Most people spend many hours a day online and sitting in front of a screen has become a way of life for many children. Although the internet does offer many opportunities for enrichment, gathering information, and even embarking on creative and social endeavors, spending too much time online is known to have negative impacts on social skills, physical health and even eyesight.
Several companies have created services and devices to help parents control the amount of time their kids spend online but now a startup, appropriately called “unGlue,” has released a service that aims at helping children manage their own screen-time, based on boundaries defined by their parents. This will allow them to develop better long-term time management by balancing time spent on-screen and off-screen. Essentially, unGlue aims to teach children important lessons about self-discipline and control.
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unGlue was created by two fathers, Alon Swartz and Alex Zherdev, who sought to find a revolutionary solution to the problem of children spending too much time in front of a computer, smartphone, and television screen. The unGlue service is easy to use; all a parent has to do is set the amount of time they want each child to spend on online activities such as social media, videos, and games. They call this Entertainment Time.
Co-Founder and CEO Alon Shwartz believes that children greatly benefit from being in charge of their own screen time. “unGlue lets kids earn more time by doing chores that their parents assign,” he stated. “In addition, any Entertainment Time they didn’t use in any day rolls over to their Time Bank which they can later use up to their parents’ allocated limits. The ability to earn time, save time, and spend time—with boundaries—truly puts the responsibility on their shoulders and teaches them the value of time.”
unGlue offers a variety of services for parents and their children. It provides the ability to monitor and control any device at home such as computers, laptops, game consoles (including Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii, among others), tablets, smart TVs, and more. In addition, unGlue can limit the use of both iOS and Android smartphones regardless of location. Hence, given its complexity, the product took a long time to develop. “Overall, we have been working on unGlue for over two years,” Alon explained. “The two primary challenges we had were building a technology that was super easy for parents to use. It was also critical to create a solution that kids actually appreciate and accept.”
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To date, unGlue has been successful among consumers. “Kids really like it,” Alon exclaimed. “They finally have something that does not work against them, makes them feel less the enemy or victim but rather being in control. Kids find the Time Bank especially attractive since it is a type of a game. We are targeting kids from 5 to 16 years old, which is the age when children become truly dependent on the internet, have access to multiple devices, and begin to understand the value of time.”
Alon mentioned that unGlue is presently planning on adding many more capabilities to help youngsters manage their time and to help parents guide them in the process. Essentially, unGlue is positioning itself as the first “anti-parental control” company, and the only one focused on empowering kids’ ability to manage time. Having already been featured in major publications such as TechCrunch, the company strongly believes in the motto that the best habits are taught, not forced. “As a parent of three children, I know that parental control products fail because they are attempting to solve the wrong problem for the wrong user,” Alon stated. “While the current market focuses on empowering parents, unGlue focuses on changing the behavior of the users who are actually struggling with the problem: the kids. Kids understand that they need help balancing their time, even when they don’t say it, but it’s really hard!”
In summary, unGlue recognizes the current screen time “addiction” problem and they believe that it is best handled by involving children in the process using a format which they understand, while allowing parents to guide their way. “When their Entertainment Time runs out, kids can still access the Internet to do homework or stream music, but they can’t watch any more cat videos and endlessly chat with their friends,” Alon said and then added: “Oh, and one more thing…our service is free!”
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