Con­trol Kids’ Screen Time on a tablet

MAR­TYN CASSERLY has some so­lu­tions for par­ents that will help man­age how long chil­dren are spend­ing on their tablets

Android Advisor - - Contents -

While An­droid smart­phones and tablets can be bril­liant ways to en­ter­tain, ed­u­cate, and keep your chil­dren safe, they do have the down­side of be­ing ad­dic­tive. For a par­ent, the sight of your lit­tle ones mes­mer­ized by glow­ing rec­tan­gles for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time is not a happy one.

But, there are ways to limit this ex­po­sure and en­sure that your child gets up off their back­side ev­ery once in a while. We show you a few easy ways to con­trol the amount of time your chil­dren spend with their screens.

Use a ded­i­cated screen time app

There are a few dif­fer­ent apps that can au­to­mat­i­cally limit the time chil­dren spend on their de­vices. These in­clude Screen­limit ( fave.co/2sYVREn), Boomerang ( fave.co/2sZvMoG), Kids Zone Parental Con­trols ( fave.

co/2t2cOxL), and MM Guardian ( fave.co/2t29x1k). Another ex­am­ple is Screen Time ( fave.co/2Fb­nGOM), which of­fers a sen­si­ble range of fea­tures and con­trol for £2.99 per month.

The app works (like they all do) by in­stalling the Screen Time app on your child’s phone and then

the Parental ver­sion on your own de­vice. From this you can set daily time lim­its for in­di­vid­ual apps, ban some en­tirely, pre­vent apps from be­ing in­stalled un­less you ap­prove them first, have set hours when de­vices can be used, and a gen­eral pause but­ton that freezes ev­ery­thing and al­lows you can talk with your young­ster with­out their at­ten­tion be­ing dis­tracted.

It’s not all crush­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism though, as you’re able to create a list of tasks that the child can ac­com­plish to earn more screen time. So, get the Maths home­work out of the way and there’s half an hour of YouTube in it for you.

The main ad­van­tage of Screen Time is that it moves the point of con­flict away from the par­ent try­ing to wres­tle a de­vice from their child, and in­stead aims it to­wards the app. There’s a 14-day free trial, so you can see if this is the kind of so­lu­tion for your fam­ily.

Use a ded­i­cated tablet or phone

If you’re in the mar­ket for a new de­vice, then it might be worth con­sid­er­ing one with parental con­trols built

in. The most pop­u­lar by far is the Ama­zon Fire HD 8 and Fire 7, not only be­cause they of­fer ex­cel­lent value for money, but mainly due to the Fire for Kids fea­ture. This al­lows par­ents to set up pro­files for each of their chil­dren, and spec­ify how long they can use the de­vice each day. There are also gran­u­lar con­trols, so in­di­vid­ual apps can be banned or have lim­ited ac­cess, while read­ing apps can be given un­lim­ited time.

True, it’s not an An­droid tablet and you are lim­ited to the apps avail­able on the Ama­zon store, which doesn’t in­clude the full Google Play se­lec­tion (or any Google apps), but there’s a de­cent va­ri­ety there. Of course, Prime sub­scribers have ac­cess to free Kin­dle eBooks, and Ama­zon Prime Video, so that’s not a bad start.

There are other ded­i­cated de­vices avail­able, such as the Monqi Kids smart­phone and Ku­rio Tab

Ad­vance tablet we re­viewed re­cently, but Ama­zon has def­i­nitely staked an im­pres­sive claim on this area.

Set real-world in­cen­tives and re­stric­tions

If you don’t want to ab­ro­gate re­spon­si­bil­ity to soft­ware then there are still help­ful ways to en­tice your prog­eny away from their de­vices. We’ve seen some suc­cess with fam­ily de­vice-free days, where every­one sur­ren­ders their tech­nol­ogy and stares at each other in em­bar­rassed si­lence for hours on end.

Other meth­ods that have worked for some par­ents are lock­ing de­vices away ev­ery evening and then re­turn­ing them once home­work and chores have been com­pleted, or cre­at­ing re­ward charts that al­lo­cate screen time for real-world achieve­ments and tasks such as mak­ing their bed or help­ing with the wash­ing up.

It’s a more hands-on ap­proach and not al­ways easy, but that’s par­ent­ing in a nut­shell re­ally.

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