Struggling with the kids’ screen time battle? You’re a parent – of course you are. Getting kids to go outside used to be so much easier when every appliance was plugged into the wall. Unfortunately, the computer, television, and phone are not so easily unplugged when they’re crammed into your kid’s pocket (or snuck out of yours). Besides, we get it, every parent needs time to sort their life out while the kids are preoccupied with the latest educational app (this is a shame-free zone!), but there are ways to keep the kids happily connected without losing touch with the real world.
We know it’s tough for kids to put down their devices on their own and it can be tempting to resort to nanny-apps (apps that monitor browsing history, limit texting and calling, and even track kids’ locations). However, there are less invasive ways to impose homework and bedtime restrictions while keeping things fair, and everyone’s trust intact. Setting schedules, limits and a reward system can cut down the tantrums and start more conducive conversations about responsibility and independence. Failing that (we know it ain’t easy), here’s your back-up plan: free apps that help to track, lock, or limit your little people’s device usage.
The brainchild of the Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Centre and National Health Innovation Centre, this all-in-one app doesn’t just help control screen time and device usage, it claims to reduce risk of myopia. Apart from blocking apps, scheduling no-device use times and safe zones for device usage, plano also uses facial recognition to detect how far your child’s eyes are from the screen and automatically restricts their use until they move the screen further away. That means it does all the nagging for you! With the premium plan, you’ll even get a usage report every month with recommendations for eye tests for early signs of myopia. The app is free to download with a free 30 day trial of the full features.
plano, free on Google Play and App Store; www.plano.co
The best thing about Linksys is its remote access. You can identify which devices are connected to the internet when they shouldn’t be, which means you can ‘kick’ your child out if they’re on their Xbox or surfing Facebook for two hours straight instead of studying. And you can do it without being at home or anywhere near your kids! Linksys also restricts access to certain websites and blocks specific devices from accessing the internet.
Linksys, free on Google Play and App Store
iWawa (only available on Android)
iWawa lets you set up a fully-customisable Kids Space on your device filled with age-appropriate kid-friendly apps to keep tots entertained without worrying about misclicks or them accidentally deleting or sending messages to people in your contact list. The Kids Space is password-protected and there’s also an option to set a time limit, so the little ones are forced to take a break from tech.
iWawa, free on Google Play
We’ve all seen kids in restaurants glued to a smartphone or tablet (including certain younger members of the HoneyKids team!). There’s no shame in using a bit of telly to quiet fussy toddlers down for meal time but sometimes the screen-watching doesn’t stop, even after dinner. Youtube Kids is a great app that not only filters kid-friendly videos from YouTube straight to the app, but parents can restrict search functions and limit screen time using an in-built timer. Of course the algorithm isn’t perfect and unsavoury content has slipped through the cracks, but luckily there’s a new feature that allows parents to handpick all videos and channels through the app.
YouTubeKids, free on Google Play and App Store
Touchlock (only available on Android)
Touchlock is a great way to stop a toddler’s wandering hands from tapping on the video that’s currently playing. Just select the drop-down menu and select Touchlock to keep the display onscreen. It’s also great for preventing mortifying butt-dials.
Touchlock, free on Google Play
Kids Place – Parental Control (only available on Android)
Have a toddler who needs entertaining but has a propensity to call your boss instead of watching Baby Bum or playing Donut Maker? Save yourself the hassle of a curious misclick and settle them in this virtual playpen by limiting the apps they can access on your device via a passcode. You can limit screen time and set daily limits by purchasing the premium version.
Kids Place, free on Google Play
Forest: Stay Focused
This cute little app allows parents to set a timer for kids to ensure they don’t use the device. If the kids can stay off the device until the timer runs down, the virtual tree or shrub grows, and when the timer runs out, it becomes part of a forest. But if they jump onto the device and click out of the app, the tree dies. You can make it a competition and even compare forests to show who’s better at staying on task (or off screen). What’s more, you can earn credit to help farmers in developing nations plant real trees through Trees for the Future. Stay on task and grow a real forest!
Forest: Stay Focused, free on Google Play and App Store; www.forestapp.cc
Not just for kids! This extension of Moment, an app that allows you to track and limit your screen time, allows everyone in the family to see each other’s screen time. You can limit and add screen time for your kids and send reminders and alerts for them to switch off for homework or meal times without invading their privacy. Fancy some quiet family time? This brilliant app makes sure it’s only fair that everyone (Mum and Dad included!) keeps their screens down at dinner.
Moment Family, free on App Store; inthemoment.io/family
Parental Control App and Block App (only available on Android)
This is one app-blocker that respects your child’s privacy. Ideal for older kids, there’s no spying involved, just ground rules and understanding. You set limits and schedule the app to selectively block access to specific apps or categories of apps from your own device. There’s even a web app so you can manage your child’s screen time through your web browser.
Parental Control App and Block App by redgreentree, free on Google Play
Screen Master (only available on Android)
This simple app lets you lock the screen while the kids are watching a video and even disables the home, back and menu buttons, so tiny fingers can continue playing games without messing around with your mobile. Screen Master also comes with a blue light filter to decrease the harshness of the screen and reduce eye strain to help protect young eyes.
Screen Master, free on Google Play
If you need to resort to more drastic measures, Kidslox is an app that’ll let you set daily screen time limits, block apps, internet and filter web content. There’s also an option to lock your kids out of their device with PIN access. The app is compatible across iOS and Android platforms and even computers, but you’ll need internet access to use the app.
Kidslox, play.google.com or itunes.apple.com
Guided Access (only available on iOS)
Not an app but iOS users will be tickled to know that iPhones and iPads have a built-in screen limiter called Guided Access. To use this function, go into Settings>General>Accessibility>Guided Access (under the Learning tab). From there you’ll be able to set a passcode or TouchID and set up Guided Access, where your kids are only able to access certain apps. You can set which apps can be used in Guided Access mode and once it’s enabled, the kids won’t be able to exit unless you have keyed in the passcode or used TouchID. Check out How to Geek for a more comprehensive guide.
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