Summer vacation is a mere two days away now!!
We’ve been trying to start thinking through our summer screen time plans. I think we might be onto something that will work for us, and it involves the use of the iPhone’s “Downtime” feature.
We tried to think about what matters to our boys, and discussed with them. These items include:
- DAILY time to “check” their games/ devices (they prefer shorter amount EVERY day vs. longer/ unlimited time on other days)
- The ability to play when their friends are (i.e. not limiting them to only rigid, specific time slots, arbitrarily, that might not match up with their BFF’s availability).
- They both enjoy some morning screen time, especially on “lazy” days (days they don’t have to go anywhere/ nothing pressing to do). They both ranked this very highly- they love to wake up and then lounge for a bit, playing on their phone or game, before getting on with the rest of the day. (Neither of my boys are late sleepers (yet?).)
- They want COMMUNICATION access to be fairly unrestricted (as do I). The reality is, we don’t have a home phone line. If kids are going to meet up at the pool, or the park, or want to get together, I want the boys to be freely reachable by their friends. So, we all agreed that access to their texts/ phone calls was a high priority. (Meaning, the answer to screen time dilemmas can’t be for me to just confiscate their phone all day.)
What we do NOT want:
- Constant, unlimited scrolling, video watching, playing games, etc., every 5 minutes, during the entire day. We (Ivan and I) told them we want them to have “blocks” of time that they can play, but then other, big, long stretches of time when the phone is simply not an option.
- I do not want to have to “babysit” their phones. (I usually work in the basement. So, even if we, say, park the phones in the kitchen drawer during the day during “non-use” times, I’m simply not up there to see what they are actually doing!!) But as stated above, I do want them to have access to their phones to receive texts/ calls. Therefore, this was an area we thought hard on. I am not interested in having to monitor where the phone is, if someone was actually “playing a round” instead of checking for texts, etc.
Our Solution= DOWNTIME
We’ve landed on using the iPhone’s Downtime feature.
Both of the boys’ phones are linked to our Apple IDs, so we can control things on theirs from our phones.
The Downtime feature allows us to essentially turn their smartphones into dumb phones– PERFECT!!
We have them both set so that when in Downtime, they can make phone calls and receive texts- and that is it! No apps, no games, not even Safari/ web browsing/ going to youtube.com to watch videos instead of the app….. (You can personalize which apps are allowed during Downtime- we just blocked everything for now. Just FYI though- it is customizable.)
* Allow X amount of time in the morning (the exact time will depend on Asher’s a.m. swim practice schedule/ Ethan’s work hours- may vary day to day). But we’ll probably allow an hour or so in the a.m., but not before a certain time.
*After the allotted time is done, I will switch their phones into Downtime. (I can do this from my own phone in 1 second- very easy). They will then be free to ride bikes, play board games, read, play with friends, do chores, etc. etc. etc. 😉
*Then, sometime later in the afternoon/ evening, after a “screen free day”, I will unblock them for another session. When that’s done, I’ll probably put them back on Downtime until the next day.
Some reasons I like this:
- It’s easy
- It’s flexible and can be controlled from my phone. (For example- let’s say the phone is in Downtime, and Ethan is at a friend’s house. Maybe it starts to pour outside, and all the boys there want to play video games for a bit. Maybe, under the circumstances, I’m fine with that, on that day. He can just send a request through asking for “more time”- which I can approve (or deny), from my phone, for 15 minutes, 1 hour, or just unblock it. I like that it’s not SO RIGID, because I think over-rigidity is a recipe for disaster.
- I love that it allows them to still have their phone with them (if biking alone to a friend’s, I WANT THEM TO HAVE THEIR PHONE!), but takes away the option of constant gaming/ video watching. Perfect.
I do think the Downtime feature has lots of room for improvement. I wish it had options to set multiple schedules (currently can only set one recurring schedule, like for overnight use). For our purposes, we’ll have to do a lot of manual turning it on and off. (Apple, if you’re reading this, take note. 😂 What’s that? Apple people don’t read this blog?? Oh, fine then. 😜)
But I’m feeling pretty content with this plan. They do also use the Xbox for gaming, but that is easier to control (much more obvious when they’re on it….). We’ve told them they don’t get separate phone + xbox time…. During their “screen time”, they can use whichever they want, so choose wisely, because when it’s done, they are both off limits.
Anyone use Downtime for teen phone control?? We’ve been trialing it lately, and so far, so good. 👍 The key for us has been the combo of game/video/app control + still having text access.
I am grateful for Ted Lasso. It is seriously THE BEST show!! We just finished Season 2 last night…now we have to wait for the new season to come out. If you haven’t watched it, DO IT. Hilarious, heart warming, so entertaining… just great.