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SALT LAKE CITY — "I am so tired of fighting my kids to put their electronics down and go outside and play!" my friend Valarie recently vented her frustrations with me in a Facebook feed. "They revert to toddler-type tantrums. I can bet a million dollars when I say to the kids, 'get shoes on, we are headed to the park,' I will get both whining and them begging to bring their device along too."
She is not alone in this parental frustration. We are parenting today like no one has ever parented before us. Rearing children with technology is uncharted territory. We didn't get our first email addresses until after our driver's license, and when we did use the World Wide Web, we had to first suffer through the sound of dial-up static.
And yet here we are, rearing a generation of children who have been handling tablets longer than they have been toilet trained.
This is new, and this is hard.
So now, we not only battle our children to do their homework and complete their chores, just like so many parents before us, we also have to control the amount of time spent on smartphones, tablets and laptops.
My friend simply asked, "What are ways that I can persuade nonelectronic time without having it feel like a punishment?"
Immediately I imagine myself standing in the middle of the family room, dressed in a black-and-white striped referee jersey, a whistle hanging around my neck and my arms flailing around, trying to draw attention from the backlit screens to the beyond-angry mother.
Thankfully, this scene has yet to happen. But we all feel like the mean referee, blowing the whistle, calling a timeout and sending a child to a corner. In the words of my mother, "Why do I always have to be the mean guy?"
Unless maybe we don't.
What if we use technology to solve this problem technology has created? Let's be smarter than that smart device. Here are three great Android apps to help you manage your child's screen time.
DinnerTime Plus is an Android app with real-time remote monitoring and parental control features to manage and take control of your child's smartphone or tablet, encouraging better habits and curb addiction. You can pause their device, set time limits and block other apps.
The app gives parents the ability to easily lock and unlock their child's Android tablet or smartphone during dinnertime, homework time or bedtime, no matter where they are. Through this app you also get added parental features like real-time monitoring and app or device usage limits and details.
Reuters said, "Parents struggling to get their children away from smartphones and tablets for meals, homework, exercise and other activities can arm themselves with new apps to remotely block access to the devices.
This app works from a parent's phone (Android or iPhone) to link up to two children's Android only devices.
It can upgraded with an in-app purchase of $3.99 to monitor up to five devices.
ScreenTime is the app that I've used with my children for years, and I love it (though my children hate it.) ScreenTime has many of the same great features as DinnerTime Plus. Parents can control daily time limits, set time boundaries, block apps and pause the devices for any length of time. And probably most importantly, it cannot be uninstalled by the children.
I also love that ScreenTime has a daily task feature that children can use to earn more tablet time. I set up a list of chores and when they complete them, they automatically get more time added to their daily limit.
ScreenTime is compatible with Android and has one app for the children's devices and another app that acts as the remote control on a parent's device. However, many of the features listed are only included in the Premium version which is $3.99 a month.
Mobile Fence is another Android app that protects children from accessing harmful content like websites, apps and videos through their device and limits usage time to prevent device addiction. One feature that makes Mobile Fence unique is parents can monitor their children's location in real-time through Geo Fencing and can be notified when children enter or leave safety zones set by parents.
This app has great reviews from parents and is currently free because it is in beta mode.
So let's trade in your whistle and let an app do the refereeing for you.
Nicole Carpenter CEO of www.MOMentity.com and creator of Define Your Time training program. She is a speaker and author of "52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family," available in January 2015. Nicole and her husband are raising four kids in Syracuse, Utah. Follow her on Twitter @momentity.