Big List of Screen Time Monitoring Apps
Happy New Year! I thought this would be a good time to revisit your plans to limit screen time this year and reduce struggles in your home. Today I want to focus on how to fight fire with fire—that is how to get tech to be the enforcer of tech time. There are a myriad of apps and tools out there can help set up a system that reduces anxiety and struggles around screen time. (Although apps and web-based monitoring can be a useful tool, it will never replace having guidelines around when and how tech is used —i.e., not bringing to the dining table, putting it away during car rides, etc. See my post about writing a contract for help on such rules)
I await the day when everyone’s homes will have systems in place that automatically and seamlessly shut off youth’s social and entertainment screen time at set hours. Until then roll up your sleeves and take a big breath because this can take a bit of work to set up a new system.
Consider passing on this email to anyone you know who has ever mentioned having home struggles over screen time.
Here are descriptions of the three main systems and make sure to get to the end where I include people’s experiences with Apple’s new tool.
Place controls on your kid's and teen’s phones and devices using a 3rd party apps, of which I have a big list with descriptions.
I used to use OurPact with my teen daughter. This winter I was speaking at an event and met a school counselor who had such great success using OurPact with his son that he set up a booth at an event to give out handouts on how to use the app effectively.
If a kid ever deletes an app like OurPact (or changes the VPN), then the app will notify the parent. This is really handy to know that you will be alerted. If however, you don’t think you are being notified, check your spam folder or get in contact with the company.
Reuter Controls and Phone Plans
In the big list above, some systems that let you shut down not just phones but also all specified Wifi at a particular time. This can be via programming through Wifi carrier at your home. I don’t know all the plans, but I do not that Comcast’s Xfinity has fairly extensive controls.
This can also be through your phone carrier. For example, T-Mobile says it this way: “Monitor your children’s phone time and set usage limits with T-Mobile Family Allowances, now included at no extra charge in every T-Mobile ONE plan.”
Also, there are external devices you attach to your router, such as Circle which you program to turn off Wifi at a specific time each day.
Apple’s new “Screen Time” system
Apple now has a way to set time controls. This Apple tool is called Screen Time and works with your Family Sharing controls. In this past blog, I wrote all the steps to set it up with your child so that you are able to track and set limits on their phones. Through Family Sharing you can set limits around distinct times, amounts of time, and specific apps on your child’s device (iPhone or iPad). Android has something similar but, the control reverts back to your kid when they turn 13.
Screen Time is not a perfect system but it is working for many many families, and I highly encourage it. If you have an older teen, you might only be talking to them about what Screen Time is and how they can use it to self regulate their use. My 19-year-old really pays attention to that, and he intentionally cuts back when he sees his daily, or weekly use is up from where it was in the past.
Here are some recent experiences people have shared with me regarding using the feature:
“I haven’t had any trouble since I started using Apple’s Screen Time on their devices. Before this, I used to physically take their devices away after their allotted time, but now it goes off automatically. Even my high-schooler knows that he can only ask for more time on weekends. He actually realized he’s a ‘nicer’ kid when he’s not on it. 😊” — Lisa D.
“I was able to set every area (social, games, email/text, music, etc.) and give each time limits - blocked during school hours and nights, etc. I no longer have battles. When the phone time is up, I no longer have to take the phone. My son (14) sets it down because he has reached the set limits. Also, it sends him messages on his usage during the week and lets him know if it is more or less than the previous week. I am no longer the bad guy!
— Debbie B.”
“I use it for myself and both my kids. We are all linked to the same account. I set screen time settings for games and entertainment but allow certain things all of the time like texting, email, weather, the app they check their grades on, and a few others. Unfortunately, I think there are some glitches because sometimes it doesn’t work correctly. I also don’t like how the feature for requesting more time skips from 15 minutes to one hour. It would be nice if you could customize or at least have a half hour setting. I only give them 1 hour on school days, 1½ on Friday, and 2 on Saturday. I have found they don’t use it all most days because they don’t want to run out, so they are more selective about what they spend their time on. I would also like to be able to set limits for specific apps, not just a category.” — Jen K.
For TTT let’s talk with our kids about ways we become more aware of usage patterns and how tech can create limits.
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