10 e-safety tips your kids need to know!

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In conjunction with Safer Internet Day and our ongoing quest to make the internet safer for our children we’ve compiled some of our top internet safety tips. Here are 10 things you and your kids need to know:

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  1. Don’t give away personal information

Not everyone is who they say they are online, therefore you should never give away personal information. Details like address, phone number and even the school you go to should be kept private.

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  1. Think before you share

Once you have posted something online it can often be difficult to remove. Even if you only intended to send a message to a friend it’s possible that it could be screenshotted and sent to other people.

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  1. Keep it private

Do you really want a future employer seeing that tweet about how much you hate Maths? Make sure you’ve got the right privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only close friends and family can see your posts. We have a full guide for doing this on Facebook and Twitter here.

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  1. Switch off 1 hour before bed

Research has shown that the use of backlit devices such as smartphones and tablets can supress melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates sleep, therefore it’s recommended that you switch off one hour before bed to get a good night’s sleep.

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  1. Report cyberbullying

If you receive any threatening or abusive messages it’s best not to retaliate, as this can often provoke further messages. Most social media sites have a ‘report’ button and you can also take a screenshot of the messages to show to a teacher or parent.

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  1. Never meet up with anyone you’ve met online

You should always speak to a parent or guardian if a stranger suggests that you meet.

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  1. Keep passwords safe & secure

You should always keep your passwords private; don’t even tell your close friends. You should also never choose a password that somebody could guess, like your date of birth or the name of a pet. The safest passwords include a mixture of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and special characters.

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  1. Use Nicknames

When using a micro-blogging site like Twitter you should always use a nickname rather than your full name. It’s often a good idea to sign up using a different email address to the one you use for school/work.

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  1. Have a social media spring clean

It’s a good idea to have a regular clean-up of your social media accounts. Un-tag yourself from any unwanted photos and delete old posts. You should also delete any old social media accounts to avoid leaving unnecessary information about yourself online.

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  1. Use parental controls

The easiest way for parents to get peace of mind that their kids are safe online is to set up parental controls. The only problem is that they’re often too complicated to setup and easy for kids to get around.

HomeHalo a simple and secure way for parents to manage their kids’ devices. With our handy app you can apply age appropriate filtering to all of your kids Wi-Fi devices; making sure they aren’t accessing any harmful sites or spending too long online. If you need to get them off their devices for bed or dinner all it takes is a few taps of the app. If you want to see how HomeHalo can make your life as a parent easier, just download our app and try out the free demo. Android Download | iOS/iPhone Download

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5 tips for spending less time on screens

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2016 is here! The kids are now back at school and the tinsel has been put firmly away for another year. So do you breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all over or do you suddenly have something new to worry about?

Well, if your family is anything like ours, then your house is now full of new gadgets and the kids are now totally absorbed by their screens.

Our recent research found that two thirds of parents struggle to get their kids to put their gadgets down, leading to families across the UK having 8 million arguments every day!

With this is mind wouldn’t it be nice to make one of your New Year Resolutions to spend less time online, less time arguing and more time together?

To help you achieve this we’ve prepared 5 tips for keeping to a balanced digital diet in 2016:

1. Turn off unnecessary notifications

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How often have you found yourself tapping a Facebook notification only to waste the next half an hour scrolling through your timeline? Well, if you don’t want to waste this year looking at photos of your friends’ dinners, trim your notification settings back to only the essentials.

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2. Organise a ‘no internet’ day

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For many of us going a day without the internet seems harder than going a day without food. Why not challenge your family to an internet free day? Lock away those tablets and organise some outdoor activities; but don’t get caught checking your emails when your kids’ backs are turned!


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3. Have a ‘tech free’ dinner table: 

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Try enforcing a no screens at the dinner tablet rule to encourage conversation.

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4. Get a good old fashioned alarm clock:

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Avoid the temptation to check your social media accounts before bed by not using your phone as an alarm clock. This will also help you sleep better!

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5. Enforce some time restrictions.

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With the HomeHalo app you can easily set up an access schedule for all of your kids’ devices, so you can be sure that they aren’t spending too long online. This way you can then give them the space they need without having to look over their shoulder all the time. Get your HomeHalo here.


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5 ways we make parenting easier!

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  1. Minecraft doesn’t count as homework anymore!

    So your kids have homework due and they need to use the internet for it! Fast forward a few hours and they’ve watched 2 films on Netflix, built an entire city with their friends on Minecraft and they’ve barely written the title to their essay. This is where Homework Mode comes in. Just flick the slider, hit ‘start homework mode’ and they’ll be able to access all the sites they need for work but distractions like social media, gaming and movies will be blocked.

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  2. Bedtime is now for sleeping!

    Have you ever caught the glow of an iPad coming from your children’s bedroom at night. With HomeHalo you can set the WiFi to go off at a specific time for each child. You can set different times limits for the weekend and you can even extend their time if they need a little longer to finish the last level of their game.
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  3. You can be a great parent…even from the pub!

    So you’ve booked the babysitter and you’re heading out with friends for the evening. With a pint in one hand and our app in the other, you’ll be able to manage requests and ensure your kids are off of Netflix and ready for bed on time.

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  4. No more looking over their shoulder!

    Naturally, parents worry about what sites their kids are looking at, the problem is constant snooping at their screen can lead to some very stroppy teenagers. With HomeHalo, you can give them the space they need, whilst being sure they’re not accessing anything unsavory. You simply select their age group or the type of sites you want to be blocked, then sit back and reflect on what a wonderful parent you are!

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  5. Spend more time on other stuff!

    Once you’ve got your HomeHalo plugged in, you’ll be able to focus more time on your other parental responsibilities, like being a taxi driver and cash machine!

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To enlist your internet guardian angel head to http://www.homehalo.co.uk/buy/

 

Parental Control on Youtube

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With over 300 hours of new video being added every minute, YouTube is one of the most popular video sharing sites on the web. Since the first video was uploaded in 2005 the site has grown to have over 1 billion users, uploading clips of anything from music and games, to videos of their pets.

Whilst it can be a great source of entertainment for kids there’s a lot of content on there that you wouldn’t want your kids seeing. That’s why we created this guide, to help you setup secure parental control on YouTube.

 
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Parental Control on YouTube: Activating Safe Mode

 

When it comes to parental control on YouTube, the site provides a “safe mode” option which filters out videos which have been flagged as inappropriate. Whilst YouTube state that the safe search option is not 100% accurate, it’s a good place to start when safeguarding your kids against inappropriate videos.

Follow these simple steps to get Safe Mode set up and locked down:

1- Go to  youtube.com and scroll to the bottom of the Homepage.

2- Click on the button titled “Safety”.

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3- If you select the “on” option a message will appear allowing you to lock safety mode. This will mean that your children cannot disable safe mode without having your username and password.parental-control-on-youtube-screenshot2

4- To do this, click “sign in” and you’ll be prompted to enter your YouTube login details.

5- Once you’ve entered your details simply click ‘Save’. Safe Mode will now be activated.

6- You are now free to sign out and safe mode will be locked on your browser.

Please note: This will only lock safe mode on the browser you are using. You will need to repeat this process for all the browsers on your device.

 

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Parental Control on YouTube: Setting time limits

 

Another thing to bear in mind is the amount of time your kids spend on YouTube. Recent news articles have reported that many children are missing out on sleep and having trouble focusing at school, as a result of spending too long on YouTube.  A recent BBC article reported that Minecraft videos have become the 2nd most searched for term on Youtube. Stating that some children’s Minecraft obsession can lead them to neglect their schoolwork and become irritated when not playing or watching the game.

So what can you do about it? With HomeHalo you can set up time limits for when your kids can access Youtube. Whether they use a tablet, smartphone or any other Wi-Fi gadget you can ensure they aren’t sneaking online after lights out. To find out more, you can watch our video here https://youtu.be/–s4o4_FqgQ

 

With a combination of HomeHalo parental control and Youtube safe mode you can get peace of mind that your kids are safe when they’re watching they’re favorite videos. If you’ve found this post useful you might also want to check out our post on Facebook and Twitter privacy settings: www.homehalo.co.uk/blog/privacy-settings/

 

 

Apple Watch: The Parent’s Guide

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Last week the Apple Watch launched and with sales already reported at $1 billion, it’s bound to become the must have fashion accessory in schools across the country. Billed by experts as the ‘game changer’ for the wearable tech industry, it’s no doubt your kids have already started nagging you for one.

With alerts, information and notifications soon to become available from your children’s wrist, will the Apple Watch just mean another distraction in the classroom or another alert ringing out at the dinner table? If the hefty price tag hasn’t already put you off, we take a look at some of the implications of smart-watches on family life.

What does the Apple Watch do?

Apple opened up their WatchKit software last year and app developers across the world have already begun releasing their own Apple Watch offerings. Along with the usual suspects like Twitter and Instagram, other creators have started releasing more unique apps like Lifesum, an app which tracks your daily food intake and compares it with the amount of exercise you’ve had. Other apps include an alcohol breathalyser called ‘BACtrack’ and the innovative ‘Boiled Egg Timer’ which is set to revolutionize egg boiling i.e. it tells when you’re egg is ready! You’ll also be pleased to know that as well as tracking your heartbeat and managing your daily schedule, you can also use it to… guess what? tell the time!

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Apple Watch: Set to revolutionize egg boiling!

Will the notifications ever end?

How many times have you had to tell your kids to put their phones away at the dinner table? Well now you’ll have to add watches to the list of distractions, as notifications start ringing out from their wrists at all hours. Teachers will also be on the receiving end of Watch pains, as they struggle with pupils who are supposedly “Just checking the time”.

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Dinnertime: Saying Grace or sending texts?

Will it take off?

When the iPad launched in 2010, everyone wondered why anyone who’s already got a smartphone and laptop would need a tablet device. Five years on and the iPad has become an integral part of many people’s lives. In fact, tablets appear to be the main concern that we hear from parents who’re worried about the amount of time their kids spend online. In many cases, parents feel that their kids are using their tablets too much to play games or watch Minecraft videos late into the night. Could the same soon be true for the Apple Watch? ….. Only time will tell.

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Have iPads replaced the television in the home?

How do you control devices?

Before you go running off to buy your kids a space-age timepiece, you might want to think about how you manage your children’s current devices. Research has shown that too much screen time can lead to depression and anxiety in young people. With HomeHalo you can set personalised time limits and content filters for each child and every device. You can control these from the palm of your hand using our app, and ensure that your kids aren’t becoming addicted or exposed to inappropriate content. To find out more about how HomeHalo can keep your family safe click HERE.

What do you think? Will the Apple Watch improve our lives, or is it just another distraction?

Revision Tips for Parents

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So the dreaded exam season will soon be upon us and we can already feel the stress starting to set in. From all night chemistry crams to last minute coursework printing panics, exams can be just as daunting for parents as they can be for kids. To help you avoid having a breakdown during this chaotic time we’ve prepared some top revision tips for parents.

Revision Tips

  1. Plan early. It’s best to find out the dates of your children’s exams and their coursework deadlines early. You can then start to draw up a revision plan and there’ll be no last minute surprises.
  2. Be flexible. Exam time can be a stressful period for the whole family. Try to relax the rules on household chores & jobs during exams.
  3. Be reassuring. On the day of an exam explain to your kids that failing is not the end of the world and that they just have to try their best.
  4. Eat brain food. Eating healthily during the exam period can give your kids the brain boost that they need. Whilst they might be tempted to fill up on caffeine and sweets, it’s best to stick to brain foods like: Fruit, fish & vegetables… and plenty of water.
  5. Avoid distractions. In today’s digital age a lot of revision has to be done online and it’s all too easy for kids to wander onto Netflix or YouTube when they’re supposed to be revising. With HomeHalo you can activate Homework Mode, which allows your kids to access the sites they need for work, whilst distractions like social media, movies & gaming are blocked.

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We wish your children all the best in their exams & hope these revision tips have helped. We don’t envy them, that’s for sure!

With HomeHalo you can not only help them avoid distractions, you can also set time limits on all their devices to make sure they switch off their screens and get some sleep in preparation for their exams. Click here to find out more – www.homehalo.co.uk

Feel free to share your own revision tips in the comments below:

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Staying safe on Skype

Over the years, Skype has risen to become one of the most popular video calling services in the world.  Naturally, youngsters have taken to the Platform too, as it provides an easy way to stay in touch with friends without having to worry about racking up a huge bill. Whilst this might be great for a teenager’s social life, it can leave parents concerned.

If you’ve ever wondered who your kids are actually talking to on Skype, or worried about whether they’re giving away too much personal info, then this post is for you. As well as giving you some handy tips for staying safe on Skype, we’ve also written a quick guide for setting up secure privacy settings for your kids.

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 Skype Safety Tips

  1. Use a secure password and keep it private. Avoid using dates of birth and family names. You should also ask your children not to share their passwords with friends.
  2. Don’t include personal info on your Skype profile.Info such as location, phone number and date of birth should be kept private.
  3. Never reply to people you don’t know. Don’t respond to messages, contacts, phone calls, video calls or screen sharing requests from people that you don’t know.
  4. Never reply to emails which request personal data, such as passwords or bank details. Skype themselves will never request any personal information via email, so report any emails that do.
  5. Be cautious of messages that insight urgency or panic. For example, if you receive a message saying “Your account will be closed unless you follow these instructions” do not click on it and then report it as spam.
  6. Don’t click on unknown URLs. If someone sends you a link, first check to see if you trust the sender and then check to see if the URL is a legitimate site i.e. www.skype.com or www.youtube.com. If you’re concerned that you’ve already clicked on a malicious link, please change your password immediately.
  7. Get the right privacy settings in place. To adjust privacy settings on a PC, open Skype and click Tools : Options : Privacy. To adjust them on a Mac go to Skype : Preferences : Privacy. Here you can set your preferences for receiving communications. For children we recommend selecting the following options:

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By default Skype will restrict the privacy settings on users under 16 years of age, however it’s always best to double check your children’s settings and the age they used when registering.

We hope you’ve found our “staying safe on skype” guide useful and that you’re already taking steps to keep your kids safe on Skype. If you’re worried about your children accessing inappropriate sites, or you’re just concerned that your kids are spending too long on social media, HomeHalo is here to help. With our router & smartphone combination you can set up age appropriate filters and time limits for all of your children’s devices. To find out more about how HomeHalo can keep your family safe go to: www.homehalo.co.uk

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Your digital footprint

There’s been a lot in the press recently about whether our security services are spying on our Facebook messages and Tweets, that I was reminded of my own experience with GCHQ.

Back in 1994, when having a fax machine was deemed ‘current’, I was asked if I would provide a personal reference to an old friend of mine as he was going for a promotion that required another level of security clearance. Now given that I was brought up in a part of the UK with a large number of military establishments and naval bases this request did not come as surprise. As an upstanding British citizen with nothing more than a couple of speeding tickets to my name I had been asked to do this on a couple of occasions.

This time however, they wanted to interview me. So at the given time, I opened my front door to a man who looked like he had arrived straight from the 19th century, clearly an ‘establishment fellow’, with the only thing missing being the bowler hat – a truly intimidating character.

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We sat down and he started to flick through the pages of a huge manila file, it had to be 3” thick. Trying to fill the silence I quipped “goodness me, you have a lot of information on Peter!” To which he responded, and to my amazement “Oh this isn’t Peter’s file my dear – it’s yours”

I wonder then, as we are now living in the digital age, how much information is available to organisations about our children?

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Eight years ago when I joined a global UK Telecoms company, the security checking took 6 weeks! These days companies can find a whole load of information online in seconds. Our children need to really think every time they post, tweet or snapchat, as anything they put ‘out there’, can and might be used against them!

As the next generation grows and matures they could find their past coming back to haunt them. Our kids often don’t think about the future, so we’ve set up a check list to help your teenagers keep a clean digital footprint:

Digital Footprint Tips

1. Keep it private... Make sure your children have secure privacy settings on their social media accounts. Avoid posting anything publicly and make sure only close friends and family can see their posts.

2. Think before posting... Explain to your children, that posts are often there forever & could affect them later on in life. Think: Would you want future employers or even future friends seeing that photo?

3. Online vs real life... Set clear ground rules for how to behave online. If you wouldn’t do it in real life don’t do it online!

4. Google yourself…. Try searching your name online and see what comes up! If there’s something you don’t like try contacting the site to see if they can take it down.

5. Have a spring clean… Make sure your kids remove any unused social media accounts and that they check through their social media photos regularly to delete any unwanted images.

For more info on how to set the right privacy settings for your children, check out our privacy settings guide: www.homehalo.co.uk/blog/privacy-settings/

With HomeHalo you can set time limits on each of your children’s devices to ensure they aren’t spending too long on social media. You can also set age appropriate blocks to ensure they don’t come across any inappropriate sites. Click here find out how HomeHalo can keep your family safe: www.homehalo.co.uk

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Privacy settings on Facebook & Twitter

Social media has become a central part of the lives of today’s digital youth, forming a platform for children to communicate with friends and learn about the world around them. In fact, research has shown that 59% of children have used a social network by age 10, and over half of all adolescents log on to a social networking site more than once a day.

As the time children spend on social media increases, so do the dangers they’re exposed to. In fact 12% of teens say that they witness cruel behaviour on social media frequently. Bullying, harassment & contact with strangers are just a few of these dangers and are a worry for most parents.

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As parents, the first thing you should do to protect your kids is to ensure they have the right privacy settings in place on their social media accounts. In this guide we’ll walk you through how to apply basic privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter.

Protecting you children’s Tweets

On twitter your children can select “protect my tweets”, so that only their approved followers can see their tweets. Simply follow the instructions below:

1.

  • Sign in to Twitter
  • Click on your profile picture in the top right hand corner of your browser.
  • A drop down menu will then appear
  • Select the “settings” option.

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  • Next, select the “Security and privacy” option from the left hand menu

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  • A menu will then appear offering various security and privacy options.
  • In the privacy settings we recommend that your kids check the box that’s says: “Protect my Tweets”. This will ensure that strangers and future employers will not be able to see their tweets.

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  • We also recommend that they select the box titled “do not allow anyone to tag me in photos” or “only allow people I follow to tag me in photos”. This will ensure they aren’t tagged in any unwanted or upsetting photos by strangers.
  • To further protect their privacy you should un-check the box titled “Add a location to my tweets”. From this menu you’ll also be able to delete any past location information that twitter has stored about you.

Setting privacy settings on Facebook

1.

  • Sign into your Facebook account.
  • Select the downwards arrow in the top right hand corner.
  • A drop down menu will appear.
  • Select “Settings” from the menu.

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  • A new screen will appear.
  • In the left hand menu select the “privacy” option.
  • A screen will then appear to the right offering various Privacy options.

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  • For children we recommend working through the list and selecting the strictest privacy settings.
  • In the “who can see my stuff?” section select “edit” and ensure that “friends” is selected. This will ensure that only approved friends can see your posts.

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  • In this screen you can also select who can send your child friend requests. We recommend selecting “friends of Friends” for this.
  • We also recommend selecting “Strict Filtering” for messages. This means that messages from unconnected users will be filtered into your child’s ‘other’ inbox.
  • You can also select who can look you up using your email address & phone number, as well whether you want search engines to link to your timeline. We recommended selecting ‘no’ for this option.

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As parents we understand how difficult it can be to monitor your kids in the constantly changing world of social media. Hopefully this post has helped you make Facebook and Twitter a bit safer for your kids. With HomeHalo you’ll be able to limit social media use by setting time limits. You can also activate Homework Mode which lets your kids use the web for homework, whilst distractions like social media and gaming are blocked. To find out more about how HomeHalo can protect your kids’ online, click HERE.

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“Exam time – Do not disturb”

So for many of us in the UK, the long awaited February half term is over. Although the children have caught up with sleep, in many cases until lunchtime; the sibling rivalry has reached fever pitch and they are ready to go back to school; or so I would have thought.

Sunday, for our family, arrived with an air of panic about it, mainly because this year is GCSE year. The level of half term homework is at its highest with an average of 5 hours needed per day to complete and tweak coursework. Now, if you are lucky enough to have a teenager who writes up a revision plan and sticks to it, then lucky you! But for most us, our kids live by the philosophy of ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘maybe tomorrow’, which in my house meant a scurry of activity including rewrites, printing and an immense amount of paint dribbles all over my dining room table! Who would have thought that a Fine Art GCSE could create such mess?

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As I casually looked though Facebook, I see that it’s not only my children.  I’m fortunate enough to be ‘friends’ with a lot of my children’s friends, ranging from those taking A levels and GSCEs to Year 9 exams.  Their weekend posts all seem have a similar theme. One I particularly liked was “Devoted most of my half term to Netflix! Not much coursework done… oops!” No doubt her parents were less than impressed!

My own children, (when finally getting out of bed) seem to have spent the week ‘device hopping’ – imagine the scene, my daughter is sat in an armchair with her laptop on her lap (doing homework) on one arm of the chair is her phone constantly bleeping with Instagram/Snapchat messages. On the other arm is her iPad mini showing some kind of make-up video…..needless to say when I’m offered the final proof reading of her English essay, it makes very little sense and has to be done again.

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So what can we do about this? Well, you can join our product tester programme which will put you firmly back in control. With HomeHalo you’ll be able to activate Homework Mode, which lets your kids use the internet for work, whilst distracting sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked. As well as this you can limit the amount of time they spend on Netflix and block all the dodgy sites you wouldn’t want them to see anyway. It’s the easiest way to keep them focused over the all-important exam time.

You can do all of this and more for only £55! We’ll also provide 12 months service, which will see you safely through exam time, summer holidays and even Christmas. This really is a great opportunity to save some money, whilst getting peace of mind that your kids are safe online.

If you’re interested then give us a call or go to http://www.homehalo.co.uk/homehaloproducts

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