Anyone with "screenagers" knows what an unending headache it is to be a parent in a tech-saturated world.

Research shows nine out of 10 Kiwi kids aged between 10 and 14 gaze at screens for longer than the recommended two hours each day.

More alarmingly, most have no limit at all on the time they spend playing computer games, using their phones, or browsing the internet.

Now, one Kiwi family has come up with their own clever solution: a home-made app that makes kids earn screen-time, while ensuring they get enough play, human interaction and space to get their homework done.

Advertisement

Sarah Rameka, who runs the Average Mum Facebook page, said the inspiration came from a documentary about the negative effects that too much technology use has on kids.

"As a parent juggling the many responsibilities and daily tasks, I found I could be super productive if I sat my children down with a tablet or phone to keep them occupied while I did the things I needed to do."

But then the guilt sunk in.

"There were days I had lost track of how much time they had spent in front of screens - no outside play, minimal interaction with real people, or no reading or learning."

After speaking with other parents, she learned she wasn't alone.

Sarah Rameka recalled finding son Asa, 10, sneaking his iPad into his room to play games at night, or waking up at 5am just to use it. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Rameka recalled finding son Asa, 10, sneaking his iPad into his room to play games at night, or waking up at 5am just to use it. Photo / Supplied

"We showed the documentary to our 10-year-old son Asa, wanted to change his usage - so this, as well as my Mum guilt, was motivation to come up with a solution for our family."

Kids using the Technology Time app each have a personal profile where they can earn screen-time for completing tasks such as homework, reading or playing outdoors.

"From there you can use the timer to track their time on device and get notified when time's up," she said.

Advertisement

"It's an easy and non-annoying solution to battle technology addiction in kids."

Feedback from parents who have downloaded the app has been largely positive.

One said their son knew exactly how long he could use his tablet for each day, so there were no fights about when he could have it or for how long.

Rameka recalled finding Asa sneaking his iPad into his room to play games at night, or waking up at 5am just to use it.

Kids using the Technology Time app each have a personal profile where they can earn screen-time for completing tasks such as homework, reading or playing outdoors. Photo / Supplied
Kids using the Technology Time app each have a personal profile where they can earn screen-time for completing tasks such as homework, reading or playing outdoors. Photo / Supplied

Now he wasn't allowed to use it before school or after dinner, so any screen-time he wanted to redeem had to be spent between after-school and dinner.

"He knows exactly how long he gets to play on it, and when his time is expired there is no moaning or fighting because he knows beforehand so is prepared."

Even better, they'd found he was now more motivated to do the things kids always used to - playing outside, or just reading.

"Where before he would spend around two to three hours on technology after school, he is now spending around 30 minutes after doing other things to earn that time."

Rameka saw the need for such interventions as important, given a growing number of studies showing how children who regularly use the internet and play video games exhibited more symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It could also leave them more impulsive, moody, less focused, socially inept or bored and unhappy at school.

Professor of Public Health Grant Schofield, the director of Auckland University of Technology's Human Potential Centre, was impressed by the app.

While there was a widespread perception that devices were bad for kids, the key was striking a healthy balance.

But as a parent himself, Schofield said the screen-time issue had been an "ongoing battle".

"I've been like, oh God, how do I deal with this.

"So I quite like this idea of parents having some more control."