How to limit and track your child’s smartphone time

Back when we were children, mobile phones just started to become popular and very few people actually had one. Also, since mobile phones were basic, only having call and text capabilities, children had little-to-no incentive in using them. As technology progressed, devices became more popular, more powerful and with better features. Now, smartphones are widely available and at affordable prices and the cell phone can do a lot more than basic calling.

For today’s children, the smartphone has become something normal and they start using one very early. Doctors recommend very little playtime on electronic devices, no more than 1 hour for children under 6 years and for children under 11 it is recommended screen time to not exceed 2 hours per day. However, with a smartphone so easily reachable and with at least one or two devices in the house, it can be hard to track and monitor how long your child spends on the phone. I have a 4-year old son and I had the same problem as most other young parents so I decided to find the best and easiest to implement solution for monitoring his smartphone activity.

After some research as well as trial-and-error, I reached the conclusion that the best approach was to give him his very own smartphone. Right now I know what you are all thinking: He is too young to have a smartphone of his own, but hear me out. I educated him that now that he has his own phone, he no longer has access to mine’s or my wife’s device. He is only allowed to use the phone that was given to him and only for a limited time each day. Furthermore, having one device just for him, it is easy to track the applications used and the amount of time spend.

This can be done automatically using a simple and free tool called “Google Family Link”. There are two apps, one for the parent and one for the child, that has to be installed on the corresponding device. Next, you will have to add your child’s Google Account as part of your family and from there just configure the phone as the child’s in a few easy to follow steps. On your device, after installing the parent application, you will see the other smartphone and can configure restrictions and usage patterns.

You can select what applications from those pre-installed the child can use and what applications can he install from the Google Play Store. You can choose app restrictions based on PEGI rating in the app store, if he is allowed to purchase anything or if purchasing needs approval, as well as music or books restrictions. The same restrictions can be done for Chrome and Search, where you can block adult websites or only allow a predefined list of sites. Youtube, the other major service from Google, also has a restricted mode available. All these settings can be easily done from the parent application, without the need to open the child’s phone.

Having app restrictions is pointless if the child can linger in those applications for as long as he wants. That is why the Google Familly Link app allows you to set time restrictions. You can schedule bedtime hours and configure the amount of time allowed to use the phone. All these can be set on a daily basis and, if you would like to, have longer usage times during the weekend or different bedtimes then. When the time has expired, the phone automatically locks and can only be unlocked with a parent PIN or by using the parent application. Another coold and useful feature is the ability to lock the child’s phone at will, even if the time has not yet expired. If, for example, you have to go somewhere, you can lock the phone with just the push of a button.

If your child is bigger and can take the phone with him at school, you can also track the location (as long as there is an internet connection). The Parent control pannel also offers statistics related to the apps he installed and how much time he is spending in each. All in all, a very useful tool that I am sure many parents will appreciate. Without it, keeping tabs on how long my son is using the phone would have been close to impossible, at least not in such accuracy. You can download it from the Google Play Store for free right now. And if you are searching for a cheap smartphone to give to your child, check out our Coupons and Promotions page.

Photo credits: Gaelle Marcel, Pixabay

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