There are various apps out there that capture our child’s attention, and sometimes, too much attention. When this happens, it’s natural to want to block those apps. Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Why not?

When you block an app, how often do you explain to your child why? For example, if YouTube was blocked from your child without any prior warning, you’d probably have to face meltdowns, temper tantrums, and probably screaming. However, children are smart, and they know how to work around their restrictions. While your child may have limited access to the app at home, he/she could easily find access to it in school through their friends, or simply through another device (smart TVs, anyone?). So when you block apps on your child’s phone, this may trigger withdrawal symptoms and spur them on to find alternative sources to use the app. Pretty counterproductive, right?

Well, not all is bad though. Blocking apps help to protect your child from harmful content, and that’s necessary. If this is your justification, explain this clearly to your child. However, if what you’re dealing with has more to do with excessive amounts of time they’ve spent on those apps, perhaps you could look at other solutions.

What could you do instead?

1. Negotiate

Nothing beats the power of conversation. Clearly setting out smartphone boundaries with your child can go a long way in cutting down their device use. Understand why they require time on their devices and come to a consensus about their screen time. After all, blocking apps can only go so far – when you block one app, chances are, your young one is just going to jump to another app to find entertainment. There are numerous alternatives online. Negotiating a schedule with them, however, will allow them to understand the need for responsible regulation.

2. Install parental apps

Aside from negotiation, there’s also a need to monitor your child’s smart device use to ensure that they are indeed sticking to the set schedule that you’ve agreed on. Parental apps can help. Apps like plano run in the background of your phone to help monitor your child’s smart device use. You can also use the app to set a device-free time. Additionally, the app will remind your child to take a break from their devices from time to time.

3. Take them out

A sure-win way of getting your child off the screens is to take them outdoors. This doesn’t have to cost much, and in fact, it could be free of charge! The beach, the local parks or gardens, the nearby playground – these are areas where you can bring your child to play to have fun away from the screens. Spending time outdoors is also proven to safeguard your child’s eyes from eye anomalies like myopia. If you’d like to enjoy some discounted device-free activities, check out the plano shop for exclusive discounts just for plano users*! Activities include outdoor ziplining adventures, and even discounts to the zoo.

Not all apps are bad, rather it’s how you manage your child’s time on those apps. Instead of blocking apps, try the above alternative methods to help manage your child’s screen time. You might just surprise yourself at how simple yet effective these methods are. 

*these discounts & activities are only available to Singapore plano users.

How far do eye exercises help your children’s eyes? Does it help to prevent myopia or any other eye health risks from progressing?

Keeping (your eyes) fit.

There are many eye exercise applications on the market that claim to help you attain perfect eyesight or, achieve better vision health. Some are free for download while others can cost you a pretty penny. While exercise is always good for us, how much of these eye exercises really help your eyes, and what are they?

What are eye exercises?

Unlike your regular gym exercises which include strength curls and maybe a burpee or two, eye exercises include focus exercises, the 20-20-20 rule, and blinking quickly. These exercises help to relieve stress from your children’s eyes after long hours of near work activity, and also help to strengthen their eye muscles. However, it is not proven that these eye exercises will eliminate even the most commonplace of eye health ailments such as myopia. In fact, Dr. Lipsky, a specialist in ophthalmology, even commented that eye exercise apps may in fact be scientifically unproven.

So what can you do to help your eyes?

But not all hope is lost. There are steps you can take to safeguard your children’s eye health and prevent myopia and other eye-related problems from progressing. In fact, the best guard against eye health problems is spending time outdoors. As children are glued to their phones nowadays, spending too much time indoors means that their eyes do not have enough exposure to sunlight and, their eyes don’t have the chance to focus on distant objects. This is important to ensure that the axial length of the eye does not become too long and cause myopia.

Secondly, scheduling regular visits to your optometrist or your children can go a long way in identifying and correcting any vision errors. Moreover, if you are considering investing into an eye exercise app for your children, visit an optometrist near you for professional advice first and ask him/her if you can trust the efficacy of your potential eye exercise app. The plano app has functions that can remind your children to take breaks between their device use, and limit the amount of time they can spend on their smartphones. At the same time, you can book an optometry consultation through the plano app which helps to make bookings more seamless and convenient.

Who else’s children are growing up in the digital age? Well, for the 21st century parent, most of our children are. And, we probably need digital help like parent apps to monitor our child’s smart device use.

Who likes being controlled?

No one. No one likes being controlled, especially not our children who just want their own freedom on the internet. Sometimes however, it’s more than necessary. In today’s tech age, every device user has access to an overabundance of information and entertainment, our children included. It’s easy for our children to get sucked into this internet vortex and then struggle to get out of it. That’s when their screen time starts to border on dangerous.

Excessive screen time can be a cause of concern for our children’s eye health as it can lead to eye health anomalies. What can we do about it though? We can’t just take their devices away from them because these devices practically supplement their daily lives – from school work to connecting with friends, it’s just part of the 21st century. And there’s no way around it. Thankfully, parent apps can help.

A blessing in disguise for our children’s eyes.

What are the repercussions of screen time though? And how do parent apps help?  According to a report produced by plano, prolonged periods spent looking at the screen can cause Digital Eye Strain (DES). DES is a recognised eye and vision health problem. A common symptom of DES is dry, tired eyes. Parent apps can help to manage this.

Technology is innovative. Today, we live in an era where parent apps have functions to monitor your child’s daily eyecare habits on top of the already present app blocking features. plano is one such app. The app caters to parents and children of the digital age. It encourages children to take ownership of their own device use and practice daily eye care habits. In turn, parents get to relax while knowing that their child’s eyes are in safe hands. The app prompts children to use their devices at a safe distance, and take regular eye care breaks to prevent DES. Additionally, your child gets to earn points which they can use to request for outdoor activities and enrichment classes offered in the app.

Parent apps aren’t all restrictive and unpleasant. Although they do sometimes dampen your child’s fun on the internet, it is a necessary “evil” (for them, at least). These apps can benefit your little one in the long run, and lift a load off your shoulder. Now, you don’t have to continuously look over junior’s shoulder to make sure he’s using the phone in a correct manner. You could just use an app.

What a time to be alive.

You’ve just had a discussion with your friend about the latest pair of Adidas shoes you are eyeing. The next thing you know, as you are scrolling through your Facebook feed, you spot an advertisement for the very shoes you were talking about! 

For many of us, this scenario has happened several times with different products. What exactly is going on? Are our phones eavesdropping on our private conversations? If not, could it be that our mobile activity is being tracked by major brands for better advertisement targeting purposes?

If you have the feeling that your conversations are being recorded by your phone, you are not alone. A recent study showed that 43% of American smartphone owners hold this belief as well! Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, this is unlikely the case.

Our digital footprints are more valuable than our private conversations.

While it technically is possible for huge companies like Facebook to collect audio files of our conversations, transcribe and analyse each of them before finally targeting ads individually to each of us, it is simply not productive for them to do so. Perhaps in the future, machine learning and AI technology will be sophisticated enough to do this efficiently. For now, however, such an undertaking would drain time and monetary resources rapidly and companies who engage in such efforts will likely go bust in no time.

Instead, companies do the next best thing – they ‘follow’ our digital footprints. In other words, the Facebooks and Amazons of the world track our mobile activity in these ways: they analyse what we like, share and search for, identify the content we spend more time on, notifications we click on (a strong indicator of our interests) and scrutinise other online behaviour patterns that they deem valuable. 

This may explain why you constantly feel that your phone is recording your conversations! In the earlier scenario, your interest in the Adidas shoes may have been ‘picked up’ not through your phone microphone but is a result of Facebook gleaning information from your complex digital footprint! 

How should you protect your privacy from prying eyes?

Before you decide to give up on smartphones for good and make the giant leap to the old Nokia brick in protest of companies scrutinising your online behaviour, consider these ways to protect yourself:

1. Be careful with the apps you download

Research shows that an estimated 70% of Android apps collect your personal data and sell it to companies! If you are concerned about your privacy, you can, for starters, stick to downloading apps strictly from your device’s official application store. Third-party apps could be malicious and may collect your information for nefarious activities. Moreover, you can also limit the amount of data your apps are collecting by giving limited permissions to access the minimum amount of information enough for the apps to perform their intended functions.

2. Accepting cookies

Cookies are data pieces that are used to remember things about the websites that you use. While many cookies are harmless, some companies use their website cookies to track your behaviour and collect your information from websites they did not originate from! Choose wisely which websites you allow to give you a cookie. To do this, you can set your browser privacy settings to ask your permission before accepting a cookie from a particular website.

3. Update your Antivirus Software

Keep your antivirus software on your smart devices constantly updated to ensure that your antivirus has the capacity to fight the latest spyware. This will go a long way in deterring viruses that stalk your online activity and infringe on your privacy by mining your data. 

4. Optimize your passwords

For added security against any data breach, you should use strong, complex passwords that vary across the sites and apps you use. However, the disadvantage of having different and complex passwords is that you might find it difficult to remember these passwords. Here is where a password manager app can come in handy.

All in all, while we can be (almost) sure that brands are not hacking the microphones in our phones to record our conversations for their marketing purposes, they have been listening to us in a very different way. Arguably, tracking our mobile activity and mining our digital footprint reveals a lot more to these companies than hacking our microphones ever could. In essence, our privacy is our responsibility, so remember to take proactive measures to protect yourself in this digital age!

Natural cures are all the rage nowadays, and many eye exercise apps promise to reduce myopia progression naturally. How true is this?

If you can do it yourself, why not?

Who doesn’t like a natural cure to our ailments? When our children are sick, instead of downing bottles of pills and various types of medications, we’d take a natural cure if it’s available. This is often the case with eye exercise apps that promise a natural cure to myopia, or declare a sure-win method to achieve clear vision.

These eye exercise apps however, work the muscles around the eyes that control the eyes.  Each eye has around 6 muscles surrounding it that control the focus and line of sight of our eyes. The ciliary muscle is the focal muscle that eye exercises aim at relaxing to reduce the tension and strain around it after working the eyes throughout the day. This is as much as eye exercise apps go in helping to relax the eyes.

What about preventing myopia progression?

Myopia, or other refractive errors, is a result of light being unable to reach the retina due to the elongation of the axial length of the eye. As exercise apps target the muscles around the eyes, these eye exercises unfortunately don’t really help to reduce the chances of myopia. Relaxing the eye muscles are good, but don’t expect to have perfect vision because of it. More importantly, according to Harvard medical, eye exercise programs won’t reverse myopia, or alter its progression. 

As a parent, if you are looking at methods to prevent myopia progression, there are several things that you can remind your child to do to safeguard his/her vision. Firstly, going outdoors and soaking up some vitamin D has been proven to help delay the progression of myopia. 

Secondly, extensive near work activity can hasten the progression of myopia, so it is essential to remind your child to take regular eye breaks. The plano app notifies your child to regularly take eye breaks when he/she is using their phone. It also reminds your child to use his/her phone at a safe distance to limit near work activity. Lastly, if your child follows these prompts and reminders, he/she can earn points in the plano app which they can use to request for a prize in the plano Shop.

Myopia is on the rise and it’s important to safeguard your child’s eyesight and delay the progression of myopia.

Let the numbers speak.

A staggering 22.9% of people in the world have been reported to have developed myopia, or nearsightedness. That’s 1.406 billion people. The number is appalling in East Asia with 90% of school children who have developed myopia. By 2050, it is estimated that half the world will develop myopia.

The alarming rate of myopia development across the world has been growing. This rate has increased exponentially given the age of smart devices like tablets, computer screens, and smartphones. As our children begin to grow up in a world surrounded by smart devices, it is pertinent that we safeguard their eyes from myopia. Granted, genetic factors play an integral role in the development of childhood myopia, but environmental factors like how we use our smartphones contribute significantly as well.

Stalling myopia progression.

If you want to know what factors contribute to the development of myopia and how to prevent your child from becoming a part of the myopia statistic, read on to find out what they are:

1. The lack of sun

Going outdoors can greatly benefit your eyes. It was suggested by a study that participation in outdoor activities for at least an hour under the sun will help relax the pupils. This would make one’s vision less blurry as well. Bringing your children outdoors will therefore help them protect their eyes, but also allow them to enjoy playing during their childhood years.

2. Near work

Your children’s eyes aren’t allergic to homework. Rather, engaging in near-work activities such as reading or placing their phones too close to their eyes can worsen their eye health. This is because near-work activities are a contributing risk factor to myopia. Remember to remind your child to take consistent eye breaks when doing their work. If they’re reading a book or using their phones, advise your child to place them at least 30 cm away from their eyes.

3. Screen time

Living in the digital world can be fun – there are oodles of entertainment to occupy our young ones. However, as fun as these digital escapes are too much of a good thing can be bad. Our devices aren’t bad, it is our relationship with them that can result in negative health consequences. In this case, there are damaging consequences for your child’s eyes; staring at a small digital screen at close proximity for prolonged periods can place immense pressure on the eyes. Limit your child’s screen time and teach them the importance of moderation. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infants between the ages of 0-2 shouldn’t even be given any screen time at all. 3-4 year-olds should be given only a maximum of 1 hour of screen time. Instead of screen time, consider bringing your children outdoors!

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Our digital devices are an immense part of our lives – they’ve almost become a necessity. As your child gets older, digitization will only increase tenfold. It’s important to monitor the development of their eye health and promote good eye care habits in them while you still can. plano safeguards your child’s eyes from myopia, while allowing them to enjoy the fun of using their digital devices. 

“Start them young” they always say, but can you start preventing myopia right after your baby’s birth?

Big round eyes and a great big world to see.

It’s a whole new world for your new angel and his/her vision will quickly develop. It’s natural to want to protect your little one’s new found sight. Wanting to prevent myopia or any other vision problems is normal. However, while it is not scientifically proven that myopia can be prevented, there are a few things you can do to safeguard your baby’s eyesight right from the beginning:

1. Hygiene

Keeping your baby clean and comfortable is always important and if you want to protect their eyes, keeping their eyes clean is extra important. When your baby’s eyes do get dirty, dip a small cotton pad into cooled boiled water and gently wipe the damp pad across each eye. For extra precaution, use separate cotton pads for each eye. Begin wiping from the inside of the eye to the outside corner. And remember, do not clean the underside or inside of your baby’s eyelids to prevent any accidental eye damage.

2. Eating right

Health starts from within and the same can be said for your baby’s eyes. To ensure a healthy development of your baby’s eyes, feed your baby with all the essential vitamins and minerals he/she needs. Babies below the age of 6 months old should only drink breastmilk or formula. Once your baby is able to chew, consider giving your little one some green vegetables or eggs. These foods contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin which keep your baby’s eyes healthy and reduce the risk of retina damage. Green vegetables also assist brain development.

3. See the world

Let your baby open his/her eyes to the wonderful world outdoors. While it is an easy fix to keep your baby’s tantrums under wraps with a good cartoon on your phone, this may pose far more consequences to your baby’s eyes. It is this sort of near-work activity that hastens the development of myopia. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infants below the age of 1 should receive no screen time at all. Instead, bring your baby outdoors to help protect their eyes. The outdoors exposes them to sunlight which helps to keep myopia at bay.

Vision problems to take note of.

While following these tips can help to protect your baby’s eyesight, as a parent, you might also want to take note of any vision problems your baby may develop:

1. Blocked tear ducts

While clogged tear ducts normally clear up by themselves, in some cases, the

nasolacrimal duct may be obstructed. As a result, your baby may experience excessive tearing or pus discharge.

2. Congenital glaucoma

Also commonly referred to as childhood glaucoma, congenital glaucoma is a rare condition that afflicts one in 10,000 infants. Symptoms include excessive tearing, clouding corneas, and an increased sensitivity to light.

If your baby does experience any of these vision problems, do take him/her to your nearest doctor as soon as possible.

Beyond infancy.

As your baby grows up, he/she will be exposed to multiple sources of strain and stress for his/her eyes, and this usually comes in the form of digital devices. Safeguarding your child’s eyes should start from the beginning, and continue as they age. Continuously keep your children’s eyes safe and mitigate myopia with the plano app. The app helps to monitor your child’s screen time, the distance between his/her eyes and device, and provides regular eye break prompts.

Sometimes we look at our children like they’re digital prisoners – eyes, mind, and hands chained to their tiny screens. But screen time isn’t all that bad, it’s our relationship with the screens that matter.

The digital parent anxiety.

As parents who are raising digital natives, we know that our child’s screen time can be a major source of anxiety and frustration. We worry that our children will become obsessed and addicted to the screens. We worry that they won’t spend enough time with their family or friends. We worry that they may only come to know of a world in cyberspace.

Other times, we may feel guilty of our own device use. After all, our own device use may have inspired our children’s use. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I wish I hadn’t used my phone so often in front of my daughter/son”, because what do you know? Now they do it all the time – from the car rides back home from school, to the dinner tables, and even to the toilets!

While some children’s screen time is more alarming than others, it’s also best to remember that screen time isn’t inherently bad. Children, like us, spend their time on the screen for various reasons. From doing their homework to entertainment purposes, the screens serve great purposes for us. So instead of cutting the screens out totally, what we could do instead is regulate it and negotiate with our children how long they want/need to spend on the screen.

Setting the ground rules.

I once asked my 8-year old who would spend hours a day staring at her tiny screen, “what do you like to do online?” She responded with a shrug and the typical, “nothing much. I just like watching dog videos.” Dog video after dog video? Sure, I like a dog video or two myself, especially those adorable ones where mums let their babies sleep with their dogs. But she can’t possibly go on spending hours on end like this, it’s inane. I sat my 8-year old down and asked, “how many dog videos do you actually really like?” She replied, “maybe 2”. I told her we’ll be limiting her to 2 dog videos a day.

Of course, you can imagine the protestations, the whining, the questioning. But I asked her, “wouldn’t you prefer to see an actual dog? Wouldn’t you rather go to the park?” I then continued to explain to her about all that she’s missing out on when she’s staring at a screen. By the time I was done, she agreed, “okay, 2 dog videos a day”.Negotiation and practical reasoning work well with children. The key to this is to inform them why limiting and managing their screen time is important, and letting them have a say in these rules. Since it’s their screen time, it’s important they take ownership of it and have the independence to decide how much time is too much time on the screens. However, bear in mind that a healthy dose of screen time depends on their age. For instance, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), children aged 3-4 years old should not be given more than 1 hour of screen time. 

The screen isn’t all that mean.

Child screen time is just something that we parents need to accept – the world is changing digitally, and so are our children. It is therefore necessary that we teach them the importance of cultivating a healthy and responsible relationship between them and the screen. The plano app can help you do just that. The app runs in the background of your child’s phone, and reminds your child to take a break every 30 minutes from the screen. It also allows you, as the parent, to set no-device time zones for your child so that he/she can participate in family activities device-free! 

All of us parents face our own struggles when it comes to parenting and help is always appreciated. Sometimes, help can come in the form of an app, but how much help is too much?

An app or two never hurt, right?

We all need some extra help at some point in our parenting journey. No matter what struggles we face or when we face them, help is always appreciated. Some people prefer help in the form of a nanny. But in today’s digital age, digital problems require digital solutions. Parent apps can be a useful tool, but we ought to use them responsibly too.

The extra parent.

The app market is teeming with parent apps that promise to help you in your parenting journey. Each of them serve different purposes and provide different services, so it’s no surprise if you want to make the most of each of them. Here are some apps on the market that might be beneficial to you for different purposes:

1. plano

plano is an app that helps you keep track of your child’s myopia progression and smart device use. The app has some cool functions – it reminds your child to take eye breaks, and detects whether your child is using their devices in low light conditions.

If your child is using their phones in dim light, the app will prompt your child to move to another location with better lighting conditions*. As a parent, you can schedule specific timings to keep the phone away*. You also have the ability to block certain apps or browsers to keep your child safe from harmful content. The best part is that if your child follows all these prompts and reminders, he/she earns points which can be used to request for items or activities away from the screen. From gymnastics lessons to scooters, your child can experience a variety of activities and play with some fun toys!

2. S’moresUp App

Does your kid help around with household chores? Well, S’moresUp helps today’s modern, digital parents manage their children’s everyday chores. On the app, you can add all your family members involved in the household chores. You can create the chores on the app, schedule them, and set reminders for your child to do them. Once your child has completed his/her chores, they get S’mores reward points! As a parent, you can set up rewards that correspond to the number of S’mores. For instance, 100 S’mores earns them a trip to the zoo, or 50 S’mores gets them a new book. 

3. Duolingo

We parents love an educational app, and what’s cooler than teaching your child another language? Duolingo is an app that teaches a variety of languages from French to Vietnamese to your child. It’s also a great tool to help you learn something cool and new alongside your child which makes for a great bonding activity. Language learning also comes in the form of a game where your child will definitely have loads of fun crunching levels and earning stars!

Caution though!

As with everything, there’s always a limit to how far you can go. In this case, how far you can go with parent apps. While we understand the want and need to manage our child’s device use, constantly looking over their shoulder can prove worrisome. As much as we believe that children need guidance, they should also be afforded their own privacy. We parents need to trust our child to make their own decisions. Sandra Petronio, a professor of communication studies, notes that too much surveillance on our children’s actions can infringe their privacy and this may implicate parent-child relationships negatively.

Even if we use parent apps to remind our children of their duties, we shouldn’t over-do it as well. They need time for themselves to explore and cultivate their own hobbies and interests. And while online learning is fun and convenient, that can never replace the human interaction of learning in a classroom with teachers and friends.

There always needs to be balance in our lives, and our children’s lives too. So while a parent app or two can go a long way, we need to be sure that we’re using them sensibly too.  

*These functions are subject to your device’s technical capabilities

The old adage goes, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. You can  spare the rod, but sometimes it’s better to talk to them about their feelings instead.

The power of words.

It’s a weekday night and you’ve just cooked dinner for your children, but somehow that particular dish doesn’t entice their taste buds for the evening. It’s been a tiring day, and to top it off, your child starts to scream the evening away demanding for a plate of something else. Before you know it, the food has landed itself on the carpet. First thoughts include: “how do I clean this carpet?”, and “how do I make the tantrums stop?” Perhaps a familiar scenario to some parents, and definitely one that makes you wonder, “how do I discipline my child and stop them from throwing a tantrum?”

One solution we’d suggest is simply to talk to your child.

But how?

Through kindness and firmness, you can positively discipline your child. While we each have our own subjective definitions of kindness, a rule of thumb is to respect your child’s feelings in any given situation. It makes your child feel that they are understood and that you acknowledge their negative feelings. According to psychologist Dr. Bernstein, validating these feelings also helps to build your child’s self-esteem and “reduce [their] defiant behaviour”.

However, this doesn’t mean you let your child walk all over you. It’s not kind of your own child to treat you, as their parent, disrespectfully. After your child has calmed down a little, sit down with your child and talk through the situation. Let him/her know that while you understood why he/she felt the way he/she did, you did not appreciate how he/she handled it. Talk through with them why it would be preferable to speak in a calm manner to express their feelings. You can even flip the situation around tell them how they would feel if you did the same thing. This allows them to analyse the situation from their perspective and practise empathy.

An ethnographic study conducted from the 1960s by Briggs about Inuit families found that Inuit parents do not shout at their children when they misbehave, but speak calmly to them instead. In turn, they teach them how to control their negative emotions. These Inuit parents go a step further and use a play to discipline their children.  

First, they act out the scenario of when the child misbehaved. Throughout the performance, they would ask questions about the consequences of the child’s actions in a playful manner. For instance, they would ask their child, “don’t you like me?”, “why would you do that?” It’s an opportune moment for the child to realise that actions do have consequences, and that not every situation has to elicit a reaction.

In a similar vein, parents should note that they ought to lead by example. For instance, if a child spilled a pot of soup, no one would react with an outburst at the child. They would simply acknowledge what had happened and move on.

While we’re not asking all parents to immediately adopt the Inuit parenting method, gently disciplining your child can go a long way. Though it could prove to be a challenge, nurturing them to take charge of and navigate through their emotions can eventually help them, and yourselves, find a healthy way to express negative emotions.