Managing your child’s screen time is easier than you think, but there’s still a bit of learning on your part. Setting up a safe digital sandbox for your child to play in, where you can manage their screen time and the content they consume, used to include a lot of half-baked advice from friends and guesswork with unknown applications. But with today’s heightened concern for privacy, major tech brands have jumped in with their own answers. If you use a solution from Google, Apple or Microsoft, you are buying further into one of these companies’ ecosystems, but the trade-off is that you’ll have godlike control over and insight into your child’s cyber world. Whether you equip your kids with their own devices, or whether they play around on yours, the world is changing to require more and more technological autonomy from our children. Here are a couple of solutions to cover most scenarios, and a few apps to get you ahead of the curve.
Samsung Kids Mode Best for kids using your phone
Up to the age of eight, few kids have their own phone or tablet, so they’ll be angling to use yours. It is super convenient to switch into Kids Mode and hand over the device to your kids. Samsung phones provide this safe mode with features such as a separate browser, app store and a kid-centric user interface. You can even grant access to specific applications and media content stored on your phone in the owner’s section. And don’t worry, everything is PIN, password or fingerprint locked, so junior can’t get out of Kids Mode even if they switch the device off. It’s a well-thought-out and mature product but it’s only available for Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
Google Family Link Best for managing Android devices
Start by downloading this app to all the Android devices in your home. Link all these Google accounts through your home network, granting one of them parental powers by downloading the Parent version of the app. Now you’ll have detailed control over which apps can be used and even which websites can be viewed and, importantly, you can set screen-time limits. Possibly the best feature is the bedtime setting, which allows you to set a ‘shut out’ time when the device cannot be unlocked. This could also be used during homework hour, or at dinner time, of course.
Microsoft Family Group Best for monitoring computer use
Microsoft’s solution is designed for parental control of Windows PCs, the Xbox and also Android devices, but it’s a little more complicated to set up than the Google solution. On your PC, you start at family.microsoft.com where you create a group and then send invites to all family members using whatever email they used to sign in to their Windows PC. On children’s devices you can accept the invitation on their behalf. From there, you can control website access, check on content being consumed and set digital downtime. To control Android devices from Windows you need to download and install the Microsoft Launcher from Google’s
Apple Family SharingBest for managing Apple products
Unsurprisingly, Apple’s solution is the easiest to get working. Open your Apple ID account under Settings on any iDevice. Every Apple device requires an Apple ID for set-up, so you will need to create one even for children’s devices, but if that account is designated as a child’s account, it will automatically be under your control in the Family Group. Besides monitoring their activities and requiring your permission to download apps and make purchases, you can set time limits and downtime periods when no activity is allowed, and the child is locked out of the device. One of the biggest advantages of the Family Group is that everyone can share books, videos and music downloaded from Apple, and share an iTunes music streaming subscription.