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Best Screen Time Apps for Students

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Best Screen Time Apps for Students

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How often does your student pick up their device to do a specific task, but gets distracted with YouTube or Instagram? This is a universal struggle, impacting students, parents, and educators alike. The allure of endless information and entertainment at our fingertips can easily detract from necessary work and academic responsibilities. Recognizing this challenge, SmartSocial.com has curated a list of the best apps aimed at addressing the pressing need for effective screen time management.

This SmartSocial guide delves into the pros and cons of several popular screen time apps, offering a comprehensive overview to assist in finding the right balance between digital engagement and real-world interactions. Whether it's for enhancing focus during study sessions or ensuring a healthy digital diet, our roundup of screen time management apps aims to empower students to make informed decisions about their screen use and help them find the best screen time app. 

Educators and parents: Guide your students' reflection and discussion with this student worksheet. (Log in to your Google account and select File-->Make a Copy)

What is a screen time app?

  • Screen time management apps are third party apps that work within your phone by either blocking distracting apps for a specific time period or creating “friction,” or a delay, to opening the apps
  • These apps are useful for students and parents alike who are trying to reduce the amount of passive screen time they spend on their devices
  • There are both free and paid options available for all devices, though some may not have options for both Apple and Android phones
  • Most of these apps differ from parental control apps because students will have the ability to set it up and control app settings themselves from their own smartphone
  • For parents looking for social media monitoring, location tracking, or additional parental controls, they should review our other resources to help them find the best parental control apps for their kid's phone: Parental Control Software & Cell Phone Monitoring Comparison Guide

Emma Lembke from LogOff Movement Talks About Screen Time Apps

ClearSpace: Reduce Screen Time

ClearSpace logo
  • ClearSpace is a screen time management app that creates friction to delay the opening of a specific app and allows users to set screen time limits
  • Its goal is to make users more mindful of their screen time 
  • ClearSpace users can connect one social media app for free. There is a monthly or annual subscription for unlimited connected apps
  • After designating an app to manage, every time that social media app is opened, ClearSpace will open instead and prompt a breathing exercise and a motivational quote. The user will then select the desired amount of time to spend on the app. When the time limit is reached, the social media app closes
  • The app is available for Apple devices and there is a Google Chrome extension

HabitLab

HabitLab logo
  • HabitLab is an Android app or Chrome extension created by Stanford University as an open-source research project to help users reduce their amount of screen time
  • The program offers 20 different interventions from blocking or pausing videos, hiding feeds, or showing notifications if you’ve been on one site for too long
  • HabitLab learns which types of interventions work best for the user based on activity and continues to use it to help reduce screen time

Opal: Screen Time for Focus

Opal logo
  • Opal is a screen time management app that allows users to create schedules to help limit screen time and reduce the amount of passive scrolling
  • Users will select individual apps and create a schedule and when users attempt to open the controlled apps within the blackout period, they will be blocked
  • Opal allows users to “Snooze” the block and access the desired app for a select number of minutes
  • Users can try Opal for free for 7 days, but after that there is a monthly or annual subscription to use the app
  • There is a social media element to Opal that allows users to connect with friends and check on their screen time progress

Forest: Focus for Productivity

Forest logo
  • Forest is available for a one-time fee on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store
  • This focus app is gamified to motivate users to reduce their screen time
  • Users open the app when they want to reduce distractions or block apps and focus on a task such as studying, working, or exercising. They select the amount of time to focus, plant a virtual “seed,” and start their work. The seed will grow into a plant unless the user leaves the focus early and then the plant will die
  • During the focus mode, all apps will be blocked by Forest and a reminder will be given to get back to work
  • Users can create an allowed list for access to specific apps during the focus mode
  • Forest claims they will plant up to 5 real trees per user when certain focus goals are met
  • There is a social aspect to this app, allowing users to friend each other and see their focus achievements
  • There are a few opportunities for in-app purchases

ScreenZen-Screen Time Control

ScreenZen logo
  • ScreenZen is a screen time management app that allows users to customize the social media apps, days, and times that will be blocked
  • The app is free and available for both iOS and Android devices, but there are opportunities for in-app purchases
  • Users can set the level of app management from creating a pause before an app will open to completely blocking the app from opening

Freedom: Screen Time Control

Freedom logo
  • Freedom is a screen time control program that can be used on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Chromebook, and Linux
  • Users can create screen time schedules and link them across different devices, which can be used for a family to track and manage screen time
  • Features include blocking the entire internet, blocking certain apps or websites, creating an advanced schedule, or turning on ambient noise during focus time
  • Freedom can be purchased for a monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription, but there is a 7 day free trial available

More resources for parents, students, & educators

For parents who want to utilize the native parental control app on their student's phone:

For parents who want to learn more about Apple Screen Time feature:

For parents who want to learn more about how to limit screen time with Google Family Link:

For parents who want more resources to help manage their child's screen time:

Conclusion

Our exploration of the best screen time management apps reveals there's no one-size-fits-all solution; each app comes with its unique set of features and pros, and cons, tailored to different needs and preferences. By integrating these tools into daily routines, students can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on distracting apps, enhance productivity, and foster a healthier relationship with their digital devices. We encourage students, parents, and educators to consider these apps as valuable allies in the quest for balanced digital consumption. Ultimately, the goal is to empower students to make conscious choices about their screen time, ensuring that it supports rather than hinders their academic achievements and personal well-being.

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Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

StarStarStarStarStar

Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

StarStarStarStarStar

Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

StarStarStarStarStar

Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Learn more

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