Being Smart About Your Teens’ Smartphones

While tech companies alone cannot make the digital world safe for teens, many tech companies are stepping up to give parents better tools to support their teens’ digital safety. We previously reported about Parental Control Apps like Circle which can help keep your family safe. Using these tools, and common sense low-tech strategies, you will be able to be smart about the way your teens’ use their smartphones.

Tools for Apple Devices

Apple recently introduced new digital wellness tools that will be especially useful to parents. With Screen Time, parents can view detailed Activity Reports that show the total time your teen spends in each app they use. You will be able to view the Activity Reports directly on your own iOS device. Using the App Limits feature, you will also be able to determine what apps your teen can and cannot use, or set time limits for different types of apps.

Another feature, called Downtime, allows you to block the use of certain apps during specific times of day, such as school hours, dinner time, or bedtime. You will be able to set these limits remotely.

While these tools are useful for controlling your teens’ device use, they can also help you be aware of your own usage. You can use Downtime to help yourself get a more peaceful night’s sleep or for device-free meals with your family.

Tools for Android Devices

Apple’s new tools follow similar services that Google introduced for Android devices last year. Google’s Family Link offers tools similar to iOS 12. This includes the ability to manage apps, monitor screen time, and remotely lock your teen’s device. Use of Family Link requires that you and your teen use compatible Android devices running  Nougat (7.0) or higher.

Low-Tech Strategies

While it is undeniably useful for parents to be able to limit the amount of time teens spend online and block dangerous apps, low-tech strategies are still important. Communicating with your teen offline will help teens make better online choices.

One of the most important things parents can do for teens is to set a positive example. If you want your teens to be attentive to people in the real world, be attentive to them. For example, make it a priority to turn off everyone’s devices during dinner time, not just your teens’.

Also, being able to view your teens’ online usage does not take the place of talking to them. It simply allows you to have more informed conversations. Things that happen in the digital world have serious real-world consequences, so make certain that you are talking with your teens about things that view and do online.