Schools are starting to reopen and starting a new school term can be stressful for both you and your child, let alone during a global pandemic. Our children may feel nervous or reluctant going back to school after learning from home for a few months. They may also find it difficult to be wearing masks and be physically distanced from their peers in school. As parents, these few questions may be popping up in our heads: How do we ensure our child keeps their mask on? Will they be able to keep a distance away from their peers in school? Fret not! We have 4 tips on easing your child into school reopening.

Prepare your child for a different school experience

Schools will most likely roll out new rules that ensure safe distancing, mask wearing and practicing good hygiene habits in general. Instead of forcing these rules upon your child, teach them about the pandemic and help them understand why such safety measures are necessary. 

You could let them read some age-appropriate stories on COVID-19 and public health to make it easier for them to understand [1]. It’s good to practice some of the hygiene habits at home, like washing your hands thoroughly with soap, and remind them to do it in school too. Reassure your child that the safety measures are put in place to keep them safe and healthy.

Prepare a back-to-school kit

It would be ideal to put together a back-to-school kit that consists of extra masks and a hand sanitiser. Our children may be running around in school and their masks could easily fall off. By having these extra masks in their backpack, you wouldn’t need to worry that your child picks up their mask from the floor and puts it back on. While not all schools mandate that children should be wearing masks, it would be recommended to do so to prevent the transmission of any infected droplets [2]. You could get your child reusable cloth masks that fit better on their face and that could potentially be cost-saving in the long run. In addition, the hand sanitiser provides a convenient option for them to sanitise their hands wherever they are. This simple yet effective back-to-school kit could be a solution to your worries.

Check in on your child

In addition to checking in on their physical health and grades, you should also look out for signs of stress and anxiety. Your child’s mental health could be compromised in view of the pandemic, and it’s important to let them know that it’s normal and alright to feel overwhelmed at times [3]. Talk to them and try to understand their problems, let them know that you will always be there for them.

Have a good night’s sleep

Last but not least, make sure your child has a good night’s sleep. Children between the ages of 6-13 should get 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night in order to help them develop physically and mentally. If you find your child spending late nights on their phone, it might be time for you to step in. You could limit their device usage by setting a schedule with plano app or find other ways to help manage their device usage at night. I’m sure we’d all want our children to have a good rest and start their day happily. 

You can now help ease your child into school reopening and also put your worries to rest. We all have a part to play in making our children’s school experience much better!

References:

[1] Strauss, V. (2020, July 22). Ten things parents could and should do to help schools safely reopen. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2feducation%2f2020%2f07%2f22%2ften-things-parents-could-should-do-help-schools-safely-reopen%2f

[2] Bai, N. (2020, June 26). Still Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus. University of California San Francisco. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent

[3] UNICEF. (2020, June 16). Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school during COVID-19. https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/supporting-your-childs-mental-health-during-covid-19-school-return

Trying to separate kids from their smartphones and tablets is a challenging ordeal for many parents in this day and age.

Children who are unable to tear themselves from their mobile devices may have fallen victim to gadget dependency, a very real problem for anyone growing up in this technology-dependent age. Interestingly, researchers have suggested that mobile gaming apps could be the solution to internet addiction in children – but in what way?

Is my child overdependent on his screens?

Before we delve into the solution for internet addiction and excessive screen time, ask yourself the above question.

To help you answer this, here are some of the other red flags should might want to pay attention to:

  • Losing interest in other device-free activities
  • Constantly seeking out screen time over everything else
  • Ignoring social interactions and unresponsive when using devices
  • Showing signs of irritability, restlessness and anxiety when without devices
  • Poor academic performance as a result of spending disproportionate amounts of time online instead of studying

Identifying device dependency early is key. The younger the child is, the more time we have to correct these behaviours and the higher the likelihood of kicking their addiction.

Device dependency can harm your child’s health

In this day and age, we are seeing screen time increasingly replace outdoor playtime. This is extremely worrying as play is an integral part of childhood development! Kids miss out on opportunities to pick up social skills, learn creative expression and engage in physical activities if they don’t play. 

Compulsive device usage robs children of real-world experiences and interferes with healthy social and psychological development. Moreover, young children who use mobile devices have been associated with behavioural and health problems like depression and obesity.

In some cases, extensive and unregulated exposure to screen time can even lead to screen dependency disorder, which can greatly threaten our children’s neural development. The condition may cause brain damage by shrinking key areas of the brain responsible for planning, behaviour regulation, compassion and empathy.

The best way to protect our children from these dangerous health consequences is by reducing their over-reliance on technology through behavioural modification.

The unconventional solution: Mobile gaming apps?

Games are a great help in generating and sustaining our children’s interest. A gamified learning process is found to be an effective method of engaging children.

In fact, games have been found to be particularly effective in motivating users to change their behaviours via rich visuals, challenges and feedback in an interactive environment! You may be wondering, how exactly do game apps achieve this?

When we think of games, we think of completing missions and earning points to advance. To complete “missions”, we follow instructions to carry out a certain desired action, and we get rewarded with points, for example, if we do it successfully. This drives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and we get more into the game as we get more rewards.

When used correctly, this rewards mechanism found in gaming apps can be adapted to provide positive reinforcement for kids, driving their motivation to adopt the behaviour that gets them rewarded.

Here’s how we use positive reinforcement to empower children to develop healthy device habits at an early age.

planoApp, a mobile app designed to curb your kids’ excessive device use

planoApp operates on a points-based rewards system to empower children to become more responsible tech users. Just like in mobile game apps, children are rewarded with plano points when they take a desired action or display a desired behaviour.

What are these actions and behaviours?

For instance, the app prompts children to follow science-based eye health recommendations including, taking breaks after 35 minutes of device usage, a face-to-screen distance of 30cm and a screen location of 15 to 20 degrees below their eye level.

If they adhere to the prompts, they are rewarded with points. These points can then be used to redeem exclusive discounts for a plethora of fun, device-free activities via the plano shop. Children can also choose to use these points to customize their in-app avatar.

This simple points and rewards mechanism has proven extremely effective in helping kids take responsibility for their own phone and tablet use.

Most importantly, it makes it fun for kids. They feel a sense of achievement when they earn rewards for desired behaviour, and they get to learn the value of such behaviour when they redeem rewards with their points. Children are much more likely to engage meaningfully when they do use their devices and repeat desired behaviours, until they form healthy device habits that will last them a lifetime!

* plano users can look forward to a series of exciting announcements which include a new app interface for both parents and children and improved product functionality! Download the app for free now!

Do you notice your children mindlessly scrolling through their social media feeds, falling down YouTube rabbit holes or binge-watching Netflix series for hours at a time? 

One of the biggest challenges that parents today face is getting the full picture of what their children are watching, reading, and who they are chatting with or listening to. In other words, as parents, it is now more difficult than ever to ensure that the digital media that our children consume daily is both safe and enriching.

Obsessed to tech devices happy african american family using digital tablet, computer, smartphones. Smiling dad teaching son to use gadgets while mom watching daughter posting in social networks.

Consuming low-quality content with little educational purposes as well as age-inappropriate content could be detrimental to children’s mental health [1].

Having a family media plan lays out how you can make media work for you and your children. Here’s how you can create one.

Key components of a family media plan

A family media plan consists of 5 key aspects:

  1. Device-free areas
  2. Device-free times
  3. Media choices
  4. Device-free activities
  5. Digital citizenship and online safety

1. Device-free areas

Setting screen-free boundaries at home ensures that devices do not interfere with your children’s playtime and precious family bonding time.

Some common areas you should consider include:

  • At the Dining table: Keeping mealtimes device-free encourages conversation and bonding.
  • In the Bedroom: Leaving devices outside the sleeping area can reduce disturbances from notifications and calls. Research has also shown that blue light from mobile devices can interfere with sleep!

2. Device-free times

Apart from device-free areas, time blocks and device curfews are also effective in reducing mindless media consumption. 

Some time periods you should consider include: In the car (for short trips below an hour), mealtimes, an hour before bed, homework time and family bonding time.

3. Media choices

Many apps and websites claim to be “educational”, but it is always better for us to do our research before we allow our children to access these pages. Do your own background checks online to make sure that the apps your children are using are age-appropriate, interactive and serve the correct educational content. 

Some strategies to select the right media you can consider include:

  • Co-viewing or co-playing with a parent or adult: Promotes interaction and discussion of media material for more effective learning while allowing parents to stay updated with the children’s digital activity
  • Making it a household rule to get your child to seek your permission before downloading new apps or visiting new websites

4. Device-free activities

Real-life social interactions and play are vital parts of childhood development and learning [3]. Make it a point for children to play regularly with friends and family to allow for holistic growth.

Some device-free activities you should consider include: Reading books, outdoor play, playing with blocks, legos and puzzles and arts and crafts.

5. Digital citizenship and online safety

Our children are growing up as digital natives. By teaching them to be responsible digital citizens and how to protect themselves from online dangers, we are playing our part in creating a safer online environment for our children to explore.

Some actions you should ensure your child takes include [4]:

  • Alerting a parent or a trusted adult if exposed to inappropriate or uncomfortable content
  • Being polite and courteous in online exchanges
  • Respecting others’ privacy
  • Not sharing private information or pictures online
  • Not befriending or chatting with strangers online without permission

To Make Things Easier

The easy part of making a plan is making it, and the hard part is executing it and actually sticking to it. How do we make sure our children comply with the aforementioned recommendations?

plano’s parental control and eye health features empower children to create healthy device use habits that last a lifetime.

plano app is a parental management mobile app that can help. Parental control features like app block, browser block, device time scheduling and remote lock are designed for you to monitor your children’s device activity and ensure maximum online safety.

Children can also earn points with the app and redeem them for a plethora of device-free activities at a discount. Besides that, plano also serves to encourage healthy device and eye habits in your child. How does it do that? Download the plano app and try it for yourself to experience its features for free!

References:

  1. Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents. (2016). Pediatrics, 138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2592
  2. Park, A. (2019, Jan 28). Too Much Screen Time Can Have Lasting Consequences for Young Children’s Brains. Retrieved from https://time.com/5514539/screen-time-children-brain/ 
  3. The Importance of PLAY. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.babybonus.msf.gov.sg/parentingresources/web/Babies/BabiesPlay_and_Learning/BabiesActivities/Babies_Importance_Of_Play?_afrLoop=37268086008932535 
  4. Family Media Use Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx 

We all love a good hearty meal, and even more when we’re eating it with the company that matters most. But it can all take a sour turn when uninvited guests join the table – our phones.

Living on a digital diet

Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, the phone always somehow makes its way to the dining table. Like a reflex action, the moment our children sit down at the dinner table, they immediately whip out their phones and start uploading their whereabouts on Instagram. Then, the messages come flooding in and they spend majority of the evening glued to the screen. Nowadays, we’re unfazed when we notice children using their phones while eating with their family.

“It’s normal for kids these days,” we say to ourselves. However, it shouldn’t be.

Meal times are usually the only times we have to spend together as a family and screen time shouldn’t get in the way of that. In fact, during a 2018 study, researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have found that using your phone at the dining table can one feel less socially engaged and more distracted [1]. In that same study, it was found that when 300 people were tasked to go for a dinner with their families or friends, they ended up using their phones for an average of 11% of the meal. Imagine spending 11% of your precious family meal time staring at a screen instead of bonding with the people you love.

Stop their hunger for the screens

If your children are constantly staring at the screen during a meal, it’s time you pull the plug on those devices and start setting some ground rules:

1. All devices off the table

According to the above 2018 study from UBC, the researchers found that phone use is infectious. They mentioned that people are more likely to use their phones at the table if they see others doing so too.

Parents, if you’re guilty of using your phones at the dining table, it’s high time you toss those phones away because you might be influencing junior to do the same. Make it a rule in your household to set the phones aside during all meal times to prevent yourself and your children from being tempted to use their phones at the table. That way, you can all enjoy some quality time together over a sumptuous meal without being distracted by every ping and ring.

2. Create conversations that centre around your children

Sometimes, the reason why your children zone out during meal times and end up on social media is because they’re not involved in the conversations over dinner. Go beyond the usual “how was your day?” and “what do you think of the food?” questions. Really use this time to get to know your children and dig a little deeper about them. Depending on your child’s age, the way you speak to them will elicit different responses. Here’s some pointers on how to speak to your kids based on their age:

Preschoolers:

Ask specific questions about their day. For example, you could ask, “What did you like better today at school? Play time or snack time?” or “Did you play with your friends today? What did you guys play?” Such questions help your preschooler focus their attention on one specific subject which will help them zone in on one anecdote to share with you.

Elementary school kids:

As your children begin elementary school, their lives will be mostly centered on their schooling days. Thus, it’s important for you to get to know their curriculum closely, that way you’ll know what your child is talking about when they’re telling you about their day. You could start by asking them how they felt about a particular teacher’s class, or if they have any interest in specific extra curriculars.

Kids at this age will also understand a lot more about your daily routines so feel free to pop in a few of your own anecdotes and share about your day.

Teenagers:

Ah, adolescence, a time when your kids are trying to figure out who they want to be. It’s also a time when your kids tend to be a little more closed-off than when they were smaller. During this period, it’s important to listen more than speak. It’s important to reassure your teen that you’re always there to listen to them and that you’re there supporting them. Over the dining table, you could ask your teen if anything cool or interesting happened that day, or about their dreams for the future. Keep an open mind and try to stay as neutral as possible. That way, your teen won’t feel like he/she is being judged and would feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with you.

3. Use parental control apps 

If your child just can’t seem to go without his/her phone even at the dinner table, consider using parental control apps like plano to help you. You can use the plano app to schedule  no-device times. For instance, if your child is not allowed to use his/her phone during dinner time, you can use the plano app to lock his/her device during those hours. That way, your child will be able to focus on family time over a meal instead of the screens.

Making the most of all our time.

There’s never enough time for any of us and that’s why it’s important to seize every opportunity available to spend time with our loved ones. As our children grow older, it’s important we help them balance this time and understand the importance of managing their screen time. Some day, they’ll have families of their own and we’d want them to spend that precious time with their own families as well. And in that time, those devices can wait.

References
[1] Dwyer, R., Kushlev, K., & Dunn, E. (2018). Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology78, 233-239. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2017.10.007

Ever caught your child using their phones in bed after you’ve switched off the lights? We understand that staying in touch with their friends is important but staying up all night to text just won’t cut it. By spending their nights on their phones instead of sleeping, it could affect their health, grades and social life [1]. It might be time for you to help your child manage their device usage at night and ensure that it doesn’t interfere with their sleep.

Why you shouldn’t use your phone before bedtime.

Almost all of our devices emit a large amount of blue light, a type of light in the blue segment of the color spectrum that mimics daylight. By using your devices at night, you are tricking your body into thinking that it is day time and it keeps you awake. The exposure to blue light thus disrupts your internal body clock and rhythm.

Additionally, checking your phone stimulates your brain to keep you awake and active, hence prolonging your sleep. In this digital era, we feel the need to always be connected and available, giving rise to our compulsion to check our social feeds, emails, or any notifications that pop up almost immediately. Your mind can stay engaged long after you’ve put down your phone [2], making it much harder to fall asleep.

For children, this could result in being less attentive in the day as they may be tired and agitated from the lack of sleep. This could in turn affect their performance in school and their relationships with family and friends. So how can you ensure that your child is getting enough rest? We have some tips for you to try out.

4 ways to encourage a no-device pre-bedtime routine with your child

1. Set a schedule

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you should put away your phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime [3]. You can easily limit your child’s device usage before bedtime by downloading the plano app. Set a daily schedule on your child’s device and you no longer have to constantly check on them after the lights are off. 

2. Read a book together

Hop into bed and read a book together. This helps your child to be distracted from their devices and not reach out for it right before bedtime. Establishing a good bedtime routine with relaxing activities, instead of devices that stimulate the brain to be active, can help your child fall asleep faster and ensure they get an ample amount of sleep.

3. Low Light Detection

The plano app is designed to be able to detect when your child is using their phones in the dark or in dim lighting. It will prompt your child to find better lighting or they will not be able to continue using it. This can encourage your child to put away their devices when the lights are out and go to sleep instead.

4. Limit your Wi-Fi

Most routers have parental control features that allow you to schedule the Wi-Fi access time limits. By switching off the Wi-Fi at night, it would discourage your child from using their phones and browsing the internet. With limited accessible functions on their phones, they would soon be bored of it and decide to go to sleep.

Start by explaining to your little ones the ramifications of using their devices before bedtime and encourage them to put their devices away and head to bed. You can always turn to parental control apps like plano to make it easier for you to get your child to bed. Try these tips and discover how much sleep can improve your child’s day!

References
[1] Preston, E. (2016, March 14). How to keep your kids away from their phones at night. TrackMyFone. https://www.trackmyfone.com/blog/how-to-keep-your-kids-away-from-their-phones-at-night/
[2] Cleveland Clinic. (2019, April 22). Put the Phone Away! 3 Reasons Why Looking at It Before Bed Is a Bad Habit. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/put-the-phone-away-3-reasons-why-looking-at-it-before-bed-is-a-bad-habit/
[3] SCL Health. (n.d.). Why It’s Time to Ditch the Phone Before Bed. Retrieved July 23, 2020, from https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2019/09/why-it-is-time-to-ditch-the-phone-before-bed/#:%7E:text=Stop%20using%20electronic%20devices%2030,least%2030%20minutes%20before%20bedtime.

Having a good night’s rest is sure to guarantee an even better day, but rarely do we manage to enjoy one nowadays. That’s because of the one thing we can’t seem to go about our days (and nights) without – our phones.

One notification before bed and suddenly you’re up all night

Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone, including our children. For all of us, we can’t shake off the feeling to check our phones every time a notification pops up or when we’re given some gaps of free time. In the day, we might use them for work purposes. After 6 however, our phones turn into sources of entertainment that keep us up all night and that’s where some of our sleep problems begin.

For our children especially, sleep is extremely important for their growth. So, when they spend hours on screens before bedtime, it can affect their quality of sleep and their overall health. In fact, a new study has shown that using phones before bedtime results in poorer quality of sleep in children between the ages of 6 to 19 [1].

What gives, though?

The first reason being that blue light that is emitted from the screens. Blue light is found in our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and almost every digital device you can think of. What’s bad about blue light is that it can interfere with our sleep patterns. Not setting the screens aside before bed can therefore compromise the quality of sleep our children enjoy.

Another reason is because of the overload of information which keeps your mind psychologically engaged. Social media provides us with hundreds upon thousands of information in mere minutes and when our children are exposed to them, it stimulates the brain which causes it to be more active and awake. It then delays NREM sleep (that deep quality sleep we all need) [2], and can leave them staring at the ceiling for hours before finally falling into slumber.

With this knowledge of course we’d want to keep the screens away from our kids before bedtime, but how? Where do we start?

Keeping the screens aside

If you want to keep the screens aside, start by scheduling some downtime. In order for our bodies to prepare for a good night’s rest, both the mind and body need to relax. Our children may insist on using his/her phones up until they have to brush their teeth, but that’s a little too late. Studies have shown that you should keep your phones aside minimally 30 minutes before going to sleep [3]. That means if your child’s bedtime is at 9pm, he/she should stop using his/her phone by 8.30pm at the latest.

However, there are nights when we parents just can’t keep our eye on the clock every minute because we’ve got so much to do. To help you make your load a little lighter, you can use parental control apps like the plano app.

The plano app runs in the background of your child’s phone and as a parent, you can use the app to set no-device times on your child’s phone. If your child has to be in bed by 9pm, you can set a no-device schedule between 8.30pm until the following day, and whenever else! Your child won’t be able to access his/her device during that duration time. It’s a great way to keep your child’s smartphone use in check too as the app provides you with reports about your child’s screen time and overall device usage.

Sleep is often taken for granted. During those hours of pure rest, our bodies are given the chance to recuperate and prepare itself for the following day. As our children grow up, it’s important that they don’t lose out on those precious Zs so that they can grow up healthily.

References
[1] Carter, B., Rees, P., Hale, L., Bhattacharjee, D., & Paradkar, M. (2016). Association Between Portable Screen-Based Media Device Access or Use and Sleep Outcomes. JAMA Pediatrics170(12), 1202. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2341
[2] Basics on Sleep. (2020). Retrieved 24 July 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-101
[3] How and Why Using Electronic Devices at Night Can Interfere With Sleep – Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 24 July 2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed

We all want our kids to grow up healthy and happy. That’s why we make them wear bike helmets, stop them from eating too much junk food and make sure they go to bed early. 

However, when it comes to technology, protecting our kids feels much harder. 

Smart devices are wonderfully practical and convenient, but like any good thing, they have inevitable drawbacks when used too much. Using your phone for more than two hours a day can increase the chances of developing short-sightedness, digital eye strain, and even screen addiction. 

While it’s easy to tell our kids to get off their phones, it’s much harder to enforce good screen use habits. It’s often difficult to gauge how much time kids spend on their devices without monitoring them 24/7. So how do you know where to draw the line? How much screen time is too much? To start with, it’s good to get an understanding of how much time they are spending online. You can look out for signs in their behaviour, or simply track their screen time with a parental control app. Here’s how.

3 signs your child is spending too much time on their smart devices:

1. Eye rubbing

If you notice your child rubs their eyes regularly, it is likely they have been spending too much time online. When we stare at a screen for prolonged periods of time, we tend to open our eyes more and blink less. This causes them to become dry and sore and can even lead to digital eye strain (or DES). Eye rubbing is a telltale sign that your child has been using their screen too much and needs to switch off.

2. Fatigue

If your child regularly complains about not getting enough sleep, they could be using their smart devices too late at night. The blue light emitted from phone screens suppresses the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, tricking the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. To avoid this, it may help to enforce a curfew an hour before bedtime, or download a parental control app such as plano. plano has a blue light filter* which can come in handy to help your kids get to sleep earlier and avoid insomnia.

3. Their phone says so.

The plano app can also track your child’s screen use and remind them when it’s time to take a break or switch off for the day. You can access your child’s screen time data from your own phone by downloading the app onto your device. Or, if you want to encourage your kids to take some initiative, plano’s point-rewards system can help them learn to switch off on their own. plano rewards your child with points whenever they display good screen behavior (e.g. if they use their device for less than 2 hours in a day). These points can be used in the plano shop to request fun, device-free activities- a great incentive to get your child involved in the process!

Better late than never.

If you do notice your child has developed a not-so-healthy relationship with their smart devices, don’t fret! Screen addiction is a very common phenomenon in today’s world. One study in 2016 found that 62% of Singaporeans admitted they were addicted to the Internet [1].

The best way to combat screen addiction is to start now! Establishing a healthy relationship with technology at a young age can help benefit them well into the future as they grow up in an increasingly digitized world. And remember, you’re not alone! plano’s in-built systems can help teach your kids how to develop and maintain good habits towards technology in a fun and simple way!

References
[1] Hicks, Robin. (2016). 62% of Singaporeans admit they’re addicted to internet, media habits being passed on to kids. Retrieved 18 July, from mumbrella.asia

Ever felt guilty of not paying your children enough attention after a long day of work? Fret not! We’re here to help you get started with your weeknight bonding sessions.

Put down your phone.

Focus on your children once you get home by putting your phones away. Our devices tempt us to respond immediately to our work when we should be present with our children. By staying connected to your office 24/7, you will find yourself giving partial attention to your child and being less productive at work [1]. While we are experts at multitasking, doing both is not helpful at all.

“I hate my mom’s phone and I wished she never had one [2]”, was the response a 2nd grader in Louisiana gave when asked about an invention they wish had never been created. This sentiment was shared amongst 4 out of 21 students in the class. Your children know when you spend more time on your phone than with them, and all they want is for you is to give them your undivided attention.

Let’s not be prisoners of our smartphones. You can always wait until your child is in bed before you catch up on emails or your social media. Not only will you get more quality time with your child, you’ll also be more efficient at finishing your work and you’ll have uninterrupted alone time at the end of the day.

Let your children help you cook.

You’d probably be thinking that it would be much easier and faster to do it alone. But why not take advantage of the time to be with your children instead of chasing them out of your kitchen? Not only do you get a kitchen assistant, you will also be teaching them how to cook – an important life skill, how to take care of themselves and how to eat healthy [3].

Start by giving them simple tasks like washing the rice and vegetables, and gradually, they’ll be able to put a breaded fish into hot oil without flinching. While this may seem daunting at first, but soon they can look at any restaurant dishes and say “I can make that too!” This “can do” attitude can carry a child beyond the kitchen [4].

You will start getting to know your children, and they you, better while cooking together. Get to understand each other’s habits, preferences and pet peeves. You may even start sharing recipes, techniques, and anecdotes once they grow older [5]. Show them that there is fun beyond the screens and start by inviting them to join you in the kitchen today!

Create a bedtime routine.

It’s not just brushing teeth, getting dressed and going to bed. It’s about adding that extra personal time in your routine to get the most out of your weeknights.This could be reading a book with your child and then climbing into his bed to have a quick chat about his day. This is a precious time of vulnerability and connection for you and your child [6].

More often than not, they would share with you the things troubling them, situations that made them happy, or if they were hurt today. Give your child a tight hug and let them know you are there for them. These intimate moments will be the ones you’ll miss once they grow up.

You could also set a no-device bedtime routine with the plano app. Schedule daily device usage limits and spend your precious weeknights with your children device-free! Spend some quality time together and have a pleasant end to your busy day.

References
[1] Mejia, C. (2019, March 11). 5 Ways Parents Make Evenings Really Count. Fatherly. https://www.fatherly.com/parenting/productivity-make-most-of-evening-family-time/
[2] May, A. (2018, May 24). I wish my mom’s phone wasn’t invented, 2nd grader writes in school project. Usatoday. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2018/05/24/2nd-graders-tell-teacher-wish-mom-phone-wasnt-invented/640059002/
[3] C. (2017, December 13). Working Mom Hacks: 4 Ideas to Make the Most of Weeknights. Iowa City Moms. https://iowacity.momcollective.com/2017/12/13/working-mom-hacks-weeknights/
[4] Dell’Antonia, K., & Laskey, M. (2015, September 2). Cooking With Kids: 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing It. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/dining/cooking-with-kids-5-reasons-you-should-be-doing-it.html
[5] Dell’Antonia, K., & Laskey, M. (2015, September 2). Cooking With Kids: 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing It. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/dining/cooking-with-kids-5-reasons-you-should-be-doing-it.html
[6] Alexander, C. (2019, July 29). Why you should make bedtime routine with your kids a priority. Aleteia. https://aleteia.org/2019/07/29/why-you-should-make-bedtime-routine-with-your-kids-a-priority/

All too often, we see the same sight of a family sitting together and each member is using their phones for different purposes. While we’re all digitally connected, we’re sometimes the most disconnected from the ones closest to us. Here are 5 family-friendly activities you can do to bond with your family.

Going screen-lite.

Now, there’s no way we can totally get rid of the screens in this day and age. As much as those devices take up a good majority of our time, they’re also essential to our daily 21st-Century lives. We use them for communication, information and entertainment. Especially since work-from-home, the whole family’s been on the screen. Both parents are probably working behind the screen and our children are likely having online classes.

However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Which is why it’s time we try going screen-lite. We all need a couple daily doses of screen time to keep in contact and up-to-date with our work. When all’s finished, it’s good to take some time away from the screen and catch up with our loved ones.

Establish some ground rules surrounding screen time as a family – perhaps no screen time after 7pm, or no phones at the dinner table. Once there’s a standard screen rule that all family members can agree upon, you can use those no-screen time zones to have some fun together away from the screens.

Finding fun outside the screens.

Here are 3 family-friendly activities you can enjoy altogether away from the screens:

1. Cook together

Food always brings people together and there’s no better way to bond than over a hearty meal. What’s more fun is when you make the food on your own. Plan for a day when the whole family can come together to whip up a meal. You could give the kids specified stations such as tossing the marinade for the meats together, or teach them how to chop a few onions or tomatoes.

Of course, for safety reasons adults should be the head chef in charge of the hob and the oven. However, it’ll serve as a good way to introduce your little ones to some culinary skills and teach them a thing or two about frying or baking. The food is guaranteed to taste 10 times more delicious when the whole fam bam gets together and creates a meal for themselves, by themselves.

2. Get competitive

How about a board game night? There are tons of family-friendly board games out there on the market. ‘The Game of Life’ is a classic family game which also teaches kids about, well, life! There are also more strategic games such as ‘The Settlers of Catan’ which can teach kids about logical thinking. It’s a great way to impart new lessons to your children and have fun at the same time. You could even switch it up by suggesting a forfeit for the loser – cleaning up the dishes after that wonderful home-cooked meal sounds good.

3. Move together

There’s nothing better than the great outdoors. A great way to spend time together as a family is to plan for a day out at your local park! You could cycle together or go for a hike at a nearby hill. It’ll be a great way to leave your phones aside and just enjoy the wind in your hairs.

Re-focus our attention on our loved ones

Screens sometimes get in the way of connecting with the ones we’re right in front of, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to. To reiterate, it’s important to establish rules about screen time in the house to balance our device and non-device time. When it comes to our children however, that can admittedly be an uphill battle. Parental control apps can help you manage your child’s screen time and inadvertently encourage family time as well!

plano is one such app that can help you achieve this. plano helps to monitor your child’s device use and reminds your child to take regular breaks from the screens every 30 minutes. As a parent, you can also use the plano app to schedule no-device times. For instance, if your child is not allowed to use his/her phone during dinner time, you can use the plano app to lock his/her device during those hours.

If your child follows these prompts and reminders in the plano app, he/she can earn points! These points can then be used in the plano Shop* to request for device-free, and outdoor activities. Parents can even join in the fun for some of these activities such as a ziplining adventure at Singapore’s Mega Adventure.

Our loved ones are all near and dear to us, so let’s make sure we use our time with them wisely. Let’s intentionally set aside those screens and focus our attention on them.

With kids demanding every strand of your attention, how do you enjoy some much-needed ‘me’ time without turning to the screens as a quick-fix?

Trying to ditch the screens.

Screens have become commonplace in the 21st Century and our children are no stranger to them. Nowadays, you can find almost anything on the net from entertainment to information which is why the screens can keep our little ones occupied for hours on end.

For that reason, whenever we need some time to ourselves – be it for work or for some time alone – the screens have become our emergency exit. It’s simple solution after all. If we need to keep the children quiet for a good hour or so, why not whip out the ol’ tablet and put some Paw Patrol on?

The dilemma that most of us parents face in this digital age is whether we should give our children screen time in exchange for some of that coveted ‘me’ time. Screen time has become a hot button-issue in this day and age and we’re bound to feel some degree of guilt whenever we hand our kids some device time. On one hand, we don’t want them to become screen zombies, forever hungry for their next digital dose. However, we do want to keep them quiet and occupied while we carve out some time for ourselves. As with most predicaments though, there is a middle ground to be found.

Meeting in the middle

The reality we parents are probably aware of is that screen time is here to stay. There’s no denying it, so the next time you afford your child some screen time, don’t beat yourself up. It’s just part and parcel of growing up in 2020 and beyond. What you can do is work around it.

Firstly, it’s important to note the recommended screen time durations. According to the World Health Organisation, these are the screen time guidelines parents should follow:

  • 0-2 year olds: no screen time at all
  • 2-5 year olds: 1 hour of screen time a day
  • 5 and above: A little more screen time can be introduced, but moderately. No more than a few hours of screen time a day.

Once you’ve established the duration of screen time your child is allowed, you can then work on the sort of content that he/she is consuming in order to make that time productive. There’s a lot of enriching content that can teach kids new skills or broaden their knowledge – from language learning to kids documentaries. The next time you give your child screen time, instead of switching on another episode for them to stare mindlessly at, choose some educational content for them to enjoy!

Take advantage of your child’s allotted screen time and focus on what you want to do for yourself during that time. Be it a short online yoga session, a bath or a meeting, you can use that time for yourself too! What about the kids though? How am I going to make sure they won’t go overboard and extend their screen time?

The plano app can help you do just that. You can use the plano app to set device times on your child’s phone. For instance, you can schedule no-device times. If you intend to allow your child to use his/her phone from say, 1pm-2pm, you can set no-device times after 2pm. Your child won’t be able to use the phone after that. The app also reminds your child to take a break from the screen every 30 minutes with device break reminders. During this time, your child won’t be able to use his/her device for 1-2 minutes and can take a quick eye break from the screens.

Your ‘me’ time is essential and for your children, screen time is here to stay. You can take advantage of the time that your children are allowed to spend on the screens to do the things that you want to get done. However, it’s critical you set the boundaries straight from the beginning and be aware of the sort of content your children are consuming. That way, you’ll be able to find that balance and moderate screen time while finding time for yourself.