Child Monitoring vs Screen Time Restrictions
The big two questions. 1) Are my kids spending too much time online? 2) When online, to who and what are they being exposed? Both of these issues fall under the heading, “protecting kids online.” Both areas of concern are legitimate, but is monitoring or screen time restrictions the best solution? Parents should consider using both types of digital parenting tools.
Screen Time Restrictions
Doctors recommend that children 2 to 5 should only get one hour of screen time (not counting required things like homework) per day. They also recommend that for 6 and older parents should use their best judgment. Parents are reminded to set a good example – and not always buried in their phones. Of course, measuring screen time can be hard when phone use happens outside of eye sight.
For screen time restriction, using apps such as unGlue.com, OurPact, and Boomerang are a good idea. You can set them to limit entertainment time. You can do this by either on a schedule or self-managed. Furthermore, the app itself warns kids when they are getting low. Explain to your kids the rules around when they can access entertainment sites, like after they have finished homework. Incorporate these rules as part of your technology contract so the expectations and consequences are clear.
When considering screen time it is worth discussing media free times and media free zones. Media free times could include charging phones away from the dinner table or putting phones in bags while riding in the car. Media free zones could include banning devices from the bathroom and bedroom. The bathroom and bedroom are the two major places children are more likely to make risky judgments. They feel the privacy in this room translates to privacy online and are more likely to post inappropriate images and text messages.
Ending screen time a bit before bedtime helps kids calm down before they go to bed. Staring at a screen right up until it’s bedtime can cause poor sleep and thus poor performance in school. One idea is to charge phones in your bedroom so that putting the phone aside is part of their evening routine and necessary to use phones the next day.
Monitoring can be more of a challenge, especially with older children. However, it is as equally important as restricting time restrictions. There are very real risks and it is our job as parents to be aware of the risks, and then educate and protect our kids as best has possible. And, a balance between monitoring and privacy is possible with Bark. For tweens and teens completely taking away all devices is not always the best or most practical solution. Using Bark allows you to monitor when something potentially risky happens, but also allows your kids privacy.
We recommend talking about monitoring tools and screen restriction tools with your kids when implementing them. Talk to kids about your technology rules and why you have them. Explain that you will be monitoring their devices for their protection. Some kids will take this as a sign of not being trusted, but you can explain that while you trust them, you are not going to blindly trust everyone they come in contact with in real life or online.
Discuss why Bark is different. Unlike other monitoring tools Bark does not send you all their information, you can’t see every text message, every “wyd” (i.e. what are you doing?) message with their best friend. However, if someone starts cyberbullying them or sending them inappropriate pictures you will receive an alert. If that happens, then you will work together on how best to respond.
We even provide a series of How-to articles on how talk to your kids about Bark. These include, an article with younger kids in mind, an article for talking to a tween, and one on how to discuss Bark with your teen.
Ultimately, consider using Bark and a screen time restriction tool. Use the links above which have concrete suggestions around the conversations you can have about online safety when implementing these tools. Bark monitors phones, email platforms, and over 20 social media apps. We alert you when to potential cyberbullying, sexting, or online sexual predators. However, monitoring tools cannot replace proper online safety education. That is why an open and honest conversation about the risks and rewards about the internet and social media is also important.