How Habyts Was Created to Help Parents Set Guidelines for Kids and Screentime
Parents often ask me about guidelines for kids and screentime. I’m glad we are now talking about screentime openly. I’ve often shared how frustrating it was raising my two kids. They were in the first generation of kids heavily using screens. And, social media was introduced. Yet, in parent group discussions, no one was talking about guidelines for kids and screentime. In fact, screentime and kids was a hot topic.
Because I worked from home and homeschooled my two kids, discussions about screentime, apps, and social media were part of our family life. But, my kids will tell you our family was different. We’ve always shared when we are struggling to balance our screentime. I’ve used a few different systems to help me manage my work/life balance because my work life requires me to be on a screen much of the day. As a small business owner, I am seeing so many young adults struggle with this skill. Our kids need guidelines for screentime so they understand healthy and unhealthy habits. Just like our kids need to learn how to balance other areas in their life.
I love meeting other business owners, like Cynthia and Andy Crossley, who are seeing the need to address screentime with their family as well. And, the screentime solution they came up with for their family turned into a product. It was so fun to get the backstory from Cynthia on how Habyts was created to help parents set guidelines for kids and screentime!
How Habyts Was Created to Help Parents Set Guidelines for Kids and Screentime
What was your inspiration for creating Habyts?
My own three sons! I’ve had my fair share of issues with my boys when it comes to screen time, homework, and chores. There were daily struggles to get my older boys off video games, YouTube, and social media. My constant nagging had no impact and only created resentment and distance. Fighting against powerful digital distractions, we had homework battles almost every evening – particularly as key exams were on the horizon. Regular chores and other good habits were out the window. Frankly, it was frustrating for all of us.
I looked into various parenting techniques and tools to help, but couldn’t find anything that did what I needed. We had very practical issues such as how to manage digital distractions when the boys needed the computer for homework, or when they used private browsing to hide their activity, or when they played on their devices offline. I was also keen to find an approach that wasn’t just about control but actually motivated our kids to learn good habits, such as doing chores and taking responsibility. Over time, I wanted “habit systems” that would help my kids learn to self-regulate.
So, we created our app called Habyts, and it turned out that there were a lot of people looking for the same thing. At last, screen-time goes back to being a privilege to be earned, rather than an entitlement to be expected.
What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned while designing and launching Habyts?
When it comes to managing screentime, one size does not fit all. Parents have to consider the real practicalities of daily family life, such as busy schedules, external commitments, and the unique needs of each child (and family). Most importantly, understanding what issue you are trying to resolve can help determine which screentime routine you utilize in your household.
In fact, many parents don’t realize there are alternative ways to set up screentime routines, or that the routine is likely to change over time as the child grows older, a new challenge (like exams) becomes more important, or simply because it’s a different time of year (holiday time versus school time). For example, some parents simply set a daily allowance of screentime for entertainment, such as one hour a day. Others require kids to complete tasks, homework, and even other types of play, such as being outdoors, before screentime. Still other parents limit screentime play to weekends only or educational media only. And some do a mix of routines. The secret is to identify what issue you are trying to resolve for your family and what life habits you would like your child to start learning today.
What makes Habyts different from other parental control apps?
Habyts is much more than a parental control solution. Our mission is to help kids build good habits for life and to do that in a way that is positive for families. In fact, we want to make screen time, chores, and homework a rewarding experience for everyone!
To do this, Habyts uniquely combines automated parental controls with a motivational system for kids. Our app manages your kids’ digital usage while motivating them to earn screentime privileges and other rewards by doing chores, homework, and goal-oriented tasks – without the fighting or nagging. This approach helps parents motivate kids with clear expectations such as “when you finish this, then you can have this privilege.” Kids seem to love this “points for privileges” approach and tell us that it gives them a sense of independence, control, and accomplishment. They just need that extra nudge!
At the same time, we’ve targeted key screentime pain points which other products often miss – such as homework, private browsing, shared devices, and others. For example, our Study Time feature blocks time-wasting apps, games, and websites when your kids do homework, but still lets them use educational apps and websites. So no Minecraft or YouTube while they’re using Wikipedia or Microsoft Word. And no more trying to peek over your teen’s shoulder to make sure they’re doing homework.
At what age should parents begin using Habyts with their kids?
Habyts was designed for ages seven and up, but some parents have used Habyts successfully with younger children. In particular, the younger kids seem to love getting praise and rewards for doing little jobs well, so it’s an easy way to introduce screen limits without being too contentious. At a minimum, Habyts can be used for at least blocking and filtering harmful content at all ages. Not surprisingly, the earlier you can get your child into good habits, the easier it is to build on those habits as they grow older. Habyts is designed to grow with the needs of your kids and teens.
Is there one feature of Habyts that you particularly love?
Parents are constantly asking us how to get buy-in from their kids to manage screentime. Kids then tell us that their parents are hypocritical when it comes to spending time on their own devices. To help address both these issues, we’ve just launched an exciting new set of features called Family View.
Family View encourages a shared family screentime journey by allowing parents to monitor their own screentime use (if desired) and share progress in a Family Scoreboard (within limits). The Family Scoreboard allows the whole family to stay inspired by sharing stats and progress, thus creating a “we’re all in this together” dynamic for the entire family. Families love it!
When it comes to raising kids in a digital world, what is one encouraging thought you have for parents?
Your kids may be tech-savvy, but they need your experience and insight as a parent. In fact, they are desperate for it, even if they don’t tell you. I find it frustrating when the media drones on about how digital natives have the one-up on parents. This misses the point.
Parents know more about life. We know that video games, social media, and texting should not eclipse kids’ connections with family and school—two of the most important contributors to their well-being. We know the habits our kids build now – good or bad – will shape their lives forever. And that will always be true.