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App gives parents with smartphones device control

COLONIE -- Smartphones and tablets among young users has increased. That is why app companies are targeting parents to use technology as another parenting tool.

Richard Sah is the co-founder of DinnerTime, based in San Mateo, California. Sah says too often families are distracted by technology, and the DinnerTime app can help avoid those distractions.

CBS6 had the Woodard family try the free application and report back on how it helped their family.

"The kids had no idea it was us at first," says Wayne Woodard. "Their faces were stone cold because they didn't know what was going on. Ruby said, 'Dad it says I need to take a break?' So I told her the device must know her pretty well."'

The DinnerTime app allows parents to access a child's Android smartphone or tablet so the kids can focus their attention on other things, whether that is finishing homework, studying for an exam, or eating with the family. The designated break times go from 30 minutes to three hours, and a countdown feature lets the child know when the device will be available again for use.

An app called ScreenTime has similar features, only it uses more of a rewards system. Every time kids play outside, complete their chores, or finish their homework, they collect an allowance, and that allowance might mean more time on their smart devices. It's 100% customizable by the parent, and forces kids to be more frugal with their time. The Screen Time application costs $1.99 to download, and works on iPhones and iPads. Screen Time will have a new application out this fall that will also be available for Android users.

Dr. Rudy Nydegger is a clinical psychologist that specializes in internet addiction. He tells CBS6 it's important for parents to get involved and understand technology.

"Parents need to set boundaries and limits and stick to it," says Dr. Nydegger. "I think it's important for parents to be as knowledgeable as their kids, and use technology in ways that are appropriate and allow them to continue parenting."

For parents who aren't tech savvy, Dr. Nydegger recommends letting your kid teach you.

"This is a good opportunity for the kid to get involved with the parent in a really healthy kind of way and help the parent understand what the child has access too," says Dr. Nydegger.

The DinnerTime and Screen Time applications do not collect and transfer personal data, but other apps you download might. App companies say there should be agreements notifying you if any data is collected, and if it is, password setups should be available.
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