While Android phones and kids' tablets can be brilliant ways to entertain, educate, and keep your children safe, they do have the downside of being addictive. For a parent, the sight of your little ones mesmerised by glowing rectangles for extended periods of time is not a happy one.
But, there are ways to limit this exposure and ensure that your child gets up off their backside every once in a while. We show you a few easy ways to control the amount of time your kids spend with their screens.
For more on how using devices can affect your little ones, see how much screen time is healthy for children.
Use a parental control app
Parental control software can give you quite a bit of control over the content that your little ones can access, track their locations, and also restrict the time they spend online. Qustodio is a great example, with plenty of granular settings that allow you to tailor your child's app and web activities more appropriately to their ages.
With a free account you'll be able to not only set the hours each day when the device will work, but also allocate particular durations to certain apps. This means if you don't want them endlessly flicking through TikTok, but are happy to have them work with Duolingo, then you can set the individual time limits as you see fit.
There are plenty of other benefits to Qustodio though, with the aforementioned location tracker letting you know where your kids are at all times, plus a wealth of content filters, SMS and call monitoring, plus a panic button if your child should find themselves in trouble.
To unlock all the features you'll need a premium account, which currently costs £35.95/$44.95 per year. This does cover five devices, making it a good for those with more than one child. If you just want to put some screen time limits in place then it might not be as cost effective as one of the simpler apps listed in the next section. But, if you want to control and monitor your child's device then a package like Qustodio or any of those listed in our Best parental control software roundup would do a fine job.
Use a dedicated screen time app
There are a few different apps that can automatically limit the time children spend on their devices. These include Kidslox, Boomerang, Kids Place, and MM Guardian. Google has its own offering in the shape of Family Link.
This free app has one version for the parents' phone and another for their child. There are various settings available, such as requiring permission to download apps, hiding inappropriate ones from the Play Store, as well as managing in-app purchases.
Of course, there is also a screen time feature with which you can set daily limits and a bedtime after which the device won't wake until the morning. It's aimed primarily at children 13 and under, and is a simple, easy solution for teaching little ones about managing their time on their phones and tablets.
Android itself also contains a variety of settings that can help keep your kids safe online and restrict their usage. Here's how to use Android parental controls.
Use a dedicated tablet or phone
If you’re in the market for a new device, then it might be worth considering one with parental controls built-in.
This allows parents to set up profiles for each of their kids, and specify how long they can use the device each day. There are also granular controls, so individual apps can be banned or have limited access, while reading apps can be given unlimited time.
True, it's not an Android tablet and you are limited to the apps available on the Amazon store, which doesn’t include the full Google Play selection (or any Google apps), but there’s a decent variety there. Of course, Prime subscribers have access to free Kindle eBooks, and Amazon Prime Video, so that’s not a bad start. For more details on Fire for Kids read How to set up parental controls on an Amazon Fire tablet and also take a look at our roundup of Best kids' tablets.
Set real-world incentives and restrictions
If you don’t want to abrogate responsibility to software then there are still helpful ways to entice your progeny away from their devices.
We’ve seen some success with family device-free days, where everyone surrenders their technology and stares at each other in embarrassed silence for hours on end. These can be made a little easier by playing some great board games together.
Other methods that have worked for some parents are locking devices away every evening and then returning them once homework and chores have been completed, or creating reward charts that allocate screen time for real-world achievements and tasks such as making their bed or helping with the washing up.
It’s a more hands-on approach, that’s for sure, and not always easy, but that’s parenting in a nutshell really.