My son is doing well in school, but we don’t feel he’s challenging himself and we’re not comfortable with the amount of time he spends playing video games. He’s often in his room for hours communicating with his real-life friends who are also playing the same game from home. It’s become his major social outlet. Any advice?  

How Can I Just Shut It Off?

We’ve all been there–sometimes you’ve just got to cut your child off, and it’s a lot easier if you can avoid an all-out tug-of-war. We wish we could point you to the magic button, but there is unfortunately no elegant solution that works comprehensively across computers, gaming consoles, iPhones and iPads. We do, however, have four recommendations depending on your situation. All of these are solutions that you can manage from the convenience of your phone.  

  1. For Apple iOS devices only, we recommend using Apple’s latest parental controls known as Screen Time. In general, Screen Time gives parents a lot of control with the option to set time limits by categories and for specific apps. You can use the Downtime feature to act as the global OFF button. However, the user interface is not all that slick (about 10 taps plus some scrolling).
  2. For easier access, we recommend using OurPact for iOS devices. You can block or grant access with one tap, plus you can automate block schedules (e.g. dinner time, homework etc.). At $1.99/month, we think it’s a convenience feature worth having.
  3. For computers, we recommend Mobicip. Not only will it help you to filter out restricted content on YouTube (including on iOS devices using the browser-version), but you will also have visibility into what videos your kids are watching and what sites they’ve visited in general. Your child’s activity appears on your parent dashboard in real-time, so it’s easy to monitor how much time your kids are spending and where. Also, your kids can’t delete their history and there’s no private browsing mode. You can turn computers on and off in a few taps and you can set on/off schedules. Mobicip is installed directly on a device, so it will work when you’re in or out of the house. It’s $40 per year–again, we think worth it!
  4. If gaming consoles and Smart TVs are also a major issue, then there’s Circle. Circle can block or grant time on any device connected to your home Wifi and you can create schedules. It offers web filtering and can control some (but not all) apps on mobile devices. Parents should note that Circle controls the Internet signal, so it will not control gaming consoles using discs. Also, with Circle there is a one-time device fee of $99, but if you want coverage outside your home, you will need to sign up Circle on-the-go which is $9.99 per month.

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