Tablets and smartphones are a great source of fun, knowledge and communication for adults and childrens alike, which my seven year old son has embraced as he loves playing games like Angry Birds on my old Android device. It is a wonder to watch him solve problems and make progress on these games without any input from me, but I have also noticed how gripped he is with the games to the extent that he does not interact with me or anyone else while he is playing. He has books and other toys in his room that are gathering dust and it is frequently a source of conflict or metldowns whenever I think he has spent enough time on the device and tell him to stop. I have tried to set daily limits of thirty minutes during weekdays and an hour on the weekend but I can lose track of time and before we know it an hour has become two. Plus, he gets up very early on the weekend to play Angry Birds and will get more than his daily allowance before I am even awake.
I have been looking for a way to get more control of my son’s tablet use and I think I may have discovered a really good technical solution. It is a service driven by an app called Screentime, which I am currently evaluating. I setup a free account at Screentime and downloaded and installed the Android app from the site. There is a version to download from the Google Play store but the file from the Screentime site stops children from uninstalling the app unless they enter a password.It took me a few minutes to install the app on my son’s tablet and link it to my Screentime account using an authentication code that was sent to my Email but this was a one timne setup process and now it is working. I believe the service also works on IOS but I have not tried the app on this platform.
I can now view and control my son’s tablet use from a parent control app that runs on my Android smartphone and from from my account on Screentime’s website. The app gives me detailed stats on when my son is using the tablet and what apps or games he is accessing. I can block specific apps and specify weekday and weekend time limits. I can remotely pause the tablet or grant more time when my son carries out good deeds such as being helpful. I tried Screentime for the first time yesterday. My son put down the tablet in good grace when his time limit had been used up and this has freed him up to appreciate what is there in front of him in real life. We went outside after dinner on his bicycle and he began pedalling without stabilisers for the first time. I am pretty sure this would not have happened without the parent control app.
It was a real win! My son put down his tablet and got on his bike! The standard account lets parents monitor children’s activity without being able to restrict it. The full premium account which I am evaluating on a trial basis costs £2.99 a month on a rolling monthly subscription. It’s worth it!