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TimeAway: Monitor your kids’ mobile device usage

Parents who worry about the increasing amounts of time their children are spending on their smartphones and tablets now have another option to limit that usage – a free app called TimeAway that enforces a usage schedule on kids’ devices and allows parents to monitor their children’s activities. TimeAway is the brainchild of Singapore-based Googler, Tamara Sanderson. Sanderson came up with the idea when she noticed that an increasing number of people around her, be it adults or teenagers, had their noses buried in their phones. By creating TimeAway, Sanderson hopes to combat the addiction to mobile devices and social isolation. The app is primarily a tool designed for parents. Once TimeAway is installed on both the parent and their kids’ devices, kids are unable to uninstall the app without providing a password that was pre-set by their parents.

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Device breaks for mobile phones

Parents can then set schedules for mobile device usage such as turning off devices during bedtime or school time, pausing devices during meals and setting time limits for apps such as Facebook or Instagram if they feel like their kids are spending a disproportionate amount of time on them. Monitoring and controlling app downloads is also possible, allowing parents to prevent children from downloading certain ‘worrying’ apps, like Snapchat. A nifty location function also allows parents to check on their kids’ locations, so that they know if their children are where they said they were going to be.

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The app allows parents to monitor mobile device usage durations.

Feedback from parents regarding TimeAway has been quite favorable, according to Sanderson, and parents have also been instrumental in providing much useful feedback for the app. In less than one month, TimeAway is already on release 4.1.4.

“I think TimeAway has hit a chord with that market,” said Sanderson in an e-mail interview with TechNode.

While the app is currently free, Sanderson has indicated that she plans to monetize the app in the future either via non-invasive ads for the parents’ version of the app, or possibly licensing the app to telco partners. Currently, TimeAway is also in the midst of translating the app into other languages, especially Spanish, because the app has been gaining much attention in Spanish-speaking countries. While TimeAway was built with good intentions, it is important to draw the line between monitoring a child’s usage of mobile devices versus outright spying and rigid control. Due to the nature of TimeAway for children, Sanderson has also received several negative comments and even an angry email from a teen who has had their device controlled with TimeAway. She emphasizes that TimeAway is merely a tool, and that it is critical that parents have honest conversations with their children to agree on device usage limits before installing the app.