While pouring through our virtual mailbag here at Techish, I happened upon this fantastic question about coaching a kid to self-regulate phone use.
Tamara asks, “What are some good apps to track the amount of time spent on a phone? I want to help my son become more aware of the hours Snapchat is sucking up.”
Teaching kids to regulate their media intake is an important part of parenting in the digital age. But, given recent data from Nielsen that shows smart phone users spend 65 percent more time each month using apps than just two years ago, this might be a case where managing a media diet could become a family affair.
Either way, awareness is the first step. Especially when you are dealing with something that can become addictive, like a cell phone.
Fortunately, there are some great tools to raise anyone’s awareness of how much of life is slipping away while you stare at a phone.
I use AT&T’s Smart Limits to nudge my daughter in the direction of self-regulation (and keep my bill within reason.) Verizon offers a similar tool. It texts her a warning when she is using a lot of data and lets me shut it off if she exceeds the budget I set. It also lets me take matters out of her (tech addicted) hands and shut off her cell service at bedtime, dinner time, when she should be doing math, and at other times – like when she just broke a house rule or put too much sass in her witty rebuttal. (Obviously, this has a tendency to lead to tyranny in a parent.) Since it’s a service delivered from AT&T and not an installed app, she cannot turn it off. Only I can do that. I find this to be the only way to give sleep a fair chance.
If your son has an iPhone and is willing to install an app, try Moment. (In fact, we would probably all be served by taking a Moment for self-reflection.) Once you install Moment, it starts watching what you do, keeping track of the apps you use and now long you use them. So, if your son insists he’s only spending 20 minutes on Snapchat and you can see he is burning hours, it will end the argument with solid facts. It might even serve as a wake-up call for your young one. Keep in mind, though, that he probably isn’t alone when it comes to overusing apps. These devices are engineered to be addictive.
BreakFree takes monitoring one step further – and it works with Android phones (as well as iOS.) It watches what you do, how much time you spend in certain apps, how often you look at your phone, and like that. And it presents you with nifty charts – daily, weekly, monthly – so you can see in graphic detail how much more time you spend with your phone than, say, with your dog or husband. And it lets you set up some controls that disable phone features when you know you should be having family dinner, sleeping, or – in the case of your son – paying attention in math class.
Checky (iOS and Android) is a bit simpler. Instead of monitoring what you do. It simply keeps track of how many times a day you check your phone. This can be a shocking revelation, for those of us who fear being out of touch. Let’s be honest. Is it possible to get anything else done – with real focus – if you need to check your phone 110 times a day?
Keep the questions coming, Techish readers and viewers! We love to answer them.