‘Screen’ Device Gives Parents Control Over Kids’ Technology Use


A New York startup called Screen allows parents to turn off all technological devices remotely to prevent kids from over-using them or using them when they should be doing something else like homework — and this can be done wherever the youngsters may be, writes Edward C. Baig of USA Today.

Screen can turn off phones, TVs, Windows computers, game systems, and tablets. Parents can modify or control screen-time from their Android or iOS devices, but not from a web browser or a computer app.

The problem has become widespread in today’s connected world, with parents frustrated with kids who are constantly texting, building on Minecraft, or watching YouTube. Children spend an average of six hours a day looking at a screen, not counting hours spent online for school or homework. Teenagers now average nine hours daily, and typically there are around a dozen devices available to kids at home, reports Common Sense Media.

The idea is not a new one, but Screen’s hardware and software approach creates a type of Internet of Things (IoT) solution. Tali Orad, a mom, software engineer, and creator of Screen, says she does not want to be the tech police for her children.

She wants to have a mutually agreeable set of boundaries for when devices should be off, including parents’ tech instruments. Orad encourages a family agreement that establishes ground rules that can only be changed by a parent once they are in place.

For parents to monitor a TV, set-top box, or a game console, a small Screen box must be connected by way of HDMI. If anyone breaks the rules, parents can “shake” their device to turn off all Screen-controlled devices. Youngsters get a warning before their devices shut down.

Dan Tynan of Yahoo! gives an example of how an agreement might work. A parent may want everyone’s phones off during dinner time. Maybe the eight-year-old son’s tablet is going to be shut down at 8:00 pm, but the teen daughter’s computer can stay on until 10:00 pm. Alternately, a parent could allow a specific number of hours on devices each day, or could set each member of the family’s sleep and wake-up times.

Screen will sell as both a device and a service, but, for now, will not charge for the service component. The cost of the device will be $139, but for those who want to pre-order before the official launch, it is $99.

Mark Hachman, in an article for TechHive, writes that as screen time continues to increase, scientists have warned about side effects such as lowered attention spans, obesity, and even violence.

The new device can communicate where children are as they are using a piece of tech, allow parents to view what the kids are watching, and can log the applications that are being used.

A poll last year conducted by ComRes in the UK found that almost half of the children of the parents who were surveyed were addicted to their smartphones, tablets, and computers, reports Sarah Griffiths for the Daily Mail.