Whether it’s a tablet or a phone, your child probably has probably spent a considerable duration of time staring at the screen. As parents, we’re naturally concerned about our child’s device-use and this may be a source of stress for some of us. But here’s a solution that’s sure to help moderate your child’s screen time.

When the minutes multiply into hours.

When our child grabs the screen to watch a couple of videos or to play a game, we parents know how easy it is for them to get lost in cyberspace. Now, add learning online into the mix and we’ve got our children in front of the screens for the whole day.

Since the lockdown began, it was necessary for our children to take their learning online. This was for good reason and being indoors ensured their safety. The concern however, lies in the amount of time our children would spend staring at the screen. On one hand, we understand the necessity for it, but on the other, we fear our children may become too dependent on their devices.

According to plano’s latest reports, excessive screen time has been shown to cause many detrimental health concerns in the long run. This includes, but is not limited to, myopia, mental health issues like depression, internet addiction disorders, and even posture issues. The consequences are terrifying to imagine, and for parents like ourselves, we wouldn’t want our children to experience any of this.

You may have tried to curb your child’s screen time by confiscating their devices or forced a curfew on them. However, these efforts were met with tantrums and whining. Tuckered out from trying every trick in the book, we sometimes give in to our child’s want for the screen, yet the anxiety still lingers.

The solution to rid you of your screen-related stress.

One of the best ways to help manage your child’s screen time is to create a schedule for them and with them. Let your child have a say about when he/she wants or needs to use the screen. Help them break down what consists of necessary screen time (to do homework, or to video call a teacher for instance), and what consists of desired screen time (to play video games or scroll through social media).

This helps your child better understand his/her own personal needs and wants surrounding screen time. You can then walk through a guided timetable together with your child to come up with an appropriate screen time schedule.

Want a more tech-savvy approach?

You can consider downloading a parental control app like plano into your child’s phone. After all, when it comes to devices, there’s no better way to monitor your child’s device-use than with an app!

You can use the plano app to set device times on your child’s phone. For instance, you can schedule a no-device time during dinner or family-bonding time so that your child will be able to focus on activities away from the screen. The app also reminds your child to take a break from the screens 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.

If your child follows these prompts, he/she earns points which can be used to request for device-free activities in the plano Shop*! There are football classes, pottery lessons, and even board games that they can enjoy from the plano Shop!

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. And where there is a problem, there’s always a solution. So parents, even if you’re stressed about your child’s screen time today, you can always turn the problem into the solution with plano.

*Only available to Singapore plano users.

In today’s digital age, parenting feels harder than ever. We have to feed our kids, dress them, put them to bed, take them to school, and on top of all that; ensure they develop a healthy relationship with technology. But while device dependency seems like another problem to add to our long list of worries, it’s not as hard to manage as you may think.

My daughter’s dwindling attention span.

While smartphones are super convenient in providing a great source of entertainment for our kids, they can have a negative impact when used excessively. As a mother of an eight-year-old daughter, I have seen this play out firsthand when we went to go see the fireworks over Marina Bay. My husband and I thought they were fantastic, but I realized halfway through the show that my daughter’s eyes had been glued to her phone the whole time. My initial reaction was to confiscate her phone for the rest of the evening, but this only resulted in a temper tantrum.

Smartphones are good… but not always.

This is a common scenario many parents have dealt with in recent years. While I was annoyed that my daughter couldn’t seem to go without her smartphone for a few minutes- even to watch the fireworks- I also couldn’t blame her. Smartphones are, after all, fun! They provide an endless source of games to play, friends to talk to and photos to look at on Instagram.

While we all want our children to be able to enjoy these aspects of technology, we definitely wouldn’t want them to develop a dependency for them. I’m sure we’ve all felt this way as parents of 21st-century children.

Encouraging responsible behavior with positive reinforcement.

Mounting research online that suggested doing a “digital detox” and confiscating your child’s phone entirely. While it’s important to limit our kids’ smartphone use, it’s not so helpful to take the stimulus away entirely. Our kids will continue to be surrounded by technology well into the future. It would therefore be more beneficial to ensure they learn how to “switch off”- a skill that will be helpful after they have left home.

In order to change behaviors in the long run, psychologists suggest using a method of disciplining called “positive reinforcement”. Instead of reprimanding your child when they do something wrong (e.g. confiscating their phone when they use it for too long), this technique involves rewarding them when they demonstrate good behavior (e.g. giving praise when they take part in a device-free activity). 

In using this technique, I was able to encourage my daughter to develop a healthy relationship with her smartphone in a way that didn’t make her feel like she was just following my commands. This technique has also turned out to be very helpful in preventing temper tantrums- something I’m sure every parent would appreciate. 

At this point, you might be wondering ; but how do you go about rewarding your kids for good smartphone use? How do you know when they are practicing good device behavior, and when they are not? Consider using parental control apps! They are there to make it easier.  

You’re not alone!

The plano app provides a helping hand in curbing unhealthy screen habits. When downloaded, it runs seamlessly in the background of your child’s smart device and notifies them when they need to take a screen break.

What’s great about plano in particular is that it implements the positive reinforcement technique for you! When your child demonstrates good screen behavior (for example, uses it for less than two hours a day), they are rewarded with points. When they have gathered up a few points, they can use them to request fun, discounted activities in the plano shop. So far, my daughter and I have been tree-top climbing, visited the Natural History Museum and even had a go at pottery! 

By rewarding your child for good device use, rather than reprimanding them for having bad habits, plano helps tackle device dependency in a positive and uplifting way. And you even get the chance to learn a thing or two along the way!

When we confiscate our children’s devices from them as punishment, we’re actually doing more harm than good in the long term.

“No more screen time until you behave!”

We’ve probably reprimanded our kids with a similar line before when we noticed them kicking and screaming for more screen time. For some of us, it could have been as recent as this morning. It’s a common line we say to our children when they’re misbehaving. After all, one of the tried-and-tested ways to pacify our children is rewarding them with a little screen time.

But as we continue to navigate the milieu of the parenting world, we need to learn and unlearn some of the habits that we’ve grown so accustomed to – especially with regards to screen time, a foreign concept during our childhoods, but ever so prevalent in our children’s.

According to a study done by the University of Guleph, it was found that when parents withdraw screen time as a form of punishment, their children ironically end up spending more time on screens. This is because kids become conditioned to think that screens are a valuable “prize” that they end up craving for it more. It’s like when the dentist told us when we were kids to stop eating candy because it’s bad for our teeth, the more we yearned for candy as a sweet treat.

Similarly, when we choose to punish or reward our children with screen time, we’re over-inflating the value of the screens and making it into a big deal, when it really shouldn’t be.

What can we do to prevent this?

So what happens if your children throw a tantrum or starts to act out because you’ve limited their screen time? Instead of asking them to behave in exchange for more screen time, gently explain to them the reasons behind those screen time limitations. Let them know that you’re worried about the amount of time they’re spending on the screen. In fact, too much screen time has been linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and can also result in device dependency.

If your child still insists on screen time, consider downloading parental control apps like plano. 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.

Of course, before you download any form of parental controls in your child’s device, be sure to inform them about it first. This is to ensure a clear line of communication between you and your child, and to avoid any misunderstandings. Kindly let your child know that you’re downloading a parental control app to help keep track of the time he/she is spending on his/her devices. In no way are you trying to infringe on to his/her privacy, but it’s a matter of just making sure he/she isn’t spending an exorbitant amount of time on screens alone. After all, there’s so much more to do than spend entire days staring at a screen.

If you’re wondering how much screen time your child should be afforded, you may follow the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on screen time:

  • 0-2 years old: no screen time at all
  • 2-4 years old: 1 hour

Changing habits

The next time you’re tempted to revoke screen time from your child as a form of child, pause. Pause and think about how this might unconsciously cause them to crave for more screen time. Instead, have an honest, calm and open conversation about screen time and help them manage it responsibly.

Keeping up with your young ones in the digital 21st Century can prove to be a challenge, but here’s how you can be a parent ready for the digital age.

A new age and a new childhood.

Our children’s childhoods are a world of a difference from the childhood we had. For starters, we didn’t have debates about whether Androids or Apples were better. We didn’t have Instagram to share our photos – we just printed them out and showed them to our friends when they came over to our house!

Today however, their childhood revolves an awful lot around the latest TikTok trends, phone games, and endless hours of YouTube. While we understand that the change in generations warrants the use of technology today, sometimes it’s admittedly difficult to come to terms with the amount of screen time our children are receiving. In fact it’s also not uncommon to find parents in conflict with their child about an acceptable duration of screen time. How much is good enough and how much is too much? Are we being too lenient or too strict with our children’s screen time? These are all but normal questions to ask ourselves as parents of digital natives.

The one thing all parents can definitely agree on is that we want our children to have an amazing childhood. We want them to grow up and look back on these times with fondness. So when we notice them spending their childhoods staring at a tiny screen, we get a little uneasy. Instead of spending hours on screen time, we’d prefer them to go outdoors to run and jump, socialise with other kids at the playground, or spend some quality time together with us painting, playing board games, etc.

You see, our uneasiness doesn’t really stem from the screens themselves, but rather their behaviour and relationship they have with the screens. The screens aren’t inherently bad, it’s how they use them that’s concerning.

Getting tech-ready

It’s the 21st Century, and we’ve got to equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and know-hows to keep up with our 21st-Century children. Information about raising digital natives are aplenty, but here are 3 of the most important steps you need to know of to keep with your digitally-wired kiddos:

1. You have to want to listen to your children

Younger generation and digital devices gadgets concept. Photo of smart clever, understands how to use modern technology shows screen of his telephone to daddy sitting on comfort divan

It may be just a silly little dance video on TikTok to us, but to our kids, it could mean more than that; it could mean bonding with their friends, relieving them of their stress, or just a little fun for them to cut loose and have a laugh. Spark a conversation with your child about their views and to negotiate with them about how they’d like their screen time to be managed – ask them how long they’d prefer to spend on screens, why they think that amount of time is suitable, and how they’d spend the rest of their time off screens.

We want to help manage our children’s screen time and not just dictate how long they can and cannot spend on the screens. Therefore, it’s important to create a two-way conversation that accommodates what you and your child think is an optimal duration of screen time.

2. Talk about what’s right on the web

There’s a whole bounty of content on the web out there nowadays, and as parents, it’s normal to be concerned about the type of content our children may be consuming. The content that our children consume can sometimes directly impact their mental states. This is why it’s important to have a chat with your child about the difference between useful, enriching content and useless, inappropriate content.

Let them know you come from a place of concern and you want them to enjoy themselves online. But you also want them to understand the impact of the content they’re consuming and be more mindful of it.

3. Let them know if you’re installing a parental control app

If you choose to download a parental control app to know more about your child’s screen time, let them know. Be transparent about why you’re installing this app on your child’s phone – it’s not because you don’t trust them or that you want to spy on them, it’s because you want to keep them safe. Gently tell them that you want to make sure they’re not using their devices for too long of a duration. End off by letting them know that you ultimately trust them to learn how to interact responsibly online and use their devices independently.

Parental control apps like plano can run in the background of your child’s phones seamlessly and help to teach your child good device habits. The app will remind your child to take a device break every 30 minutes, and you can even assign specific times when your child isn’t allowed to use his/her device.

With so much media content tailored for kids these days, you may be getting frazzled trying to make the right choice for your little one. The good news is, we have 4 simple steps to help you make your decision in no time!

For many of us, limiting our kids’ screen time can be a downright pain in the neck, especially with the current stay-home measures forcing you to find different ways to occupy your kids every waking minute of the day.

You may even be trying to stay on top of these screen time recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO):

  1. Infants (less than 1 year): Screen time is not recommended.
  2. Children 1-2 years of age: Sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. 
  3. Children 3-4 years of age: Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.

However, if your plan to implement all these measures has gone out the window and you are just trying to make the best of a testing situation, it is completely understandable, and you are most definitely not alone! In fact, according to our research, parents in Singapore have been seeing an increase in screen time of almost 20% for their little ones during this period.

Beyond just limiting their screen time, adopting a variety of alternative strategies, including curating your kids’ online content is essential to ensure that they make the best use of their time on their devices.

But with the myriad of different online options available for kids, you may be wondering, where do I even start?

Not to worry, we got you covered!

According to the National Institute of Early Childhood Development in Singapore, such media content should check these boxes:

1. Is it engaging?

When it comes to optimising your child’s learning when they are using their online material, ask yourself if the design features of said content are engaging. High quality design features should be engaging rather than distracting. What makes content engaging?

Media content is engaging when your child’s attention is completely focused on a specific learning goal. Ask yourself these basic questions: Is he zoned into completing his tasks for instance, paying attention during an e-book? Or is he getting easily distracted by the ‘loud’ and irrelevant features of the content?

Remember, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to selecting engaging media content for your little one, so it is normal to take a little time to figure out what works best for them!

2. Does it actively involve?

When your kids interact with the tasks presented in media content in question, are they challenging them to be hands on with their content and explore further?

Think back to the last piece of online content you chose for your kids. A high-quality game or digital book or even video would encourage them be mentally keyed in. That means that your child is taking the time and the mental effort to interact with their technology. For example, games that encourage your child to put on his thinking cap and consider his next moves actively are indicative of being ‘high-quality.’

Conversely, if you find that your child is only physically active but mentally passive i.e. swiping furiously but mindlessly, that piece of content is not one that actively involves.

3. Is it meaningful?

In other words, is the online content relatable to your child? What exactly makes something relatable?

Content that is considered relatable introduces new concepts within a context that your little one is already familiar with. For example, a meaningful educational content with the learning objective of new vocabulary is ‘high-quality’ when your it incorporates these new words into a story setting with characters that your child is familiar with. Are you sourcing for content that can teach your child new animal names? Use a piece of content that achieves this through a story about farm animals!

4. Can it be social?

A ‘social’ piece of content transcends the screen. This means that it encourages your child to talk about the concepts they have learnt or even observed with the people around them.

The FINAL Step.

Beyond these 4 steps, there is one final step that only you as a parent can complete: facilitate an environment that empowers your children to find the right balance!

That means inculcating in them good device habits that will allow them to develop a healthy relationship with their technology from an early age. As they continue to ‘grow up digital,’ staying actively involved in teaching them all the right ways to use technology while avoiding its pitfalls will make a world of difference to their lives! It can be a long journey, but remember, your kids’ childhood years are fleeting, so be sure to enjoy the ride every step of the way!

That one app that’s been occupying all our children’s time and attention this stay home season – what exactly is it and are there dangers that we should be aware of?

It’s TikTok O’clock.

You’ve probably seen your child dancing in front of his/her phone for hours perfecting what looks like an overly complicated choreography set for a 15-second video.

“What are you doing?”

“Mom, it’s TikTok.”

Yes, TikTok – a trend that’s sweeping across the world. Social media users are jumping on to this bandwagon as fast as lightning, and even celebrities and influencers are riding on this wave. But what exactly is it besides an app that’s pre-occupying all your child’s time?

TikTok is essentially a video-sharing application and users can record, edit, and share their videos. The app comes with some of the trendiest songs in the music scene that users can dance and lip sync to. Along with the app comes trends like the #woah trend, the #yummy trend, the #thisismyvoice trend, the #wasian trend, and the list goes on. And it’s likely your child has participated in these trends as well.

The app is largely fun, entertaining, and not to mention addictive which explains why users expend hours of time on TikTok. But are there risks to being on the video sharing platform?

What do I have to be aware of?

As parents, we’re all concerned about our children’s safety online in today’s digital world. From Instagram to now TikTok, we’ve got a lot of fronts we have to be aware of. Here are 3 things parents ought to know about TikTok:

1. Anyone can send messages to anyone

Yes, by anyone that includes strangers too. If your child does not have a private account on TikTok, complete strangers can send him/her messages any time.

2. Suggestive content

With the internet, you can find a plethora of suggestive content and TikTok is no exception. As TikTok is largely a music-based application, some of the songs that are hosted on the app contain profanities. However, the app does label some themes as 16+ to warn users.

3. The ‘digital well-being’ setting

One of the best things about TikTok is the ‘digital well-being’ setting. Once toggled on, parents can also use this control to put restrictions on their child’s TikTok account.

So besides the ‘digital well-being’ setting on the app, what else can we parents do to protect our children online?

1. Strike a conversation with them

If you notice your child spending his/her time dancing in front of the phone, casually ask him/her what they’re up to. Learn more about what they’re doing first before jumping the gun. After that, you can slowly build up and let them know about your concerns as a parent – from privacy to safety concerns. Let them know not to accept any messages from strangers, and teach them how to be discerning about the content they consume.

2. Try parental control apps

TikTok has its own in-app parental controls, but sometimes it can be difficult to get into your child’s TikTok account to toggle those controls yourself. If you notice your child spending far too much time on TikTok, you can consider turning to other parental control apps for help.

The plano app is one such app that can help you to set device times on your child’s phone. For instance, you can schedule a no-device time during dinner or homework time so that your child won’t be able to use his/her device during that duration of time. You can even block certain apps on your child’s phone using the plano app if you notice your child spending excessive amounts of time on a particular app.

And if you need to regain control when you most need it, the plano app also comes with a remote locking function. You can use this as a last-ditch option to remotely lock him/her out of his/her device if your child just can’t seem to peel his/her eyes away from his/her device.

At the end of the day, our child’s online safety is our top priority and we want the best for them. Here at plano, we want to help keep your child safe online too.

For all Singaporean parents, if you download the plano app any time from now till 1 June 2020, you will enjoy a FREE annual subscription of the plano app! The annual subscription of the plano app comes with the entire list of functions of features that you may find here.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

Fun, engaging, and accessible – it’s no wonder our kids just love their smartphones. Sometimes, a little too much.

Wrapped around the screen

Our children socialise, learn, and even entertain themselves using those palm-sized devices that transport them to a whole new world. It’s real fun and it gives them a dopamine rush, however, the amount of time they spend on these smartphones can be alarming. You’ve probably seen your children clutching their smart devices from the moment they wake to the moment before they hit the sack, especially during this season when everyone’s confined to their homes.

Now that we don’t have a park or a playground to run to, our children run straight to their phones when they have some free time, multiplying their screen time. You don’t want to deny them of the only free time they have to unwind and relax, but you neither want to see them passing the hours by simply staring at a 2.5 inch x 5.5 inch screen.

Excessive screen time is a major issue in today’s digital world with repercussions spanning from myopia to screen addiction to device over dependency. Plano’s latest research demonstrates that as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, screen time has increased from 7.4 hours a day in March to 8.5 hours a day in May amidst stay home measures.

Finding creative solutions

The rapid increase in screen time is alarming, but there are measures we can take to help cut some of those hours off the screen:

1. Intentional device-free time

Make it a point to be away from devices during a certain period of the day to engage in some fun device-free activities with your child. You could make it a habit to spend 3 hours after lunch baking some cookies together, colouring together, or doing a jigsaw puzzle together! Let your child know that for that set duration of time, no devices are allowed and it’s just for you and them to have some fun together.

2. Sunshine stretches

We can’t spend extended hours of time outdoors during this season, however, it’s important not to miss out on some vitamin D. Even if it’s just going by the window for a simple stretch in between hours of device use, your eyes and body will thank you. Remind your children to get off their seats every hour or so and move their body around. They can take an eye break while they’re at it too by looking out the window. So, they can give their backs a good stretch, and relax their eyes at the same time to prevent eye strain!

3. Get in their devices

When your children do need to use their devices, you can use the plano app to help remind them to take device breaks every 30 minutes, and schedule device times! The plano app is the only science-based parental control application that serves to not only manage your child’s screen time, but also prevent the progression of myopia.

If your child follows the eye break reminders consistently, he/she will earn points on the plano app which can be used to request for fun device-free items like NERF Guns and paint sets!

For all Singaporean parents, if you download the plano app any time from now till 1 June 2020, you will enjoy a FREE annual subscription of the plano app! The annual subscription of the plano app comes with the entire list of functions of features that you may find here.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

As the world assimilates to the new normal – work-from-home mandates and school closures – parents worldwide are confronted with the reality of spending longer hours a day with their new co-worker and the accompanying question:

“How do I occupy my child’s time?”

A sizeable increase in screen time

This transition spells a significant change in many parents’ lives. Not only do they have to balance work and their household chores, they have to take care of their kids and worry about how to occupy them on top of it all. And for many parents, grappling with this sudden change can be all too overwhelming.

As such, it comes as no surprise that many are turning to mobile devices for their wealth of entertaining and educational resources as a quick fix to occupy their little ones’ time. Parents themselves may find that they are spending more time behind the screen for work and leisure purposes. 

In fact, a preliminary analysis from the Plano Time Machine cohort found that the average daily screen time of Singaporean adults has increased from 6.6 hours before the pandemic to 7.8 hours in only a few weeks during this period!

The collateral damage

While staying safe and protecting ourselves and our little ones in these trying times should be our primary concern, the current circumstances necessitate the consideration of the adverse secondary effects of the pandemic.

More time at home means a larger proportion of your day cooped up at home with your screens for company, more near-work (on mobile devices) and much less time spent on outdoor activities.

This can put you and your child through a world of hurt in the long run. Consequences of too much screen time include digital eye strain, musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder and hand pain, and myopia. As we spend more time on our devices, the risk of experiencing these adverse effects increases.

What can we do to shield ourselves from these health risks?

Under the current circumstances, all these health impacts on top of the pandemic can seem rather disconcerting. However, there are many actionable measures you can put into practice right now to protect yourself and your family.

1. Regular breaks from the screen and adequate face-to-screen distance is key

Ensure adequate face-to-screen distance when you or your child uses devices i.e. keep a comfortable distance between the face and computer screens and when using smart devices like phones or tablets. Take regular breaks between periods of screen exposure to allow your eyes to rest i.e. look out the windows at faraway objects or close your eyes for a few minutes.

It can be difficult to constantly monitor your child’s mobile device use behavior. That is exactly why a parental management tool like the plano application can help. Here’s how it works:

The app runs in the background of smart devices, sending friendly alerts and reminders that promote good eye care practices. What is unique to plano is the use of science-based eye health prompts which work to modify children’s device use habits.

plano’s posture prompt ensures that your child is not hunched over his/her mobile phone.

For instance, plano’s face-to-screen prompts ensure that children comply with the recommended smartphone viewing distance of at least 30cm away from their eyes. Similarly, plano’s posture tracker and prompts deter children from slouching while using their devices and instead, encourage them to correct their postures by adjusting their screen location to the recommended 15 to 20 degrees below eye level.

The plano application’s face-to-screen distance tracker and eye break prompts can help you with this by keeping an eye on your child’s device use behaviour.

2. At-home alternatives to outdoor activities and screen time

Your home may feel deceptively void of fun activities to do with your little ones and as such, it is natural to feel at a loss these days when it comes to occupying their time. Creating a routine for your child is a useful way to ensure that their time is used productively and with purpose. This routine should include blocks of screen-free play time. If independent play is a struggle for your little one, set aside some time to engage in play with him/her. This can include storytelling, having a workout session together and even doing household chores together! 

Whatever you choose to do with your child, remember to use these moments as golden opportunities to spend some quality bonding time with your loved ones.  Now is the chance to get creative with your child, get to know one another, unleash your inner child and have a whole lot of fun while you’re at it. 

At the end of the day, we all want the best for our children. And while screen-based entertainment is a tempting quick-fix, especially considering our professional obligations and domestic duties, let’s not forget to make the most of every precious moment with our little ones during these uncertain times.

Parenting is crazy roller-coaster ride. And now with the series of stay-home notices, lockdowns and self-isolation measures thrown into the mix, the ride has gotten bumpier and scarier.

Not only do we have to protect our family from the pandemic, there’s that added stress of balancing our parental duties and professional lives, now all under one roof.

Screen Time is at an all-time high and we should be worried

One of the biggest modern stressors many parents have been tackling in the last few months is screen time. From children to adults, the time spent on digital devices has skyrocketed. In fact, our research has shown an increase in the screen time of almost 20% for children and adults in Singapore!

The negative health consequences of our children’s excessive screen time are alarming. It is associated with eye issues like near-sightedness (myopia) and digital eye strain, and even musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder, and hand pain.

Beyond that excessive screen time is linked to Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). IAD is now officially recognized by the World Health Organization as a mental health problem and is considered an emerging public health crisis, particularly for young people.

What can we do as parents to protect our little ones from the pitfalls of technology?

Flipping the problem into the solution

Thankfully, we live in a time where a handheld device is all that is needed to elevate our parenting game. Yes, that’s right – the problem is a viable solution!

These days, the parenting apps market is heavily saturated with a huge number of quality apps. ‘Smart’ parenting has evolved from being just a fad for some tech-savvy parents to a cornerstone of achieving important parenting goals in this digital age.

However, as a parent, the sheer number of app options to choose from can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we have created 3 simple steps to help you choose the parenting app that’s a perfect match to your parenting style.

Step 1: Figure out who is behind the Screens

Research is crucial when it comes to choosing the right app to suit your parenting needs. Don’t worry, it does not have to be extensive. A simple google search on who founded or developed the app, their motivations, and research they have used can tell you whether the app’s claims are legitimate or if it is just a waste of data and/or money.

Take the reputable kid’s language app Duolingo ABC for example. A background check on the app’s founders would tell you the amount of research that went into it and their team’s accolades on the education and Computer Science front.

For example, educational apps that offer science-based learning objectives should have a team of experts in that particular field behind the app.

Step 2: Take it for a test-drive. Or find out from someone who has.

With so many parent apps in the market, many of the apps that you are eyeing may be free. If they are not, a trial period or a freemium version of the app may be available for you to dip your toes in before making the full commitment. Otherwise, online reviews from fellow parents can help you with the decision.

Look no further than the flurry of activity on Reddit’s AskParents forum (subreddit) every day, where parents from all walks of life give their opinions on anything and everything parenting. Unsurprisingly, ‘best parent apps’ or ‘parental control apps’ are common discussion topics that crop up every other day.

In these discussion threads, you will find parents sharing their experiences with apps that they may have found useful or have had horrible experiences with. Like Reddit, there are many parenting forums online on app recommendations that can help you make an educated decision on what apps you should invest in.

Step 3: Identify the functions and features your parenting style demands

When it comes to choosing the right parental control app in particular, the best ones often offer plenty of features to limit and restrict your child’s device usage, track and block apps, and internet usage and are highly customizable to suit different parenting styles.

Beyond the parental ‘control’ elements of a parental control app, there are certain apps in the market that serve to empower and educate children on their device use. Our parental management app, plano was developed to do just that.

Plano is a science-based app that has a suite of child safety functions that parents can toggle to restrict their children’s device use. Moreover, it helps children develop a healthier relationship with their devices by rewarding them through its innovative points system. *

At the end of the day, you are irreplaceable

Whatever app you choose to help you along in your parenting journey, always remember that apps serve to enhance, not replace your role as a parent. The bottom line is, it is your responsibility as a parent to help your little one develop a healthy relationship with technology; there is no app that can do that for you!

*Exclusive offer for all Singaporean parents: From now to 1st June, our 1-year annual premium membership ($29.98) of the plano app is FREE.

We hope this will help you manage your little one’s screen time and internet safety, especially now that the school holidays are in.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano parental control app here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

Nowadays, kids are all about the screens and we’ve probably bribed them with it one too many times.

The new 21st-Century Candy

There’s no official statistic, but it’s largely possible that 90% of us parents have bribed our kids with screen time at least once in our lives. Be it to stop them from throwing a tantrum, or to get them to finish their vegetables, the screen has probably been used as our biggest bargaining chip.

It’s not inherently wrong to afford our children a dose of screen time or two – the screens are there to entertain and help us anyway! However, using the screens as a pacifier for your little one is by no means a viable long term solution. Consistently doling out screen time in a bid to calm their tantrums or to negotiate an earlier bed time can spell detrimental effects in the long run. Device over-dependency, screen addiction, even myopia are just some of the many consequences when your child is handed the screen one too many times.

Reigning back the screens

While there’s no turning back the clock, there are a few steps you can take to undo your screen time bribery and prevent long term consequences.

1. The art of substitution

Sure, the screens top the list of the most coveted items on our kids’ wish list. But, there are many other things that you can swap the screens out for. Instead of telling him/her that she’ll get an extra half hour of screen time the next day if he/she sleeps early, tell him/her that you’ll make his/her favourite breakfast in the morning the next day (cinnamon toast with strawberries, maybe?).

Or, if your child refuses to eat his/her vegetables, instead of handing him/her the screen as a bribe, you could choose not to give your little one dessert if he/she doesn’t finish his/her vegetables. There are a ton of substitutes for screen time out there – you just have to get creative!

2. More outdoor time

Going outdoors has been proven to help improve one’s eye sight and protect your eyes from myopia. So the next time your little one starts throwing a tantrum, instead of handing them the screen, you could suggest that if he/she stops crying, you’ll bring him/her out for some ultimate fun in the sun at the nearby playground – and which kid doesn’t like running amuck at the playground? It’ll be a great way to keep your child active, and keep them away from the screens.

3. Use a parental control app to assist you!

For the times when you end up caving in to your child’s request for the screen (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), you can use parental control apps like plano to help manage your child’s screen time.

The plano app will alert your child every 30 minutes to take an eye break, and it also allows you as the parent to schedule specific times when your child is allowed to use his/her phone. You get full control of when your little one is and isn’t allowed screen time so once the time is up, it’s time for them to put away those screens.

And if things get out of hand, you can use the remote locking function too to easily lock your child’s phone from your own device*.

Screen time is great, but in moderation

The screens are here to stay and our children are growing up alongside of them, it’s important to emphasize and exercise moderation. It’s an easy solution to reach for the screen and hand it to our little ones to negotiate with them. However, it’s up to us to also teach our children the right habits and prevent issues like device dependency, screen addiction, and even myopia. So the next time you’re tempted to reach for the screen as a bargaining chip, remember the 3 steps above to limit your child’s screen time.

*This is subject to your device’s technical capabilities.