What Parents Need to Know About Regulating Screen Time for Their Children

If you are a “screenager” parent, pay attention: The U.S Government has raised concerns about your child’s mental health if they spend a lot of time on apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy recently released a 19-page report that acknowledged the positive aspects of social media for children, such as building communities. However, he also highlighted the negative effects of social media, such as cyberbullying, exposure to harmful content, and interfering with other positive activities like exercising and sleeping.

So what can parents do about it? One solution is to explore the different ways they can limit their children’s screen time. Here are some of the available options:

Both Google’s and Apple’s mobile operating systems offer tools that can help restrict screen time on smartphones and tablets, all of which are free. These tools enable parents to monitor and limit their child’s screen time.

For android devices, parents can download Google’s Family Link app from the play store. From there, they can monitor their child’s google account and take control of the software. For iOS users, Apple’s iOS has a feature called Screen Time, which also restricts screen time. Parents can enable the feature in the settings app by following Apple’s instructions.

Both these tools have advantages and disadvantages. Google’s Family Link allows parents to reject app downloads and lock down devices at specific times, like bedtime. One significant limitation is that when children turn 13, they can graduate, which means they can lift the restrictions. However, parents can work around this by modifying the age to under 13.

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Apple’s Screen Time allows parents to create time limits for specific apps or categories of apps, which then locks the phone, and the parent can decide whether to allow more time. However, parents who also monitor their own phone use can quickly bypass the restrictions using their passcode and may realize that they are even more addicted to screens than their children.

Yes. Parents can also download third-party apps that limit screen time, but they have to be cautious. Some brands marketed as parental control apps have been used by stalkers to track or eavesdrop on users through their microphones. Parents can find reputable tools for personal computers, phones, and tablets. Organizations like Common Sense Media have found Qustodio and NetNanny to be good options for parents who want more control of their children’s devices.

Social media companies have introduced features that can remind people to limit their usage. For example, Instagram has a “Take a Break” reminder in its settings. TikTok has a tool for limiting time spent inside its app. However, many people, including teenagers, have found that these tools are easily overridden.

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