Five Tools for Curbing Your Family’s (And Your Own) Screen Time This Family Day Weekend

Ben FreelandTech Tips

Let’s face it: we all spend far too much time staring at screens. A recent study by the market research firm Nielsen showed that Americans spent an astonishing 11 hours a day on average in front of a screen. Much of which is spent looking at two screens simultaneously as we scroll on our smartphones while at our work desks or in front of the television.

If you’re the average iPhone user, you unlock your phone an average of 80 times a day, according to Apple. If you factor in eight hours of sleep, you’re reaching for your phone once every 12 minutes for 16 hours a day, every day.

The statistics on children and screen time are even more alarming. Kids of all age groups report spending far more time watching phones, tablets, and TV screens than is advised. And 79 percent of two-year-olds and 97 percent of three-year-olds exceeding World Health Organization recommendations on maximum screen time.

The Family Day long weekend is the perfect time to switch off those ever-present digital devices. Spend some quality face-to-face time with your children, your spouse, your extended family, or your friends. For many of us this can be a real challenge. And despite our best intentions we still find ourselves unthinkingly reaching for our phones or our tablets.

Fortunately, the digital world itself has brought us some tools aimed at curbing our screen addictions. Here are a few digital hacks that can help ensure that your much sought-after “family time” is actually a reality this weekend.

StayFocusd and Freedom

Need access to your devices for work-related emergencies (or for actual emergencies) but want to otherwise limit your and others’ temptation to idle the day away on Facebook, Reddit, or wherever else you tend to go? StayFocusd is available for Chrome and Firefox (and for Android) and is customizable so as to limit and/or restrict access to time-wasting websites. Designed as a work productivity app, StayFocusd also works as a family screen time management tool.

While StayFocusd does not run on iOS, Freedom, a similar screen time limiting app, works on iPhones, iPads, and virtually everything else.

Norton Family Parental Control

Looking for a centralized system to control screen time and site access on multiple devices? Norton’s Family Parental Control app is perfect for large families, as it can protect up to 10 devices simultaneously. It also provides parents with detailed reports on their children’s Internet search histories. This tool also helps promote responsible device use by allowing kids to schedule screen time ahead of time, and explain why they “need” to be online.

Available for Android, iPhone, and iPad.

Circle Home Plus

Want to be able to manage every device in your house from your home WiFi router? Circle Home Plus allows you to do just that, complete with time limits, Bedtime mode, offline time, and Internet pausing. Can’t get certain members of your family to come to dinner? Circle Home Plus allows you to literally “pause” the Internet. Want to allow your children unlimited access to Gmail but curb gaming time? This app will enable this.

“Screen Time” Function in iOS 12

The “Screen Time” feature available on iOS 12 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is as simple as it sounds. Not only does installing it on your child’s device enable you to control their screen time from your own device, it also provides real-time information on your children’s screen time and browsing history, while also enabling you to block certain sites. 

Edmonton Public Library App

If there’s one must-have app for Edmonton-area parents for the Family Day long weekend, it’s this one. Looking to get your kids of their screens on that family long weekend drive or afternoon at home? How about an old-fashioned book or audiobook from Edmonton Public Library? The EPL app will not only allow you to place holds to pick up ahead of the weekend, but will also enable you to download audiobooks for road trip listening.