Family vs screen time: can we get our kids back?
YOU see it so often. The kids are playing on the beach and mum or dad has his face buried in his phone.
Or teenage girls seem more intent on capturing a moment for their Instagram feed than enjoying the moment themselves.
But our smart devices are not just invading our leisure time.
Studies are showing that even the mere presence of your phone can be such a huge distraction that affects your productivity at work.
So how do we regain control, set a better example for our kids, and importantly put some boundaries in around the use of our devices.
Ironically, tech giants like Apple and Microsoft are now urging parents to take up the downtime tools they have put in place to limit the use of their devices.
The federal Department of Health recommends that children under two should not spend any time watching TV or using electronic media.
Those aged two to five should be limited to less than one hour a day.
Those aged five to 17 should spend no more than two hours, including watching TV or looking at a computer, phone or tablet.
So how can you regain control?
Apple suggests one of the best ways is to set up Family Sharing on all devices - and set limits for children using their iPad or iPhone.
The first step is to ensure every family member has their own Apple ID. Parents can set up ones for children under 13.
Once you have done that, set up Family Sharing. One of the big advantages is that once you buy an app, movie, TV show or music, it can be shared among the whole family, rather than purchased again and again.
A good example might be a great educational app for the iPad which may be used by the next sibling when they are old enough.
Apple's latest operating system, iOS 12, also allows you to monitor how much you - and the kids - spend on their devices.
The beauty of Screen Time is, as a parent, you can see how much time they use certain apps, for example, Facebook and Instagram versus more productive or creative applications of their time.
Opening Screen Time can be depressing. Last week, I spent more than four hours on social media, nearly two hours on email and another two hours on websites - and I was on a week off!
I picked up my phone more than 80 times in the day after receiving more than 70 notifications a day. Talk about distracted!
One simple solution, of course, is to limit the number of applications that can send you notifications.
Another is to set time limits you and your kids can spend on specific apps and websites.
You might even trade 'active' time - time playing outside - for some screen time.
You can also use family sharing to manage in-app purchases so that every time your child tries to buy a new app - or something within the game itself - you are notified and you have to approve it.
Before approving, you can check out the app's description and age recommendations within the App store straight from the notice you are sent.
Another good idea is to set content and privacy restrictions. For example, younger children may not be able to visit any websites, while older children may have a range of educational ones you think are beneficial to them.
You can also set up content restrictions to keep your kids from accessing movies, TV shows, music, apps, books or podcasts that may include explicit or inappropriate content.
CREATE SOME QUIET TIME
Some suggest one of the best ways to create some quiet time is to not only turn your phone off - but lock it in a drawer.
Research shows it is particularly important that we have a break from our devices for at least an hour before we go to bed.
A less drastic measure is to set up a do not disturb for a specified period of time.
As a family, you might decide dinner time is sacred and that everyone's devices are set to do not disturb for an hour from 6pm to 7pm, for example.
You can also schedule downtime at bedtime when apps and notifications are completely blocked. You can do that through Downtime in Settings>Screen Time.
Another good suggestion is to use Night Shift which changes the screen to a warmer hue when the sun goes down, reducing exposure to blue light.
KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR TEENS
For parents of teenagers, you can use Find My Friends to keep track of your kid. You can even get alerts when they leave or arrive somewhere and see distances and travel time to where they are.
It's particularly handy for working parents who want to know their kids have got to a friend's house, or are at school, or have made it into town, rather than having to continually text them and wait for a response.
Another good tip is to use Messages to set up a group chat with everyone in the family. If you tap the 'i' icon next to each family member you can see where the person is, send your own location or view photos the family has shared.
Another advantage of setting up all your devices properly is that Find My iPhone maps the location of everyone's devices. It's super handy if you have lost the phone in the house as you can make the lost device play a sound from another family device, even if it's in silent mode.
That's a sound you'll want to hear!