These apps help parents limit access to a child's smartphone or tablet

Parents struggling to get their children away from smartphones and tablets for meals, homework, exercise and other activities can arm themselves with new apps to remotely block access to the devices.

A new app called ‘DinnerTime Parental Control’, for iPhone or Android smartphones, enables parents to restrict when children can use their smartphones and tablets. “The price of entry level smartphones and tablets has come down a lot, and as a result, more and more kids have their own individual devices," said Richard Sah, co-founder of DinnerTime, based in San Mateo, California. With the free app, parents can pause activity on a child's Android smartphone or tablet so that they can focus on things like homework, exercise and family time. Once a device has been paused, all functions on their device are blocked, including the ability to text and play with apps. To use the app, parents install it on the child's device and enter in their phone number to link the two devices. Parents can then set specific break times, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours, when the device will be locked. A countdown screen displayed on the child's device shows when they can use it again. Sah said he was inspired to develop the app by the tradition of family dinners, which he thinks is being lost in the age of technology.

“Dinner time brings families together for quality time and to have lots of different conversations. We want people to come together for engaging conversations, rather than be distracted by a tablet,” he said.