on the TV and just never turn it off once you get home? How do you use your phone, and why?

Parental control for iPhone

Changing Behavior

Once you understand how you use your screens, you can start ensuring your children also understand. After all, they’ve got no way of knowing that you’re looking up how many cups are in a quart while you’re cooking. For all they know, you’re fiddling with a game.

So, talk them through how and why you use it, and when. Be sure they understand that you’re using it as a tool, and encourage them to view smartphones that way. Then, for non-essential use, when it’s not a tool, start laying out some rules about how much time can be spent on screens. These rules should apply to everybody in the family, and everybody should agree to hold each other accountable.

On the opposite end, ensure that your family won’t want to look at screens by giving them alternatives. Make it easy to put the screens down by planning family activities. Set up times for your kids to hang out with their friends, instead of texting them. And, when screens are being used, try to make it a family activity or show interest in what your children are doing. Have them explain a favorite game to you. Watch movies together as a family, instead of five different movies on different screens.

Remember, your kids take your lead. By setting good standards for yourself, you’ll find that your children will have good habits with screens yourself. Need help weaning kids off screens? Learn more about Screen Time.

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