How much screen time is the right amount of screen time? Talk about a tricky question, with loads of answers, opinions, and heaps of gray area. Kids are online nearly every day – in school, at home, in the car and many places in between. Honestly, they do not know a world without the internet, and as a result, screens. And, while the “correct” answer to how much screen time is the right amount has a lot of variables, there are a few signs to watch for that may signal that it’s time for a break from the screen.
Signs It May Be Time For A Screen Break
- They begin to show signs of addiction.
- Their personality has changed (and not in a good way)
- That they become agitated easily.
- Possibly experiencing trouble in school.
- Could develop sleeping or eating disorders.
- They are avoiding other activities.
If you see these signs in your child, or if you would like a little boost in your efforts to manage screen time, there are multiple applications that can help. We’ve rounded up a combination of free and paid apps that can help you manage your child’s screen time and help them understand the importance of taking a break from the screen.
Google Family Link
Google Family Link is a free app that can be utilized on Android devices and Chromebooks. The app, installed on the parent and child’s device, provides the opportunity for the parent to set daily screen time limits, lock the device at bedtime or when a break is needed, set time limits for specific apps, and monitor how screen time is used (based on app usage). The app also offers the ability to set a screen time schedule based on the day of the week.
Apple Screen Time
This free setting allows Apple users the ability to set daily time limits on specific apps or categories of apps and manage screen time across the entire household (if enabled). The screen time feature also provides a log of device usage and reporting that highlights time spent in different apps. No need to download an app to access these features. Simply go to your Settings then access Screen Time to set appropriate limits.
Microsoft Family Safety
If you have a Microsoft account, this app enables you to manage and limit screen time across Windows, Xbox devices, and games on Android devices. This application also offers the ability to set time limits on specific apps or Xbox games and provides weekly activity reports so you know where time is spent.
Screen Time offers a paid version of its app that includes screen time monitoring. For $6.99 per month, the app includes the ability to set a daily time limit, execute an instant pause on access to the internet, schedule a bedtime, block certain apps, and set screen time schedules throughout the day (ex: block time to work on homework). The paid version of Screen Time includes many other features that go beyond the basics of screen time management as well.
Compatible with iOS and Android devices, this paid app includes a number of robust screen time features and features beyond screen time management. In addition to setting a bedtime screen time, users can set a custom schedule and immediately pause internet usage to that specific device. One extra feature is the ability for kids to “save minutes” from their daily limit. These minutes can be set aside to be used for “Fun” at a later date. Pricing for Family Time varies based on the number of children’s devices it will enable on, and ranges from $27 – $69 annually. All options include a free trial to test things out.
Net Nanny is another paid app that includes screen time management functionality, as well as much more functionality. In terms of screen time management, the app offers users the opportunity to set specific times when kids can use the internet and select specific days to offer more internet access. The app also provides the ability to turn off the internet, see a daily total in terms of usage and block the internet during certain periods. Although screen time management is included in this app, there are a number of other features that offer broader device management for parents. Net Nanny ranges in price from $39.99 per year for one desktop to $89.99 for up to 20 devices (there is much more to Net Nanny than the screen time management feature).
Bark offers two options for their app, Bark Jr and Bark Premium. Both versions include the ability to manage screen time and filter out websites that can be used. The Premium version, however, includes more features like app and platform monitoring. The Jr option is their entry-level version and costs $49 annually. The Premium version is $99 annually. Bark does offer a free trial allowing you to test things out before purchasing.
Qustodio offers the ability to manage and limit screen time across all their devices as well as gain insight into how much time your child is spending on the web, social and other apps. Once the app is installed on the parent, and child’s device, limits can be set for games, apps, and the device in general. There is also the opportunity to block specific apps that you do not want your child to use. While screen time monitoring is included, there are other features that make this app more robust. Pricing ranges from $54.95 per year to protect five devices, to $96.95 to protect ten devices.
So, which app is right for you? As with most things, it depends on your needs. If you are looking for the basics in terms of screen time monitoring, check out a few of the free apps. If you are looking for screen time monitoring as well as a bit more, check out a few of the paid apps to see what will fit your needs, and your price range. Regardless of the app you choose, or do not choose, having a conversation about limiting screen time with your child(ren) is necessary. It can help them understand the importance of not being on a device constantly, and why an app can help you both manage screen time appropriately.