News Column

Parents get smart by blocking phones

June 17, 2014

TORONTO: Parents struggling to get their children away from smartphones and tablets can arm themselves with new apps to remotely block access to the devices.

The use of smartphones and tablets among children has tripled since 2011, says Common Sense Media, a San Francisco based non-profit organisation that studies the effects of media and technology on young users.

The app, called DinnerTime Parental Control, for iPhone or Android smartphones, enables parents to restrict when children can use their smartphones and tablets.

Richard Sah, co-founder of DinnerTime, based in San Mateo, California, says: "The prices of entry-level smartphones and tablets have come down a lot, and as a result, more and more kids have their own devices."

With the free app, parents can pause activity on an Android smartphone or tablet. Once a device has been paused, all functions are blocked, including the ability to text and play with apps.

To use the app, parents install it on the child's device and enter in their phone number to link the two devices. Parents can then set break times from 30 minutes to three hours, when the device will be locked. A countdown screen displayed on the child's device shows when it can be used again.

Sah said he was inspired to develop the app by the tradition of family dinners, which he thinks is being lost in the age of technology.

"Dinner time brings families together for quality time and to have conversations. We want people to come together for engaging conversations, rather than be distracted by a tablet."

DinnerTime Plus, another app from the company, lets parents manage the apps their children use and views the apps they are using in real time.

Parents can also buy detailed reporting, which outlines how much time children spend on certain apps, and how often they use them.

With an app called ScreenTime, parents can push a button on their phones to block usage on their children's devices. They can also set daily time limits for particular apps.

Kimberly Young, a psychologist who focuses on Internet addiction, believes parents need to control how much time their children spend on their devices. But she adds that an app may not be the best way to do it.

"I do not agree that any app is |better than good old-fashioned |parenting in terms of treating internet addiction."

Young says she has seen children as young as three using mobile devices. "The larger issue is how young is too young."

Sah is also concerned about young children using devices. "Most kids can use smartphones before learning to write their names or tie their shoes." - Reuters

Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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