February 29, 2024

Attention parents with “screeners”: The US government has issued a public warning that scrolling through apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat could pose serious risks to your child’s mental health.

in a 19-page report, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said Tuesday that while social media offers young people some benefits, including the ability to connect with their communities, it also exposes them to potential harms, such as cyberbullying and content that promotes eating disorders, self-harm and self-harm . other destructive behavior. Social media can also impair exercise, sleep and other activities, he said.

What can parents do? One is to explore potential options for limiting children’s screen time. Let’s go through them.

Google and Apple’s mobile operating systems offer free tools that effectively limit screen time on smartphones and tablets. These tools allow parents to monitor and set limits on their children’s devices.

For Android devices, there’s Family Link, an app that must be downloaded through the Google Play Store. From there, parents can set up their child’s Google account to be monitored using the software. For parents who use iPhones and want to manage their kids’ Android phones, there’s also the Family Link app for iOS.

For the iPhone, Apple’s iOS includes a tool called “Screen Time,” which can also limit the amount of time someone spends on the device.It can be activated in the iPhone’s Settings app via Follow Apple’s instructions.

Both have pros and cons.

Google’s Family Link has some useful features, including the option to deny apps kids try to download, and the ability to lock the device at certain times — such as between 9pm and 7am when the kids are in bed.

But Family Link has one major limitation: When kids turn 13, they can choose to “graduate” (Google calls it “graduation”), or remove the restriction. At this age, children meet the minimum age requirement in the United States to create a Google Account without parental consent.

One workaround for parents who want to continue using these restrictions is to go into their child’s Google account and change the age to under 13.

When the tool launched, we also tested Apple’s Screen Time feature in a week-long experiment. This feature allows parents to set time limits for specific apps or categories of apps (such as social networking or games) on their child’s iPhone. When a child runs out of time on an app, it locks the child out. Parents can then have a conversation with their child and decide whether to allow more time spent on the app.

The downside is that parents who also use these tools to monitor their phone usage can easily bypass the restrictions using a passcode — and they may realize that they are more screen-obsessed than their children.


There are also third-party Android and iOS apps that allow parents to manage screen time, but they should be used with caution. Some unknown brands of apps marketed as parental control apps have been used by stalkers to track users’ locations and even eavesdrop on them through their microphones — a type of malware security researchers call “stalkerware.”

There are plenty of resources for parents to find reputable tools that work on PCs as well as phones and tablets. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews products for the home, found that Qustodio and Internet nanny Give parents deep control over their kids’ devices.

Social media companies also offer features to remind people to stop scrolling.For example, Instagram has a “Take a break” reminder Turns out, TikTok this year rolled out its own tool to limit the time spent in its app.

But the effectiveness of these features has been questioned. Many people, including teenagers, find these tools easy to overwrite.

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