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Screen Time and OurPact: How to Get Kids Off Their Phones

Alex Buettgen
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Alex Buettgen

Buzz intern Alex Buettgen holds up his phone as his time limit goes off for an app. (Photo: Katharine Stepanian) 

It was 10 p.m. on a dull Friday night in October. I was sitting on the couch mindlessly scrolling on my phone when suddenly, all of my apps disappear. Immediately, I freaked out - that's not supposed to happen. My mom saw my panicked expression and started laughing. 

“It really works! I got you!” 

Turns out she had used an app called OurPact, which makes apps disappear from the smart phone of the person you “ourpact.” This app limits screen time. 

Parents can use apps, such as OurPact and Screen Time, to limit phone usage and make sure their teens are not overusing their phones. 

As we all know, technology can be hard to put down. Many parents are looking for ways to help get their kids off their phones and out of the house. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have had these apps used on me more than once. Believe me, they more than serve their purpose. Here are a couple of the best apps for getting your teen off their phones:

Screen Time, a free program in the settings of your Apple device,  is quite effective and popular. This program is only available on Apple devices and is an automatic program found in the settings of your iPhone or iPad. Parents can set limits for certain apps. For instance, my limits are set for 5 minutes on Instagram and TikTok per day. Once I use that time, I am no longer able to use that app. However, I can request more time from my mom. Or my mom can go into my phone, enter in a password, and grant me more time on that specific app.

To set up this app, follow these steps: Go to Settings > Screen Time. Tap Turn On Screen Time. Tap Continue. Select This is My [device] or This is My Child's [device]. After that, you can play around with the settings and limit certain apps and schedule in downtime to your child's phone.

“I love Screen Time,” says my mom, Kimberly Buettgen. “It keeps my kids in line and allows them to get off their phones and do other things. We have gotten a lot more quality family time because of it.” 

Screen Time is easy to use and definitely a good way to get kids off their phones.

OurPact is a free app. (You can pay for Premium or Premium+ for more functions.) With the click of a button, parents can control which apps appear on a child's device. Parents can restore the apps by clicking the same button, granting kids the ability to use their apps again. OurPact remotely controls the device you’re managing and can block social media, games, and the Internet. Oh, and if your child has several Apple devices? One account will work for all of them.

Kristen Leach, who has three sons, uses OurPact with her kids and says she really likes how easily the app accomplishes all of her goals.

“I really like how, with just one click of a button my kids go from screen invested to screens down. OurPact makes quality family time more of a possibility in an age where screens take up most of that time.”

Her boys range from college-aged to an incoming high school freshman, and all three echoed similar sentiments about the app.

A few other apps that function in relatively the same way as OurPact and Screen Time are BARK, Circle, Canopy, and FamilyTime. The main goal of BARK is to help keep kids safer online. To do this, BARK monitors social media, text, and email on Android and IOS devices. Circle has a relatively similar function as it monitors all the devices of people that you add into your “circle”. Canopy is different as it blocks explicit text, images and videos in seconds. Canopy's technology aims to protect kids from exposure to online pornography and sexting. FamilyTime is also different as it aims to keep kids safe by geo-fencing areas and alerting you whenever your child leaves a geo-fenced area. It also limits time on apps and allows for parental controls.

“It sucks, but it works,” said Charlie Leach about OurPact, an incoming senior at St. John’s School. “I hate that my mom has the power to take all of my apps away, but it does force me to put my phone down and concentrate on whatever else I am doing."

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