On the way home from kindergarten on a recent hot and humid afternoon, my son from the backseat of the car asks me why all of his friends are allowed to play video games after school and he isn't. I quickly point out that I am taking his sister and him to the pool to swim, and doesn't he think his friends would rather go swimming than be stuck in a hot house playing video games today?
After a beat, he replies, "No, I bet they are happy."
This, from a kid who loves to swim more than any other outside activity I can name!
And, thus, it is this addictive quality of all manner of screens -- phones, tablets, TVs -- that has resulted in a ban on any and all screen time during the week in our home. If you have more relaxed rules on screens in your home and have trouble getting your kids to put down their screens to do anything else -- namely, come to the dinner table when called -- then you might try the DinnerTime app.
The DinnerTime app is available for Android. When you install the free app, you select either Parent or Kid. There is a parental-only app for iOS but that's it; you are out of luck should your kids have iPhones, iPads, or iPods because of the restrictions within Apple's mobile OS.
There is also a DinnerTime Plus app for Android, which is also free but offers a $1.99 in-app purchase for detail usage reports for your kid's device (Just how long did you say you were on your iPod last night, son?) and can increase the numbers of supported kids' devices from the two you get with the basic DinnerTime app to five.
I set up the DinnerTime parental app on an iPhone and the DinnerTime app for a kid's device using an Android tablet. Setup was a snap, once I figured out that the Android tablet needed to be running the basic DinnerTime app instead of DinnerTime Plus, which refused to link up with my iPhone.
On my iPhone, I registered by entering my phone number. Then on the Android tablet, I was instructed to enter my parent's phone number, give the device a name, and then hit send to fire off a text to my iPhone. The text contained a link, which I tapped to link the two devices.
With the Android tablet linked to my parental iPhone, I was able to lock the Android tablet from my iPhone in one of three ways. The Dinner Time break lets you start a 30-minute, 1-hour, or 2-hour break for dinner. A timer on the Android tablet shows how much time remained for dinner, and -- should dinner end early -- you can stop your dinner break at any time from the parental app. The Bed Time break lets you set a start and an end time when the device is locked for lights out. Lastly, the Take a Break feature lets you start and stop a break without a predetermined time limit.
So, why can't little Johnny just delete the app should he decide to risk your ire and engage in a covert Minecraft binge? Because when you set up DinnerTime on his Android device, the app prompts you to enable Device Admin mode, which prevents little Johnny from deleting or disabling the app.
In settings on the parental app, you can disable Admin Mode, edit the device name, and unlink any of your connected devices. Also in settings on the parental app, you can link another parent phone so either Mom or Dad can put the kibosh on extended screen time.