teens

Jamie Oliver explains how he stops his teens' all night phone binges. All parents will want to listen.

I was the perfect parent until I had my own child and shoved an iPhone in front of him in a posh restaurant – with sound. He was only two years old.

Pre-baby, I would see toddlers watching cartoons in cafes and think it was a case of bad parenting.

“I never had that as a kid,” I would judge to myself.

But since then, I have committed the same crime and I know technology will be a big part of my son’s upbringing – but he will need limits.

Glued to the screen just like my toddler. Image via iStock.

An app designed for parents to provide controls over screen time seems like a good helping hand in this battle - especially for older children and teens.

The OurPact app allows parents to control smartphones, tablets and devices with custom schedules that block internet usage and app use at specified times.

How the app works. Image via ourpact.com.

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, says it was "absolute life-saver" for managing his teens' all-night technology binges.

"What's really good is you can set up a routine, as a parent, of when wi-fi goes on and off, and it also blocks off apps so they can still use their tech for doing homework and stuff like that, but not apps and not wi-fi," he said in a live video posted on Facebook.

The chef said the app was "awesome" because it helped him and his wife, Jools, build some structure into his family's technology usage.

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"It's better for the kids because they get to use all the technology and do what they want, but in certain times - not until midnight and endlessly through the night."

A Nick Jr review of the app says it is "a realistic approach to parental controls" because it acknowledges that the internet isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.

The review says it is easy to alter the controls from a parent's iPhone.

"Several iOS devices can be paired to the parent’s phone, meaning you can create a different schedule for each member of the family with a device," says Nick Jr Parents writer, Sarah Halfpenny.

Last year, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) announced new screen time guidelines and advised parents to set limits by making a personalised media plan.

Dr Sarah Loughran, from the University of Wollongong, says too much screen time can have negative impacts on children, including on their development, sleep and can cause increased weight gain.

Jamie Oliver and his son Buddy in 2015. Image via Getty.

"Unhealthy screen habits can result in decreased energy expenditure as well as increased energy/food intake, both factors that can contribute to weight gain and the development of obesity," she told Mamamia.

Dr Loughran said screen time can hamper sleep by decreasing the total amount of sleep that children get and from the content of what is actually on the screen - emotionally and physically.

"Screens emit light and this light can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm by impacting the release of the hormone melatonin, which is important for the regulation of our sleep-wake cycle," she said.

The sleep researcher advises eliminating devices from the bedroom, as well as setting a time in which screens are not allowed to be used after, to ensure that children wind down in the evenings before bed.

"Limit the intake of food and drinks during screen time, which is especially important during the evening hours prior to bed," suggests Dr Loughran. 

Dr Loughran also says replacing daytime screen use with exercise and time outdoors is a good idea.

For more about the OurPact app visit here.

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