Are you worried about the impact that smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices are having on your child? Has family time and homework been affected by your child mindlessly jumping for their smartphone or tablet every time it rings, sings or vibrates?
The good news is that you’re not alone. Since 2011, usage of smartphones and tablets among young users has increased threefold, according to Common Sense Media, a San Francisco based non-profit that analyses the effects of technology on children.
While television, interactive video games and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment for children, too much screen time can lead to bad health, obesity and behaviourial problems. The solution? Apps such as Dinner Time Parental Control, which enables parents to restrict when their children can use their smartphones and tablets and ScreenTime, which allows parents to push a button on their phone, which blocks usage on their children’s devices and sets daily time limits for particular apps.
“Entry level smartphones and tablets has made it possible for more kids to have their own devices. This is fantastic on so many levels, but on the other hand, as parents, we need to be more vigilant with the amount of time our kids are spending on their devices,” says Riaan Swart, MD of Solv, an IT concierge company based in Cape Town and a dad to two young children, Jessica (seven) and Archie (five). “Free apps that can monitor and pause activity so that your children can focus on things like homework, exercise and family time are excellent – I speak from experience.”
How does it work?
To use the app, parents install it on their child’s device and enter in their phone number to link the two devices. Parents can then set specific break times, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours, when the device will be locked. A countdown screen displayed on your child’s device shows when they can use it again. For apps like ScreenTime parents can purchase detailed reporting, which outlines how much time your child spend on certain apps, and how often they use them.
Good-old fashion parenting also comes into play, says Riaan; “Impose rules about the amount of time a week your children are allowed to spend on their electronic devices, go on family outings and spend quality time with your children.”
The reality is that most kids can use a smartphone before they have learned how to write their name down or tie their shoes; “Technology is not going to go away, as parents we need to manage and control our children’s consumption and use. As someone who spends a lot of time using technology, I’ve found these apps incredibly helpful; they keep my own tech time in check. As a parent, setting personal limits on your own technology use is a very good start.”