How to create downtime for kids

How to create downtime for kids

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How to create downtime for kids

So many kids these days are scheduled for every minute. Even in summer, on weekends and school holidays you would think they get a break, but kids are shuttled from camp to practices to games to holiday weekends, all without time to breathe or play.

As an adult, that sort of schedule would leave me stressed out, cranky and frantic. When I find myself over-scheduled, I seek downtime. How could it be any different with kids?

Downtime isn’t something that just happens, though. Here are four ways to create downtime for children.

Cutting Back On Activities

We all want the best for our kids. This can mean lessons, tutoring, camps and sports practices. But day after day of constant activity makes for a too-full schedule. The first way to create space for down time is to cut back on activities.

Set a limit on what the child can do. If given a choice of two activities, ask your child what they would prefer. My daughter picked piano and Girl Scouts, and consciously turned down tennis camp and strings because they would cut into her few free evenings.

Making sure there is plenty of unscheduled time gives children the opportunity to use their imaginations, relax, and learn about the world around them – three very necessary things.

It may even turn into opportunities. The family next door had a “one sport, one other activity” rule for the school year. Their daughter went out for the boy’s football team — and made it! She spent three years as a field goal kicker and getting to learn about sports in a way that most women never get to.

Creating Space In Every Day

A single day off after months of overwork doesn’t compensate for the lack of rest in adults. The same applies for kids. Creating regular and frequent time for the children to settle down and unwind is essential to keep them in balance.

Space doesn’t mean filling time with mind-numbing activities; it means giving the child a time and place to unwind.

We have a “no-tv-on-school-days” rule to eliminate the noise; during the summer we limit all electronics to one hour per day. This gives my daughter time to play outside without the siren of television beckoning her.

Sometimes this can even mean setting aside a physical place for relaxing. My daughter chose to make a reading corner in her bedroom (modeled after my own reading area), so that she has a quiet place to go to when she wants to read.

Encouraging Quiet Activities

Downtime doesn’t necessarily mean quiet volume, but for children, quiet time is essential to get them ready for sleep. Have you ever tried to put a toddler to bed who is overstimulated?

Quiet activities, such as drawing, reading and crafts, can allow the child to ramp back energy levels and focus on something that is relaxing.

It is easy to have materials on hand for these activities. A trip to the library every other week, a quick run through the dollar store for paper and drawing supplies, or shopping the after-holiday sales at a craft store for craft kits are good ways to ensure you have quiet activity items on hand.

Modeling Behavior

The last point, and probably the most important, is that children pick up things from the adults around them. If they see that you are over-scheduled, hyper and always on the go, they will feel this is a good way to be.

Taking time to relax ourselves, making sure our own schedules are under control, and having quiet times show children that this is desirable. They will emulate the behavior that they observe.

Giving kids time to be kids, with unstructured time and quiet activities, can help children be in tune with their natural rhythms. Do you have ideas on how to create downtime for kids, or the importance of it? Share below.

With Screen Time, you can access real-time reports about how much time you spend on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and set limits for what you want to manage.

How to create downtime for kids

Screen Time lets you know how much time you and your kids spend on apps, websites, and more. This way, you can make more informed decisions about how you use your devices, and set limits if you’d like to. Read on to learn how to turn on Screen Time, view your report and set limits, and manage a child’s device.

Turn on Screen Time

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time.
  2. Tap Turn On Screen Time.
  3. Tap Continue.
  4. Select This is My [device] or This is My Child’s [device].

You can now get a report about how you use your device, apps, and websites, any time you want.

If it’s your child’s device, you can set up Screen Time and create settings right on their device or you can use Family Sharing to configure your child’s device from your own device. After you set up your child’s device, you can also use Family Sharing to view reports and adjust settings right from your own device.

With Screen Time you can also create a dedicated passcode to secure settings, so only you can extend time or make changes. Make sure to choose a passcode that’s different from the passcode you use to unlock your device. To change or turn off the passcode on your child’s device, go to Settings > Screen Time, and tap [your child’s name]. Then tap Change Screen Time Passcode or Turn Off Screen Time Passcode, and authenticate the change with Face ID, Touch ID, or your device passcode.

If you forgot your Screen Time passcode, update your device to the latest iOS or iPadOS then reset your passcode. If you can’t update your device, erase it and set it up as new to remove the passcode and choose a new one. Restoring your device from a backup won’t remove your passcode.

Set a Screen Time passcode

Set a passcode so that only you can change Screen Time settings and allow more time when app limits expire. If you’re a parent, use this feature to set up enforceable content and privacy limitations for your child.

If you’re using Family Sharing to manage a child account, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings > Screen Time.
  2. Scroll down and choose your child’s name under Family.
  3. Tap Turn on Screen Time, then tap Continue.
  4. Set up Downtime, App Limits, and Content & Privacy with all of the limitations that you want for your child, or tap Not Now.
  5. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode, then enter a passcode when prompted. Re-enter the passcode to confirm.
  6. Enter your Apple ID and password. This can be used to reset your Screen Time passcode if you forget it.

If you’re not using Family Sharing to manage a child account, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that you’re on the device used by the child.
  2. Tap Settings > Screen Time.
  3. Tap Turn on Screen Time, then tap Continue.
  4. Select This is My Child’s [device].
  5. Set up Downtime, App Limits, and Content & Privacy with all of the limitations that you want for your child, or tap Not Now.
  6. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode, then enter a passcode when prompted. Re-enter the passcode to confirm.
  7. Enter your Apple ID and password. This can be used to reset your Screen Time passcode if you forget it.

How to create downtime for kids

View your report and set limits

Screen Time gives you a detailed report about how your device is used, apps you’ve opened, and websites you’ve visited, any time that you want to see it. Just go to Settings > Screen Time and tap See All Activity under the graph. From there, you can see your usage, set limits for your most used apps, and see how many times a device was picked up or received a notification.

If you turned on Share Across Devices, you can view overall usage across devices that are signed in with your Apple ID and password.

Here are the settings that you can manage:

Think of this as a nap for your screen time. When you schedule downtime in Settings, only phone calls and apps that you choose to allow are available. Downtime applies to all of your Screen Time-enabled devices, and you get a reminder five minutes before it starts.

App Limits
You can set daily limits for app categories with App Limits. For example, you might want to see productivity apps while you’re at work, but not social networking or games. App Limits refresh every day at midnight, and you can delete them any time.

Communication Limits
Control who your children can communicate with — throughout the day and during downtime. These limits apply to Phone, FaceTime, Messages, and iCloud contacts. This is also where you can decide and manage which contacts are available on an Apple Watch paired through Family Setup. Communication to known emergency numbers identified by your iPhone or Apple Watch cellular carrier is always allowed. You need to have your iCloud contacts enabled to use this feature.

Always Allowed
You might want to access certain apps, even if it’s downtime or if you set the All Apps & Categories app limit. Phone, Messages, FaceTime, and Maps are always allowed by default, but you can remove them if you want.

Content & Privacy Restrictions
You decide the type of content that appears on your device. Block inappropriate content, purchases, and downloads, and set your privacy settings with Content & Privacy Restrictions.

Use Screen Time with your family

With Family Sharing, you can share music, movies, apps, and more with family — and it now works with Screen Time. You can view reports and adjust settings for children in your family any time, right from your device.

If you’re already in a family group, go to Settings > Screen Time, and tap your child’s name. If you need to create an Apple ID for your child, go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing > Screen Time.

Or if you’re new to Family Sharing, tap Set up Screen Time for Family and follow the instructions to add a child and set up your family. You can add family members any time from Family Sharing settings.

To use Screen Time with Family Sharing, you need to be the family organizer or parent/guardian in your family group, on iOS 12 and later, or iPadOS. Your child must be under age 18, in your family group with their own Apple ID, and on iOS 12 and later or iPadOS.

How to create downtime for kids

Do you want to control your children’s iPhone or iPad usage by limiting the apps they use and the contacts they communicate with? Thanks to Screen Time, this is a fairly simple and straightforward procedure.

Screen Time allows iOS and iPadOS users to keep a check on their smartphone usage as well as offers a lot of parental control tools to limit the features that children and other family members are able to access. With Screen Time properly configured on your children’s devices, you can monitor their iPhone or iPad usage on a daily basis and restrict the content they have access to.

Interested in learning how you can properly configure this parental control feature on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch device? Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place then. In this article, we’ll be discussing exactly how to set up an iPhone or iPad for kids with screen time limits in place.

How to Set Up iPhone or iPad for Kids with Screen Time Limits

Screen Time is a feature that was introduced alongside the release of iOS 12 back in 2018. So, make sure your kid’s iPhone or iPad is running iOS 12 or later before you go ahead with the procedure. That being said, we still highly recommend you to update the device to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS if it’s supported, since the feature has received some noticeable improvements. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the necessary steps.

    Open the “Settings” app from the home screen of your child’s iPhone or iPad.

In the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on “Screen Time”.

How to create downtime for kids
Now, choose “Turn on Screen Time” as shown in the screenshot below.

How to create downtime for kids
A brief description regarding Screen Time will now be displayed on your screen. Simply tap on “Continue”.

How to create downtime for kids
Since you’re setting up Screen Time on your kid’s iOS device, just choose “This is my Child’s iPhone”.

How to create downtime for kids
In this step, you’ll be configuring Downtime. You could use this tool to set a schedule for time away from the screen. For example, this could be during your kid’s study time or bed time. Once you’ve picked a preferred Start and End time, tap on “Set Downtime”.

How to create downtime for kids
Here, we’ll be configuring App Limits. You could set a time limit on various apps based on their categories. For example, you can set a time-limit for how long your child is able to play games on the device. Once you’ve chosen your preferred settings, tap “Set App Limit”.

How to create downtime for kids
Now, you’ll be shown a brief description about the Content & Privacy settings that Screen Time has to offer. This can be customized in Screen Time settings later, but not when you’re trying to set it up for the first time. Simply tap “Continue”.

How to create downtime for kids
Type a passcode that will be used to protect your Screen Time settings from being accessed by your kids.

How to create downtime for kids
As for the last step, you need to type in your Apple ID on your kid’s iOS device for resetting the Screen Time passcode, in case you ever forget it. Once you’ve filled your log-in details, tap “OK”.

How to create downtime for kids

That’s about it, you’ve now setup Screen Time on iPhone or iPad with all the various limits in place.

If you take advantage of Apple’s Family Sharing feature, you can set up Screen Time for any member in your family group right from your iPhone or iPad, without actually needing to physically touch your kid’s device. You can also adjust the Screen Time settings for your kid at any time using this method.

Once you’ve successfully set up Screen Time on your kid’s iPhone or iPad, you’ll be able to customize Content & Privacy restrictions. For example, you could turn off App Store purchases or block playback of explicit content on your child’s iOS device.

That being said, make sure you keep updating your Screen Time passcode regularly to avoid unauthorized access to your Screen Time settings.

We hope you managedd to set up and configure Screen Time on your kid’s iPhone or iPad without any issues. What do you think of Apple’s Screen Time feature in general? What is your favorite parental control tool that Screen Time has to offer? Do let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section down below.

Kids today are busier than ever with jam-packed schedules containing everything from school and homework to play dates, birthday parties and multiple sporting ventures. Then there are the ever-present lure of screens, which can seem like the perfect option when parents need some peaceful minutes to complete everything from household chores to work calls.

While time lazing on the couch watching Netflix or playing video games might seem like downtime, these activities still require children to be fully engaged. Too much screen-time overstimulates kids instead of giving them the break they need to chill out. So if true downtime does not involve screens, what actually is downtime you ask? daydreaming… creative play… taking a bath… arts and craft… walking in nature… reading a book… playing a card game…

What is downtime?

Downtime is a time to relax and to not do too much. You can think of downtime as simply playtime without any structured activities that involve rules and directions. When play is unstructured, children are free to do what interests them without any guidelines set in place.

Downtime is an opportunity for kids to be kids. Whatever it is your child chooses to do, the point of downtime is to enhance creativity, imagination, executive functioning and social skills

“Activities for downtime can be anything that interests your child, gives them the freedom to choose what they want to do and uses the brain and body in different ways. Whatever it is your child chooses to do, the point of downtime is to enhance creativity, imagination, executive functioning and social skills,” explains Plumb.

Things like playing outside, daydreaming, creative play, taking a bath, arts and craft, walking in nature, reading a book and playing a card game are all examples of downtime.

Why do kids need downtime?

While parents have been guilted into thinking that good parenting comes with exposing our children to endless opportunities, this over-scheduling can lead to stress and anxiety. Children need time to rest, relax and recharge. Downtime allows your child’s brain the break it needs to consolidate memories, revive focus and renew the drive to learn. It is also vital for all aspects of your child’s development.

“For your child’s cognitive, academic, social and emotional development, downtime is vital. Giving your child the time and space to have downtime enables them to develop self-determination where they express their own wants and needs. Kids develop best if they are free to create, use their imagination and explore the world around them,” says Plumb.

Free time or that feeling of “being bored” also helps children to learn how to manage their feelings.

Free time or that feeling of “being bored” also helps children to learn how to manage their feelings. This time teaches children the ability to occupy themselves without relying on others to amuse them, while also giving them the ability to cope with uncomfortable feelings like impatience 5 . Children who are constantly occupied with structured activities don’t have the time to engage in problem-solving like children who experience downtime 6 .

How much downtime do kids need?

A little bit of downtime each day is recommended for all kids. However, exactly how much they need depends on a few things 7 .

“In terms of how much downtime is needed on a daily basis, depends on the age of the child, the amount of structure they already have in their lives and the competing demands of sticking to a routine,” explains Plumb.

“Generally though, the younger the child, the less they need an itinerary of structured activities.”

How to schedule in downtime

Downtime isn’t something that just happens – we need to schedule it in. Creating regular and frequent time for children to unwind is essential for keeping them in balance. Each day set a limit on screen time and encourages your children to spend some time outside each day. You could also set up a special place like a reading corner to encourage relaxation.

Establish a household rule of quiet time before bed where you children can either read a book or draw quietly. This is a great way for the whole family to reduce stimulation and get ready for bed.

As parents, we should lead by example and make downtime a priority. Children tend to mimic the adults around them, so if we want our children to participate in regular downtime, we need to take the time to relax.

“This can be done by organising a relaxing outing as a family, chatting to your child about how much better you feel when you get your own downtime, or even making appointments for downtime if your current schedule is that jam-packed,” explains Plumb.

Children tend to mimic the adults around them, so if we want our children to participate in regular downtime, we need to take the time to relax.

When you make downtime a priority, you show your little people the importance of having unstructured time each day where they get to take the time to follow their own interests and just be 8 .

It isn’t always easy to protect this downtime so parents need to remain vigilant in making sure their children have space to take a breath and relax. Give yourself and your children permission to enjoy free play each day.

“Play together. Play alone. But make sure you play. Your mental health depends on it.”

How to create downtime for kids

All teachers need to put their students on pause from time to time. Is it possible to do this without sacrificing learning?

Every day when I pick up my kids from school, I ask them what they did that day. Far too often, and especially near the end of last school year, I’d get this answer: “Watched a movie.”

Really? I’d say. Again?

My kids are 6, 7, and 8. I know that at this age, the chances are slim that their reporting is totally accurate, but still. It’s getting to the point where it’s every day. If they’re just going to watch movies all the time, I could do that with them at home. So why do I bother getting them up in the morning, hustling them to school on time, keeping their attendance records as clean as possible, only to have them plop on the carpet in front of the ActivBoard and watch Despicable Me for the fifteenth time? Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But that’s how it feels.

And then I think back to when I had my own classroom, when the file of papers that needed grading would bust at the seams. When the email came, reminding me of an IEP meeting I’d completely forgotten about, robbing me of my planning period yet again. A folder would land on my desk, requesting four days of class work for a sick student—and it needed to be turned in by 2:30 that day. Plans were due. Important e-mails were sliding off the visible screen of my inbox, where they would no longer get my attention. I needed a catch-up day. Bad.

And nothing worked quite as well as a movie: They would all sit at their desks, mesmerized and silent, while I plowed through my work, grading and sorting and putting everything in its place. And because I was in a middle school, I repeated this process in every class period. So with every passing hour, I found my blood pressure lowering and my love of the job returning. And at the end of the day, I could see the top of my desk, my lessons were planned weeks in advance, and I was refreshed and ready for the next day of teaching. Oh, and there was this: The day did not produce anything new to do. When my students left, I had no materials to put away, no fresh student work to respond to. It was the cleanest of slates. Plus, the kids thought I was awesome.

Now that I’m a parent, I definitely see things differently, and this article tells me I’m not alone. I do believe that if and when I go back to the classroom, I’ll be much more selective about the times when I use movies. And I’ll come up with other ways to create peace and quiet, some downtime in my room, when the kids can work independently and I can get organized. My guess is that it will involve silent reading: I’ll spend the first few weeks of school really working with them on independent reading, developing a system and creating an environment that will eventually reward me with some quiet time when I need it.

But there’s the rub: I’m not back in the classroom. I think I might suffer from the kind of amnesia that comes from elapsed time. I may have forgotten how desperate a teacher can become for a little extra time to get things done. And there’s this, too: As I write this post, all three of those precious children of mine have been placed in a technology coma, two on iPads, one watching a show. Despite my most lofty convictions of what’s right, I’m still doing it.

So I pose the question to you: How do you create downtime in class? How do you, if ever, put your students “on pause” in order to catch up on administrative tasks? Have you figured out how to make most or all of the time they spend in your class academically engaging? I think we can all agree that movies work fine on an occasional basis, but is it possible to rely too much on them? Are there more creative ways to keep kids minds engaged AND get a little time back for ourselves? Please share your ideas here so we can all learn together. ♦

To read some of the best solutions to this problem, check out John Spencer’s fantastic post, Seven Creative Alternatives to Showing Movies Before the Break. And if you need a more big-picture solution to your time management issues, learn about the 40-Hour Teacher Workweek.

How to create downtime for kids

Downtime, or allowing kids to play freely without adult supervision, organization or intervention, is a hot topic. Neurologists, psychologists and other experts are adamant that kids’ brains require unscheduled time, separate from adults, to daydream, process and integrate information accumulated during their busy days—in essence, to function optimally. What kids get instead are organized activities directed, mediated and supervised by grown-ups.

According to Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range parenting movement and president of LetGrow (an organization that helps communities foster free play), and other experts, all of this is to our kids’ detriment.

Yet every parent we’ve spoken with about this has, in actuality, let go of the fantasy of offering their own kids the freedoms they themselves enjoyed as children. Perhaps experiences like author Kim Brooks’—in which she was charged with a crime for leaving her four-year-old son alone in the car (on a cool day, with the windows cracked and the alarm on) for a few minutes so she could buy batteries at a store mere feet away—deter us all from letting go.

We reached out to Skenazy to ask how exactly we can build downtime into our kids’ lives, given our current parenting culture. How can we give kids the freedom to play while keeping them safe and avoiding, oh… arrest? (That is, unless you live in a free-range state.) Here, her insights and advice.

SZ: Why has unstructured downtime all but disappeared from our children’s lives?

LS: The problem comes from the twin fears stalking American parents: Either their children will be kidnapped, raped and eaten. or not get into Harvard. Either way, parents feel they (or some other approved adults) have to be with their kids every moment of every day, making sure they are safe, and that not a teachable moment slips by un-taught.

SZ: What could kids gain if we prioritized free play?

LS: Kids are primed to learn through their own curiosity, and if we just gave them some downtime, they’d start to develop their own interests and, through these, the persistence, practice, resilience and focus that we want to see in them in the classroom. Even if it’s just getting really good at Minecraft, or drawing, or kickball.

SZ: So what are some concrete things we can do to offer them free play?

LS: First of all, you need free time for free play. They have to be free of their after-school obligations, whether it’s crocheting club or lacrosse. But most importantly, they need other kids to play with. Why are kids on their computers and not outside? The answer is, being outside in and of itself is not necessarily alluring; just letting them out to play in the backyard might not work because not every kid is fascinated by bugs or leaves or dirt. What kids love is other kids. They don’t have to be the same age but they do have to be other kids.

SZ: How can our kids play freely when there are no other kids outside to play with?

LS: One program we’re promoting is the Let Grow Play Club, where we convince schools to stay open for three hours in the afternoons for kids to just play. You’d have a critical mass of children all in one place—a place that parents trust. There’s an adult on premises in case of emergency, just like a lifeguard. And no devices. Schools are already best equipped to enforce that kind of [screen-free] policy.

You could also seek out likeminded parents. Kids are as hungry for play as we are hungry for somebody to hang out with. Try to find other local parents who are willing to have a cup of coffee with you while you send your kids outside, and then don’t interfere. If the kids come to you [asking for direction, tell them], “We are not your playmates. Mommy has her playmate and you have yours.” Get them used to just having free time. Bring your computer over to your friend’s house and you guys have a work date while your kids have a playdate.

SZ: So to clarify, it’s not just downtime, but downtime without adult involvement that kids really need?

LS: Yes. You can’t tell your kid, “Go organize a game” if all the games are organized for them and have been their whole lives. It’s free play that’s not for a grade or a class or a trophy. It’s just for fun. Kids have to come up with something to do, and convince their friends to change the rules and get along well enough to keep a game going. That’s learning social-emotional skills. Free play is the humanizing, socializing force that mother nature instilled in us—this desire to play. It’s not just thinking kids need time sitting on the grass or even riding their bikes on the street; none of those things are as enriching as free play. The lessons we worry kids aren’t getting—empathy, compromise, creativity, communication skills, leadership, joy—are gained this way. The brain is way more turned on in that time than when it’s sitting in class learning long division. You learn patience and perseverance because you want to get better at drawing or free throws. All the things you want to see in a kid, like excitement or discipline, those things happen when they’re pursuing something because they had the free time to stumble upon it and grow to love it. And it comes from them.

SZ: Some schools offer amazing after-school programming, from foreign language classes to yoga to robotics. The downside is, kids get overscheduled.

LS: What are the chances that your kid is going to spend the rest of his life as a chess champion, or crochet her way across America, as opposed to being in a relationship, learning to care, learning to make something happen, learning to get a group galvanized? In life, what’s your kid really going to need? And what’s going to give it to them?

SZ: This all sounds convincing and true. And somehow, sadly, easier said than done.

LS: Look, you can’t raise kids in captivity. It involves expecting kids to be pretty resilient if they face physical or emotional distress. It involves not going to the darkest place all the time. When my mom sent me to school, she wasn’t thinking, “What if she never got there? What if she was kidnapped and killed?!” [Perhaps she was thinking] “What if she falls and is bleeding…?” Or “What if she is called a doodoo-head by her erstwhile friend?” So this [current climate of fear] is not instinctive. It is not the fault of “helicopter” parents. Our society has been scaring us to death! You’ve got to stop thinking that it’s normal to think of your kids dying the minute you let them out of your sight.

Screen Time is a powerful tool for managing kids’ screen time, but a couple settings make a big difference.

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The Screen Time feature available across iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS 10.15 Catalina—as well as being part of Family Sharing—provides parents with strong tools for keeping track of their kids’ screen usage and making sure they can’t use their devices at all hours or for purposes that a parent hasn’t allowed.

But I’ve found in my own household and from readers there are two critical settings surprisingly easy to miss that let kids bypass management settings.

In Settings > Screen Time, you need to start with Use Screen Time Passcode. (You can also manage this in Family Sharing from Settings > account name > Family Sharing > Screen Time.) You can set a quiet period, called Downtime, control which apps may be used, and set which contacts are ok for phone calls and messages during regular time and Downtime.

Block at Downtime puts the teeth into Screen Time limits.

What I have found I’ve sometimes missed and readers have, too, is a critical step: in the Downtime section, the Block at Downtime button at the bottom has to be set to on. If it’s off, your child will be notified when they launch an app or visit a website that’s not whitelisted, but they can tap to get more time or ignore the restriction for the rest of the day. (I have Downtime turned on for my devices to remind me to stop using software in the evening, but when I still need access, I can just tap.)

With Block at Downtime enabled, they can typically tap to get one more minute in an app or, with Family Sharing enabled, request more time. Or they can ask you in person to enter a code to grant more time. Without it, it’s self regulated, though you can check via the Screen Time activity view if they’re using it outside of agreed-upon hours.

The other setting to pay attention to in Screen Time > Communication Limits. You can opt to restrict calls, texts, and audio/video chat separately for at all times and during Downtime. However, if you don’t flip the Allow Contact Editing switch off, youth have a way around this: they can add phone numbers and email addresses to existing approved contacts.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Eric.

Use Microsoft’s Family Settings to create a safe environment for your child.

If you are buying a Windows laptop for your child as a holiday present or because it’s required for school, then you need to know how to set it up with Microsoft’s parental controls to cordon off certain corners of the Internet. You can even set up time limits and sign up to get a weekly report on your kid’s online activity. Let’s get started.

Create an account for your kid

Microsoft allows you to create separate accounts for children, which you, as the adult in the room, can then manage. After signing into your own Microsoft account on your kid’s laptop, go to Settings > Accounts > Family & other users and click Add a family member. Next, select Add a child and then click The person I want to add doesn’t have an email address to create an account if your child doesn’t already have a Microsoft account.

How to create downtime for kidsScreenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

After creating an account for your child, you will then need to log in to your account and, to prove you are an adult, provide your credit card information and agree to a $0.50 charge, which Microsoft will donate to charity. Upon making your tiny charitable donation, your kid’s account will no longer be listed as “pending” on the Family & other people page in Settings, and you can start setting parental controls.

Family safety first

After signing in to your own account, click Family in the top right to view your family members. Under your child’s account, you’ll see four items listed: Activity, Screen time, Content restrictions and Spending.

For Activity, the setup is simple. Toggle on Activity reporting, which shows you the searches and web history of your child along with the apps and games he or she has used. You can view this information on the Activity page and also click a toggle switch to get a weekly report emailed to you.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

For Screen time, you can set time limits for the laptop or PC registered to your child’s account as well as an Xbox. If your kid tries to use the laptop outside the time window you set, he or she will not be able to log into their account and will be told to either log into a different account or turn off the PC.

For Content restrictions, you can set an age restriction for apps, games & media as well as for web browsing. For the latter, you can blacklist sites you know you don’t want your child accessing or you can create a whitelist and allow access only to the sites you specifically add. Microsoft tracks usage only in its Edge browser, but to prevent unfettered internet access from another browser, Microsoft blocks Chrome, Firefox, Opera and a few other browsers by default. Also in Content restrictions, you can require Microsoft Store purchases to get your approval first.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

For Spending, you can add money to your kid’s account as sort of a digital allowance for the Microsoft Store.

Simple settings that let you manage screen limits from your phone.

By Caroline Knorr
April 28, 2019 5:30PM (UTC)


This post originally appeared on Common Sense Media.

Taking away your kid’s phone at night isn’t the only way to make sure they get a good night’s sleep (and avoid any inappropriate late-night use). You can also enable settings that lock phones from dusk ’til dawn — or any other time you want to make them unavailable. (Get tips on the best practices for using parental controls.) Here are a few methods to turn off kids’ phones at night.

Turn off iPhones

You can cut your kid off by enabling Downtime in the OS. Located in the Screen Time settings, Downtime makes an iPhone more like a regular phone: Kids can still call, text, FaceTime, and use any apps that you allow, such as a music-streaming app. But you can also turn off everything but the calling feature if you wish. You can enable Screen Time on your kid’s phone and protect the settings with a pass code, or you can remotely manage your kid’s phone by setting everyone up on Family Sharing.

  • Go to Settings on your kid’s phone.
  • Tap Screen Time.
  • Tap Use Screen Time Passcode and enter a pass code (this locks the setting so kids can’t change it back).
  • Tap on Downtime, toggle it on, and set a Start and End Time.
  • If you want to turn off messaging and FaceTime during Downtime, go to Screen Time/Always Allowed/Allowed Apps and remove them.
  • If you want to manage your kid’s phone using your own phone, first set up Family Sharing and then enable Screen Time settings.

Turn off Android phones

Google’s Family Link app allows you to schedule a span of time for the phone to be off, such as bedtime. But you can also completely lock the device so kids can’t even get into it. Family Link requires two downloads, one for your phone and one for your kid’s.

  • Download the Family Link for Parents app on your phone (available for iOS or Android).
  • Download the Family Link for Children & Teens on your kid’s phone (available for Android only).
  • On your phone, create a family manager account.
  • Once your kid’s profile is set up, select Bedtime and set the span of time your kid can’t use their phone.
  • If you want to completely shut down your kid’s device, go to their profile and tap “lock.”

Turn off any phone on the network

If you’re somewhat tech savvy, you can see if your router software (which you can find on your main home computer) offers the ability to disconnect devices from the network. Otherwise, look to your internet service provider. Some ISPs also offer robust parental controls, such as content filtering, website blocking, and location services, as a built-in feature or a service that you can access through an app. Here’s a sampling; if you don’t see your carrier, give them a call.

Offers a full suite of parental controls in addition to letting you disconnect devices. Requires two apps: the AT&T Secure Family app, which you download onto your phone, and the Secure Family Companion App, which you download onto your kid’s phone.

Allows you to pause the internet whenever you want as well as schedule a time for the device to disconnect from the network. You can also remotely manage access to other content (for example, videos).

Verizon Smart Family, $9.99/mo; included with Verizon Smart Family phone plan

Offers an array of parental controls. Requires two apps: the Verizon Smart Family, which you download onto your phone, and the Smart Family companion app, which you download onto your kid’s phone.

When it comes to scheduling kids’ extracurricular programs, it’s essential to balance their participation in classes and sports with the need for unstructured relaxation time.

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Finding the Right Balance

Given what we know about the positives of extracurricular activities and also the benefits of downtime, how do we go about finding what works for us? Here are some tips for ensuring your kids experience the right mix of enriching activities and nourishing downtime.

Create a schedule that works for your family. Because many children spend too much time using mobile devices and watching TV, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends maintaining at least one hour of physical activity a day and limiting screen time to two hours a day, according to Melanie Wilson-Taylor, M.D., F.A.A.P., also of South Slope pediatrics. “Oftentimes parents are busy with work or taking care of younger children and there can be pressure to make sure that kids are kept busy,” she says. “Many parents often feel the need to compete and make sure their child has access to every extracurricular activity in order to be a better candidate for the next level of school.”

Carefully consider what activities are right for your child. Dr. Wilson-Taylor recommends parents ask their child if she enjoys the activity and to consider whether there are true benefits—academic, social, personal development—in it. She cautions that sometimes the amount of time a child spends in an activity is reasonable but the type of activity may not fit the personality of the child. Parents should consider whether their child prefers group or individual activities, for instance, or whether the child will experience undue anxiety of performing in an end-of-year production or recital.

“Parents should also be mindful about how extracurricular activities affect the behavior and self-worth,” Dr. Wilson-Taylor says. “If the child is focused on always winning and values themselves based on their ability to succeed in the activity, caregivers should re-evaluate the importance of that activity.” One good rule of thumb she tells her patients: Due to a limited attention span, structured activities for children younger than 6 should be limited to 30 minutes at a time. Older children can tolerate activities that are an hour or two.

Look out for the red flags. According to Dr. Wilson-Taylor, temperament and age play a big part in judging whether a child is overscheduled. Some children like participating in activities outside of school or on the weekends and thrive on constantly doing something. Other children are homebodies or prefer unstructured activities. She cautions that “an overscheduled child has more tantrums prior to the activity, may take a long time to get ready, and may outright say ‘no’ to going. Older children may exhibit poor sleep patterns the night before in anticipation of participating in the event the next day. They also may seem more isolated from friends or family because they are always ‘doing something.’”

Parents should be concerned if they notice a child is clingier to caregivers, his grades are dropping, or her homework is getting squeezed into small gaps of free time—in the car, on the bus, waking up early before school. “If not attended to, young kids communicate discomfort one way or the other and raise the flag. This could be acting out in school or more tantrums at home,” Peters says.

Children may also exhibit stress-induced physical symptoms, some of which can mimic actual illness. “When a child’s day is scheduled down to the minute, they can become stressed, and sometimes manifest physical symptoms of that stress,” Dr. Copenhaver says. “Stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue are common symptoms that children present to my office with, and the problem is sometimes an overloaded schedule without enough down time.” In her practice, she also sees teens complaining of fatigue, and often finds out they are sleeping fewer than five hours a night because of their busy school and after-school schedules.

Trust your gut. “Like everything connected to parenting,” Peters says “this issue is very individual to each family.” Ultimately, she says, parents know their children—and since each situation and child is different, parents must rely on their instincts to decide when their child needs fewer after-school activities and more me time.

The bottom line: You probably don’t need to worry that your child is overscheduled or that the number of activities in which he participates will have a negative impact on him. However, me time remains an essential part of everyone’s life and plays an important role in children’s development—so make sure to schedule some unscheduled time into your child’s life regularly.

This is the second in a two-part series about the importance of downtime. Read the previous article, about me time for moms.