I’m sure other parents will agree with me when I say that monitoring your kids’ screen time is practically a full time job. Every one of our kids has their own iPad (because we are consumerist jerks), and I fully confess to not following the recommended daily time limits. But the more I read about the addictive effects of electronic usage (and see the symptoms in my children), the more I determine to enforce better rules and guidelines for my children.
Even though it kind of sucks.
I definitely don’t like being the bad guy all the time, and it can be really hard to break up the peaceful silence I enjoy when everyone is absorbed in their games. But of course I don’t want to be a terrible parent and let them rot their brains indefinitely- so I’ve been searching for a solution that will allow me to set limits and have them enforced without my constant intervention.
KoalaSafe (on sale right now!) is a special router attachment that creates a family friendly network that can be fully controlled through an app. You can set limitations for what sites are permitted (or blocked), and you can set a schedule for when each device can access the internet.
There are different levels of security depending on how lenient you want the monitoring to be, and two settings – Primary and Homework- so you can set separate allowances and times for how much freedom you want your child to have.
We are pretty lenient on content as far as movies and music goes, and because of their ages we haven’t really gotten into the scary world of social media yet. So at the moment the most attractive feature is the ability to turn the internet on and off as I choose. But I like that the security permissions are all very flexible- you can allow all of social media or block only certain sites, and I’m sure as my kids get older we will be using them more. When you set up your kids’ profile (whether you do it separately for each kid like I did it as a group), KoalaSafe will automatically block anything with an age requirement below the age you put into their profile. For example, Facebook is currently unavailable because it is for 13+ and my kids are under that age. Once they hit the age limit I will have the option of allowing it or not. This customizable feature is especially nice in instances where a child might be abusing a certain site and need a time out- although I certainly hope I never have to worry about that!
In addition to KoalaSafe, I am also using another app called Curbi. Curbi is free up to 2 devices, and works in a similar way to the KoalaSafe- it can monitor and block internet content through an app you install on your child’s device, so they are protected even when they are away from home and the parental controls of your home network. Obviously, my kids are all pretty tied to wifi and they rarely use their devices anywhere but here, but for children who have smart phones Curbi can pick up the slack when they are out an about. Please note, internet monitoring requires a premium membership ($3.99/mo) which includes all android devices. iOS devices are an additional $2.99/mo each.
Now, you may be wondering why we need the additional coverage of the Curbi system if we already have the KoalaSafe monitoring the internet and our kids don’t use their iPads outside the house. So let me tell you about the very best feature: you can hide ALL THE APPS.
Scheduling the internet access is all well and good, but it doesn’t really help limit screen time when the kids also have tons of games available that don’t require wifi. With Curbi, I can set rules that kick in automatically at certain times, and can do everything from limit certain categories of website to block everything on the iPad itself (acceptions are apps that come standard, so the alarm clock feature will still work).
So now, instead of dealing with Jack begging for “five more minutes” every night at bedtime, I know that when the appointed hour rolls around the internet is clicking off, and every single game is going to temporarily disappear from his screen. There is also a Timeout function that allows me to disable everything on a whim for as long as I want.
It has only be a short time since I have implemented these new systems, but I can already tell I’m going to love it. The set up was incredibly easy- KoalaSafe just plugs into your router, and the rest is simply downloading the apps and setting the schedules and rules. Now I can feel superior about my parenting and enforce screen time limits without actually having to pay attention to the clock or argue about taking away devices.
Win win for me!
disclosure: I was given a KoalaSafe Family Friendly Router free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was also provided with an account at Curbi, although I actually ended up paying the fee to upgrade to a premium account so I could use it on more than 2 devices. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own.