What to Know About Limiting Your Child’s Screen Time

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Personal Tech|What to Know About Limiting Your Child’s Screen Time


Tech Fix

Concerned parents person galore tools, including escaped bundle from Apple and Google, to actively oversee however children usage their tech.

A young lad  looking astatine  an iPhone helium  is holding.
Google and Apple connection escaped tools for their mobile operating systems that tin assistance restrict surface clip connected smartphones and tablets.Credit...Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Brian X. Chen

By Brian X. Chen

Brian X. Chen, the pb user exertion writer, is the writer of Tech Fix, a file astir the societal implications of the tech we use.

May 24, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET

Attention, parents with “screenagers”: The U.S. authorities has issued a nationalist warning that scrolling done apps similar TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat whitethorn airs superior risks to your child’s intelligence health.

In a 19-page report, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said connected Tuesday that portion societal media offered immoderate benefits to younger people, including the quality to link with communities, it besides exposed them to imaginable harms, specified arsenic cyberbullying and contented that promotes eating disorders, self-harm and different destructive behavior. Social media besides hurts exercise, sleep and different activities, helium said.

What tin parents do? One is to research imaginable options to bounds children’s surface time. Let’s spell done them.

Google’s and Apple’s mobile operating systems connection escaped tools that tin beryllium effectual for restricting surface clip connected smartphones and tablets. These tools let parents to show and acceptable limits connected their children’s devices.

For Android devices, there’s Family Link, an app that indispensable beryllium downloaded done the Google Play Store. From there, parents tin acceptable up a child’s Google relationship to beryllium monitored with the software. For parents who usage iPhones and privation to negociate their children’s Android phones, determination is besides a Family Link app for iOS.

For iPhones, Apple’s iOS includes a instrumentality called Screen Time, which tin besides bounds the clip that idiosyncratic spends connected the device. It tin beryllium activated wrong the iPhone’s settings app by following Apple’s instructions.

Both person pros and cons.

Google’s Family Link has utile features, including the enactment to cull apps that a kid is trying to download and the quality to fastener down a instrumentality astatine circumstantial times — betwixt 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., for example, erstwhile the kid is successful bed.

But Family Link has a large limitation: When children crook 13, they tin take to “graduate,” arsenic Google calls it, oregon assistance the restrictions. At that age, the kid reaches the minimum property request successful the United States to make a Google relationship without parental consent.

One workaround for parents who privation to proceed utilizing the restrictions is to spell into the child’s Google relationship and modify the property to nether 13.

We besides tested Apple’s Screen Time feature successful a weekslong experimentation erstwhile the instrumentality was introduced. The diagnostic lets parents make clip limits for circumstantial apps oregon categories of apps, similar societal networking oregon games, connected their children’s iPhones. When the kid runs retired of clip with an app, it locks the kid out. The genitor tin past person a speech with the kid and determine whether to let further clip connected an app.

The downside is that parents who are besides utilizing the tools to show their ain telephone usage tin easy bypass the restrictions utilizing their passcode — and they whitethorn recognize they are adjacent much addicted to their screens than their children.


There are besides third-party Android and iOS apps that let parents to negociate surface time, though they should beryllium utilized with caution. Some apps from chartless brands that are marketed arsenic parental power apps person been utilized by stalkers to way the users’ locations and adjacent eavesdrop connected them done their microphones — a benignant of malicious bundle that information researchers telephone “stalkerware.”

Parents person plentifulness of resources to find reputable tools that tin besides enactment connected idiosyncratic computers, arsenic good arsenic connected phones and tablets. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews products for families, recovered that Qustodio and NetNanny gave parents heavy power of their children’s devices.

Social media companies besides connection immoderate features to punctual radical to halt scrolling. Instagram, for example, has a “Take a Break” reminder that tin beryllium turned on, and TikTok this twelvemonth introduced its ain tool for limiting clip spent wrong its app.

But the effectiveness of these features has been questioned. Many people, including teenagers, person recovered that these tools tin beryllium easily overridden.

Brian X. Chen is the pb user exertion writer for The Times. He reviews products and writes Tech Fix, a file astir the societal implications of the tech we use. Before joining The Times successful 2011, helium reported connected Apple and the wireless manufacture for Wired. @bxchen

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