Tech Tips for Families
Sep 2015

Family Tech Tips With AT&T’s Smart Limits

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by AT&T but all words and opinions are mine.

Our son Dex is about to turn 13, so we continue to slowly expand his freedoms on the phone. In the beginning, we had really strict policies about who he could text, but as he goes through middle school – he is gaining more casual friends that he wants to – and should be able to – communicate with on the regular.

But how do we allow him more wiggle room while still being protective? AT&T introduced me to their Smart Limits service and app… it’s been the perfect compromise for us.

Before that, how about a refresher on tech tips for families?

Family Tech Tips

Teach technology.

This means describing where it’s been, where it’s going – so they get a sense of the scale, our place in that big world. Explain how things work, as in the nuts and bolts, but also how it all connects. Many times kids jump in with no idea as to the consequences, or how to handle it when things go wrong.

Take it slow.

Just because Dex will be 13 does not mean the floodgates will open. Yes, we have agreed he can be on Facebook, but we also agreed that we would talk about anyone he “friends” – at least for a while. He does have an Instagram account that is private and in the beginning, he could only follow me and my husband. We have also said no Snapchat, at least for now. One thing at a time.

Set limits.

In our house, we often explain how much we rely on tech at work (which happens at home, in front of him), but that we ALL turn our phones face down at dinner. Dex must plug in his phone in the dining room to charge overnight – because we do not believe he should sleep with it – and his cutoff time for tech is well before bedtime. Having said that, each family will find rules that work best for them!

Use tech to your advantage.

Sometimes it is easier for my son and I to talk via text, even about important things. Geographically, I am able to keep tabs on him at any time. We have a shared family calendar that helps everyone know what we are doing when. We all complain that technology complicates our lives – but I promise! There are so many ways it makes things better.

Ask questions.

Keep up to date with what the kids are into. And almost more importantly: WHY they are into it. About a year ago Dex was obsessed with getting a YouTube channel and after some probing, it was more about the act of making videos than sharing them – which, of course, we allowed him to do! Figure out together what is right for your family, in terms of age, involvement, and exposure.

So… What is AT&T Smart Limits?

This service helps you manage your family’s phone use by setting limits on texts and purchases, blocking data, managing contacts, and viewing daily and weekly activity at home and on the go. Smart Limits has an iPhone or Android app, or can be accessed from the web.

That sounds complicated. Is it hard to manage?

Nope. One of the things I really like about Smart Limits is the simple interface and how it does exactly what they say. I am able to put restrictions on my son’s phone without getting all “Big Brother” on him.

AT&T Smart Limits - Controls Screen AT&T Smart Limits - Restrictions Screen

I get a quick report on his activity, so I get a sense of who he talks to the most (for example) but then, if it’s too much, I can also manage how I am being alerted. I see if there is a new phone number, but I don’t invade his privacy by seeing the content of his messages. Perfect!

AT&T Smart Limits - Activity Report

How much does Smart Limits cost?

It goes for $4.99 per month for one line or $9.99 per month for up to ten lines when purchased through AT&T. But this is cool: there is a 30 day free trial for new Smart Limits subscribers.

I hope you check it out. I was provided the service by AT&T to test, but I plan to keep it. As I mentioned at the top, I was compensated for this post, but I am a long time AT&T customer (pretty much my whole life) and enjoy testing out their new services.

Let me know what you think – and also if you have any other great tech tips for families!

Tech Tips for Families - Take the headache out of cell phone use!

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  1. Marabeth

    These are great tips, and I will definitely check out the app!

  2. Just another reason I love AT&T. Such an important topic to keep on top of with our kids! Glad to see a program like Smart Limits. I’m on AT&T, but my 12 year old is not because I did not have a way to “oversee” his usage. I’m thinking I should move him over now.

    • Aimee

      Perfect Jill – it’s a nice compromise!

  3. Sam

    This looks really cool! We have a different carrier and they have a similar service, but as you know, UX/UI counts for a LOT. The UI of our carrier’s service doesn’t look inviting or easy – or smart. I like how this service provides a summary of contacts with the number of times texted! The school restrictions also looks like it’s a good way to put limits on accessibility during school time – a level of granularity that I don’t often see in services like these.

    This service definitely looks smart. Might have to look into switching carriers…

    • Aimee

      Exactly – you know I am all about the UX! 🙂

  4. I look at my 10 year old with her iPhone, texting her friends and I am truly and honestly bewildered. Thinking, “wait… how did we get here? We weren’t going to go here?!”

    Great post, and good to know about this app! I also really like your tip “cutoff time for tech is well before bedtime” – sounds like this has the ability to also enforce that.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Aimee

      Thanks – and I know… it’s this new weird world, right?

  5. Amy Evans

    Great post! I need to check out that app.

  6. Danielle

    We will definitely use this when the time comes! Thanks for making it sound so easy!

    • Aimee

      Yes, it’s getting better all the time – will be great by the time you are ready!