Usage of smartphones and tablets among children has tripled since
2011, according to Common Sense Media, a San Francisco based
non-profit that studies the effects of media and technology on young
A new app called DinnerTime Parental Control, for iPhone or Android
smartphones, enables parents to restrict when children can use their
smartphones and tablets.
“The price of entry level smartphones and tablets have come down a
lot, and as a result, more and more kids have their own individual
devices,” said Richard Sah, co-founder of DinnerTime, based in San
With the free app, parents can pause activity on a child’s Android
smartphone or tablet so that they can focus on things like homework,
exercise and family time. Once a device has been paused, all
functions on their device are blocked, including the ability to text
and play with apps.
To use the app, parents install it on the child’s device and enter
in their phone number to link the two devices. Parents can then set
specific break times, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours, when
the device will be locked. A countdown screen displayed on the
child's device shows when they can use it again.
Sah said he was inspired to develop the app by the tradition of
family dinners, which he thinks is being lost in the age of
“Dinner time brings families together for quality time and to have
lots of different conversations. We want people to come together for
engaging conversations, rather than be distracted by a tablet,” he
DinnerTime Plus, another free app from the company, lets parents
manage the apps their children use and to views the apps they are
using in real time.
Parents can also purchase detailed reporting, which outlines how
much time kids spend on certain apps, and how often they used them.
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With another app called ScreenTime, parents can push a button on
their phones to block usage on their children's devices. They can
also set daily time limits for particular apps. The app, for
Android, requires a subscription of $3.99 a month.
Kimberly Young, a psychologist who focuses on Internet addiction,
believes parents need to control how much time their children spend
on their devices. But she added an app might not be the best way to
“I do not agree that any app is better than good old-fashioned
parenting in terms of treating Internet addiction,” said Young, who
added that she has seen children as young as 3 years old using
“The larger issue is how young is too young,” said Young.
Sah is also concerned about usage of devices by young children.
"Most kids can use smartphones before learning to write their names
or tie their shoes,” he said.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jonathan Oatis)
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