One of the hardest things to monitor as a parent is the internet. At our home we have tried a variety of parental control apps – with varying success. Each that we have tried has it’s pros and cons. Every time we have “solved” it – our kids get smarter and are able to bypass.
Apple Screentime – Built into the iOS ecosystem. This is a free solution that can monitor time by app, set downtime and limits. There is also reporting so you can see visually where your child is spending their time online.
Circle – We have used Circle for quite a while – and although it initially worked well as time has gone on our children have gotten more savvy about bypassing it’s limits. I really like the ability to pause the internet for all devices with a click and setting up profiles by person. We use the Premium Option. I also liked filtering and the ability to block things like the internet, specific sites and specific applications at various times.
Bark – We haven’t tried Bark yet, but plan to in the near future. I like that it also monitors text messages.
Whatever solution you choose – you should make sure you monitor it to ensure that it is working as you planned.
I recently had the opportunity to test Kami with my son. Kami is a web based tool that can be used both online and offline. This digital classroom Kami allowed him to edit PDFs, use speech to text/text to speech, access a digital whiteboard and more. My son is a middle school student – and has terrible handwriting. He often comes home with papers and we can’t read them. Enter, Kami, now we scan them either using my phone or flatbed scanner – run OCR with Kami and he’s ready to annotate in moments.
Our main image is a google doc I started with my son, moved to Powerpoint, and then finally realized I could have accomplished in much less time with Kami. It’s the cover for a report about Moose. In this report, he inserted images, did speech to text, and even did citations!
One of my favorite tools is the Split and Merge tool which allows you to customize and combine PDFs (meaning we could take a stack of worksheets — have my son work on them digitally) and then split them up to the assignments to turn them in! He often uses Google Docs for assignments – and when he found an image he wanted to use – sometimes he struggles to insert it. Using the Split and Merge we pulled in the Google Docs and were able to insert the images prior to finalizing the document as a PDF. Easy!
I also liked that instead of printing everything – I was able to create a PDF, annotate, and then use that instead of printing out a stack of papers that might later be thrown out – plus I like that it has fewer environmental implications which makes it a win/win! In addition, it was easy to use and includes integrations with Google Classroom,
For educators, Kami offers a free online certification that teaches you ways to use Kami that you might not have thought of. It’s an easy-to-use versatile piece of software that for him has made doing schoolwork and everyday work easier. Teachers can use Kami to help with IEP goals especially around notes or providing electronic copies of documents instead of paper handouts.
Teaching your child to read is most likely one of the hardest things I have done with my kids – but among the most rewarding. Reading opens up a whole world for kids. I remember when I was young, I struggled to learn to read, but using a variety of strategies I worked to learn.
Teaching my now first grader to read, is different. There are apps to use versus physical workbooks. We also have leveled early readers and go to the library often to pick up new books. I remember going to the library when I was little and I always loved to pick out new books.
Independent reading is made more fun with Bluebee Pals. My son enjoys sitting with Sammy the Bear and reading different books – and even sometimes just looking at the photos and trying to figure out what the story might say. We have read a variety of different books including Poky the Little Puppy and reading along. He often hugs Sammy and reads to him. I asked him why he liked reading with Sammy – he said Sammy helps him to learn. He uses Sammy to help him “tap” out his letters using Fundations which help him determine if he has a “just right book”
Reading apps for kids include
Reading Egg – this app by Blake eLearning includes a test at the beginning so that you can determine your child’s reading level. Through interactive games you practice sight words, digital story books, learning lessons including rhyming and interactive reading. My son loves working for the Golden Eggs and pairs his iPad with his Bluebee Pal so the two of them can work on reading together!
Epic is a reading app that includes 40K books from 250 platforms. You can choose books that are read aloud or your child can read by themselves. The app includes picture books, different types of books including some of my son’s favorites community helpers like police and learning videos as well!
This post has also been posted on Bluebee Pals where I guest post on occasion.
Remote learning in our family has re-defined screen time for us. Previously we had fairly stringent controls using Circle, but we have had to loosen those up to allow for remote schooling. I made a profile for my boys – one for school and one for at home, that way we can have stronger controls on our home devices versus those that are needed for school.
We try to limit screentime at home to one or two hours a day based on the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. On the weekends, we try to go outside and enjoy nature by going for a hike, doing land art or finding shells at a nearby beach. My younger son especially loves to go outside and run. It’s a great break from the screens and an opportunity to get outside and play! Playtime outside is such an important time which allows kids to use their imagination, enjoy different animals and experiences that they might not otherwise have at home.
Recently, my son did land art at school and decided to pick up shells at school and make a sculpture of land art on the beach. It was fun to watch him make it – and to get outside.
That said – limiting screentime during remote learning is tough! Blue light blocker glasses work well for kids as well as the ability to adjust the brightness and color shift the screen. We also remind our kids to be good digital citizens. We also screen programming to make sure it is age appropriate, remind them of good digital behavior and encourage use of screens in family spaces like the living room. NetSmartz is a great resource for kids and parents, as is this Boys Life article about cyber safety.
My husband and I know that screens are here to stay, and we can find different ways to encourage off time from the screens when not doing schooling.
As a parent, one of the many questions I think about is the impact of screen time and kids. For a child aged 2 – 5 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 hour per day of high quality programs. I struggle with this because we use learning apps like Reading Eggs, ABC Mouse and educational alternatives – how does this factor in.
As a previous blogger and app reviewer at The iMums – there are no easy answers. For me, we choose high quality media while watching television such as PBS Kids and while using a tablet, we try to monitor usage while educating like Reading Egg and ABC Mouse. These apps teach educational things like sight words, ABCs, early math, history, science and reading.
It’s important as parents to set limits for our kids and for ourselves. Knowing when enough is enough is important. Setting a digital family diet will help to reinforce those limits and it may vary from family to family.