Overuse of smartphones and tablets is an issue for people all ages, including those still learning to read. Enter TechDen, a device management tool for parents of kids between the ages of two and 12. TechDen was one of the 2019 vendors at the Consumer Technology Association event, which showcases developers and suppliers of consumer technology.
TechDen is a container that helps manage use of smartphones and tablets where parents set an allowable amount of screen time. When a session is inactive, meaning device time is not allowed, the Den (which is the container for the device) remains locked and kids cannot access their devices. In addition to hiding the device for a time period, the Den also works as a charger for up to two devices.
But do people really need to manage tech time for kids that young? Sarah Voss, Director of Marketing for TechDen explains that targeting at such a young age is because it “encompasses the ‘sweet spot’ years when kids are 5 to 10 years of age.” In their research with over 1,100 families in the United States, TechDen discovered it is “the most challenging time for parents to find a solution to manage screen time. Parents in the sweet spot reported that they’ve tried apps with little success in finding a balance with tech use and this group was particularly tired of the constant battles with their children about screen time.”
Putting barriers into place is a proven way to reinforce new habits. When people establish a routine with the use of self-imposed barriers, there is less reliance on self-control. In developing TechDen, Voss said their ”testers found TechDen to be extremely helpful and successful in adjusting their habits. It helped establish a healthy routine with their kids, involving and empowering them to actively participate in the process, which resulted in a much higher receptivity and acceptance for parents and kids alike.”
The benefits went beyond a reduction in screen time. Voss reported a change in family relationships as a result of creating new habits. "Families were reconnecting,” said Voss. “They reported spending more time together and seeing their kids interested in the family dynamic again by engaging in non-screen time activities such as playing outside or building with blocks. The families that saw this success made no mention of not considering TechDen beyond the testing period. The positive impact was clear and the results developed fairly quickly.” Even though they created a new habit , testers continued using the Den to support those new habits.
People reported better connections among the family members in their households, but what about the overall mental health benefits? Were kids more relaxed as their device use decreased?
Voss found that "Most parents reported, in one form or fashion, that their kid(s) were doing more non-screen time activities; more focused on homework or playing outside, or simply less distracted during family time."
One parent remarked: “Having a specific time in which she knows she’s allowed to use the iPad has made talking about screen time a lot more pleasant.” Decreasing arguments in the household over device is a clear benefit for everyone involved in navigating device management with their children.
As the parent, Voss shared a similar experience. She established times when her child can have his device and for how long, but includes her child in the process "which is a refreshing and welcome change over the power struggle when it comes to devices! He actively participates and when he returns his device on-time he earns a reward point—and we know reward systems work for kids."
We cannot get away from technology, whether smartphones, tablets, Apple watches or a device that does not yet exist. TechDen believes “happiness lies in having healthy, balanced relationships with the people in our lives and the screens in our lives,” said Voss. A cause that even technology lovers can get behind.
Tina Arnoldi is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Charleston, SC, business consultant, and freelance writer. She is a reviewer for PsychCentral (you can find her work here) and has a public portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com