Most of the arguments in our house centre on how much time the mini Minteds spend on their phones. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a teenager disengaged from family life (or any kind of life) sitting in a darkened room, plugged into Snapchat. But there are ways to fight back.
There are loads of apps to help parents control their kids’ screen time. They range from simple registering of time spent on the device to Big Brother monitoring of websites visited and social media usage.
How far you should intrude on your child’s communications is up for debate. Yes, there’s the safety aspect but you’re also in effect reading their diary. Everything depends on individual circumstances.
Age too is very important. At some stage, kids will have to learn to regulate themselves or you’ll still be telling them off when they’re 35. And, as they get older, it’s harder to police them. Telling a 16 year old you’re about to start reading their text messages remotely? Good luck with that.
Far better to introduce the concept when they ‘re much younger and perhaps as a condition of having a smart phone in the first place. Here’s my round-up of five clever apps to help you whatever the situation.
1. Super snooper: Qustodio* (free)
Allows you to control online access from the kids’ devices via your own phone. You can set daily limits on screen time and filter content. With the premium edition (which costs) you can monitor social media and games use, track your child’s location and even read their texts. Special 10% discount at the moment or free with O2 Family Plan.
2. Family locator: OurPact (free)
Does much of the above and includes a geo-locator so you can see where different members of team are on a map at any time. You can also get alerts when they turn up to places (home, Grandma’s etc).
3. Children contribute: unGlue (free)
Has similar features to the apps above but allows children more control over their screen time. Unused allowances can be rolled into the next day and kids can earn more minutes by doing chores or exercise.
4. Self-policing: Forest (£1.99)
Dear Daughter successfully used this app to help with exam revision. Set the timer for how long you want to spend offline and a graphic of a little tree starts growing. Go back online and the tree dies. Eventually you can earn coins which are then spent in real life planting trees in Africa for charity.
5. Simple shock value: Moment (free)
Tracks daily iPhone and iPad usage (Android coming soon) and allows you to set daily limits (which can be overridden). Can be applied to children’s phones from your phone too. Seeing how much time you spend on your phone might be enough to make you cut down yourself. Parents are supposed to be setting an example, after all!
Thanks to AH, super SMM, for the tip. I’d love to know other parents’ thoughts on the subject. Add them below or in our forum here.