But hey—if technology can help an exhausted parent with this tricky-to-manage problem, why not use it too?
Here are four tech tools parents can use to monitor and control their kids screen time.
The “Screen Time” feature, available for iOS 12 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, provides real-time information about how much time kids spend on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and allows you to set limits. Set it up on the child’s device or from your own smartphone using Family Sharing. See what apps they’re using the most, as well as what websites they’re visiting. For example, if you’re OK with your kid being on their iPad but want to limit, say, YouTube videos, you can limit time just for the YouTube app—it will literally turn off and stop working when the set amount of time runs out.
You can also generate reports, viewing your kid’s screen time use for a single day or the last seven days so you can take action if you notice a concerning pattern. Want even more control? Use the Downtime feature, in which you can preselect which apps will work in any given time period—like when kids are supposed to be doing their homework. The device will generate a notification five minutes before it starts. For safety reasons, you can set certain apps to always be allowed, such as Maps for older kids who might need navigation.
Screen Time also lets you set content and privacy restrictions, blocking certain websites, the ability to make purchases, or large downloads. The feature is free as part of the iOS 12 update.
By connecting this little device to your Wi-Fi router at home and then downloading the accompanying app, you can easily manage all your kid’s electronic devices. Just a few things you can do: Filter content, check usage history, set time limits, pause a device so it can’t access the Internet during specified times and set a Bedtime mode. If your child has reached their time limit, you’ll get a push notification advising you of that through the app. You can also track usage over weeks, or even months, and issue a reward of extra online time to kids for cutting back.
Many of Circle's features for reducing screen time, like setting time limits, Bedtime mode, offline time, pausing the Internet, and keeping track of devices, requires a Premium subscription that’s $9.99/mo. after the first year. But you get the first year free to try it out and see how it works for your family.
The device itself is $169 (US$129), and works with most routers, but check the compatibility list on the website first to find your make and model to confirm.
Through an app that works with the Ignite WiFi Hub, you can access and intuitive dashboard, accessible from whatever device you’re using, to see who’s online and when, and set Active Time Limits that “pause” devices from being able access the Internet (until midnight when it resets). A warning notification lets you know when your kid is about to reach their limit. Note: Your kid’s device may connect to a wireless carrier network if WiFi isn’t available, which can incur data overage fees. So you’ll want to block usage there as well as a precaution if your child has a smartphone with access to a data plan.
The Active Time Limit can be set for weekdays, weekends, or both, so you can tailor it to when and how you think the kids are overusing their electronic devices most. There’s also a Bedtime Mode for scheduling sleep and wake-up times for devices.
The Hub works with the Ignite WiFi Gateway (XB6) modem and requires a Rogers Ignite Internet plan, and the app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
If you’re looking to update the Wi-Fi equipment in your home anyway—maybe it’s outdated, your modem is too slow, or your Wi-Fi network simply can’t accommodate the speeds you need for the growing number of connected devices in your home—then consider this system, as it includes tons of handy parental control features via the accompanying free app, which can restrict access to inappropriate sites, limit usage and restrict use at specific times.
The system itself provides better than average Wi-Fi coverage for large homes, with a modular design that can be expanded with additional nodes as needed. Pricing ranges from $129 to $599.