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Limiting Screen Time

In almost every household where children have access to electronic devices, there is an adult wishing that the kids would spend less time staring at screens. If you find yourself having trouble enforcing screen time limits, below are some options that can help you better control your child's devices.

Time Use Management Software

There are several software choices that help adults control children's electronic device usage. Each program offers its own suite of controls that you can set through a password-protected dashboard. Common features are the options to limit time spent on the internet each day and to limit internet access to certain hours of the day. In some cases you can specify what websites your child is permitted to access or set time limits for specific websites. Also available are programs that allow you to limit access to certain apps during school time or after bedtime.

There are, however, potential shortcomings of time management software that parents should be aware of. If you restrict your child's internet access to websites that you approve, your child may need you to change the settings so that he can complete certain school assignments. Think about whether or not you can anticipate all of the sites your child will need to use and whether you can be available if your child has a legitimate reason to navigate to a website that is not on your permitted list. Also, many software packages for computers set limits for certain login profiles only. I've seen children log in as a guest user or use a parent's profile in order to circumvent restrictions.

Many blogs and personal computing magazines have reviewed parental control software, so I will not duplicate their efforts. You can easily find more information by searching for "time management," "time control," or "time limit" software.

Change your router settings

Did you know that you can set time limits for each device in your household? You can keep internet access available to adults' devices while setting regular limits for your children's phones, tablets, and computers. Detailed instructions can be found here. Some service providers, like Comcast, also have easy-to-use interfaces for setting limits for children's online access. Remember that any software, app, or game that does not require an internet connection to work will not be affected by such changes. Also, any phone, tablet, or e-reader that has a cellular data will continue to have internet access unless and until you set cellular data limits. (Some companies, like Verizon, offer their own tools for controlling cellular data use.)

Change your Wi-Fi password

This is the most blunt of instruments. You can log in to your router's settings and change the password. (See the link to instructions for router setting access above.) When you want to allow your child to go online again, share the new password or enter it into your child's device yourself. As mentioned above, you need to make sure that your child's access to cellular data is also limited in order for this option to be effective. Also, depending on the number of devices that you use, you may find it inconvenient to enter the new password for every device connected to your home network.


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