Happy New Year!
The first of the year has come and we are all trying to make ourselves a little better. Maybe you’re concerned about you and your family’s increased screen time. This is normal, we’re all thinking about what we can change in the new year and spending less time looking at a screen is on the top of many lists. These tools can go a long way to help you identify the amount of time you spend on your device, narrow down what you’re doing that sucks up so much of your time, and even set boundaries to alert you or block access when you’ve reached your desired limits.
No matter what device you use, Accountable2You can help you keep track of what you’ve been doing online. The online dashboard will give you an App Usage report, complete with a circle graph of how you spend your time online. Whether you use this to keep track of your kids’ devices or your own screen time, it’s an easy to read way to be aware of how you’re spending your days.
Accountable2You is an accountability software at heart. It will notify you if there anything inappropriate has been accessed by those you’re keeping an eye on. It’s easy to set up, affordable (6.99 for 10 devices and 9.99 for 20,) and it works for every device. Even the Chromebook your kid got from school. It’s what I use and the best part is that if you sign up with our link, our non-profit will get a bit of help every month because of your payment.
Android Family Link
Android’s first stab at native parental controls focuses mainly on time management. That is, in fact, almost all it focuses on. Google FamilyLink is designed to allow parents to set time restrictions, time limits, and bedtimes as well as monitor the amount of time spent using the device. This will be accomplished by a complete disabling of the device once time limits or restricted times are reached. A tool like this could easily be used to limit or monitor yourself as well. If you, like me, spend most of your time in front of your computer for work, you may want to be able to set limits on how much time you spend on your phone or tablet for recreation purposes. FamilyLink should be a pretty good way, if you have an Android device, to cause your entire device to shut down when your limit is reached, or even just take a look every few days to see how much time you’ve spent on those devices.
iPhone Battery Meter
For iOS users, Apple has built in a way to keep an eye on what you’re spending your time on while using your device. Your battery meter can be used to monitor your own screen time. It will even sort your time by app used and separate it into “on screen” and “background” time. To use this, simply go to your settings app and open the Battery section. When the usage area loads, tap on the clock icon on the upper right of that section. You can set your timeframe to be 24 hours or 7 days. This gives a pretty good snapshot of how you spend your time on your iOS device. Try it, you may be surprised.
Moment App (iOS only)
The Moment App uses your battery meter to build a nicely laid out report for you to keep track of the time you spend on your phone. Moment is only available for iOS (Android app is in development.) It automatically tracks your usage and allows you to see simple reports that separate your usage by the apps you spend time on. Moment lets you coach yourself on your screen time habits so that you can make changes if you want. You can set up time limits and Moment will notify you if you’ve gone over the time you’ve allowed.
This app works pretty well. I used it for about a month and definitely made some changes to the amount of time I spend on my phone. Since it’s free you can even consider using Moment to install on other devices in your family and setting up limits for them. It will be up to them to put the phone or tablet down when they are notified but there’s something to be said for teaching your older kids to take the responsibility into their own hands. Moment is a free app but there are premium features (including extra family controls) that you can pay for.
UnGlue was created to give the power of screen times to the kids themselves. The website touts a plan to “give kids the power to learn healthier habits – within your boundaries.” UnGlue uses a scheduler to set up your kids’ screen time allowance. You can give them control of how they spend their time by giving the rewards for things like chores and exercise. Unglue works from just an app, no separate device to hook up. The basic UnGlue package gives you access to screen usage reports only. You can use this free feature to keep an eye on the time you spend online. Further features will cost up to $9 per month. UnGlue is fairly new and has been updated quite a bit recently. It will work on iOS or Android and even on your home devices. (With the full-featured service.) Go check out UnGlue and tell them FamilyTechBlog.com sent you.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking and writing about Circle. I recommend this parental control tool to everyone I speak to and I even use it myself. Circle lets you filter by age and category and limit screen time for your kids but it’s been cool for us to have a profile for ourselves. This profile lets us see, in one glance, how much time we’ve spent on every single one of our devices. When you’ve built your profile, you just add the devices you use to be monitored under your account, this results in a very useful and detailed report on how much time you’ve spent in front of your screens. It even monitors your smart tv, BlueRay, and gaming system usage. Circle is a $99 investment for in-home wifi protection, (with the option to pay $10 monthly for on the go monitoring) but in my experience, it’s an all-in-one parental control system. You can buy circle at Amazon or at Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond.
Whatever you do, start.
New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously easy to forget about but my advice is that you just get started. When you begin my tracking how much time you spend on your screens, you’ll find yourself truly motivated to make a change. It worked for me. Using Moment and my battery life meter led to my decision to not start using my phone until I’ve had breakfast with my family. We’ve even started doing some Social Media Free Saturday’s a couple of times per month. Whatever your goals are, you’ll never accomplish it if you never begin so grab hold of one of these tools and get started!