How much time do you spend looking at screens every day? From your smartphone to computers and TV, most of us spend many hours in front of a screen every day. In fact, if you start to calculate the exact number of hours you may be surprised, or even shocked!
This can be problematic in a number of ways, from eye strain and migraines to smartphone addiction. Thanks to the affordable mobile phone deals around these days, not only does every adult have their own smartphone, but most teens and children do too. This has presented extra challenges for parents, who struggle to manage their kids’ screen time.
Luckily, along with the risks of technology come the benefits of technology. These include a number of tools that can help you to control your (or your children’s) screen time. Here are the top tools available to better manage your screen time.
Set Clear Limits
Whether you want to control the amount of time you spend in front of screens or limit your child’s screen time, limits are critical. The first step is to set boundaries for your family or yourself. Establish how much screen time is acceptable each day, as well as other rules. For example, you may want to avoid screen time in the last hour before going to bed, to avoid disrupted sleep.
As a parent, make sure that you are consistent in enforcing these limits. Equally, you need to be strict with yourself and stick to your own rules. In both cases, if you are too lax with enforcing the limits you set, you’ll likely find that you gradually drift further away from your goals. Setting a good example and leading by example as a parent is also important if you want to encourage certain behavior.
Set Technical Limits
As well as setting theoretical rules and boundaries, you can also use technology to set actual limits on how much screen time is available. For parents, you can set up accounts for your children which controls how much screen time they can have. For example, Windows 10 devices allow you to set up Microsoft accounts for each family member.
Using the family group feature on Microsoft, under each family member’s account you can set a schedule for each device, or have the same allowable schedule for all devices. This can also be used to set a maximum amount of screen time per day for each child. You can use these same tools to set limits on your own screen time, with the account cutting you off once you’ve reached the daily limit you’ve set for yourself.
Control Access on Certain Devices
Along with controlling the amount of screen time through the use of individual accounts, you can also use tools to limit who has access to certain apps or functions on a device. On Android devices, you can use the “Screen Pinning” function to control access to certain apps.
Under this function, a PIN is set that must be entered in order for the app to be unpinned or removed from the screen. When deployed, the user can only access certain apps, cannot adjust the phone settings, and so on: the exact restrictions will be configured by the phone’s owner. This means that you can safely give you a smartphone or tablet to your child, or a friend or colleague, knowing that they will only be able to access certain information.
Parental Control Software
Parental control software is another excellent way for parents to control how much time their children spend in front of screens, as well as what their children see on those screens. Parental control tools have been available for a number of years, and this technology is developing all the time. Along with an increasing number of parental control tools, there are also a number of tools designed to help people control their screen time.
These are apps and programs that allow users to restrict screen time, or block particular apps or websites within certain hours. These tools also commonly have monitoring features, which allow you to track your child’s screen time and usage. You could also use the same features to track and monitor your own screen time.
With so many tools now available, how do you know which is the best, or at least the best for you?
Here is a breakdown of some of the top tools on the market currently:
- Flipd – this app for Android allows you to turn off your device and send auto-replies to anyone who contacts you while your phone is off.
- Offtime – another Android app that doesn’t turn off your phone completely but rather blocks certain apps or calls during selected times.
- Net Nanny – a program for Android and iOS devices and computers that allows parents to set time limits as well as filter out certain content.
- App Detox – an Android app that lets you set limits on certain apps.