I’m pretty tech savvy. I know how to set up an alternative, filtered web browser on my son’s iPhone. I can time his cellular access from the Verizon website. I can shut down my router after 11pm. But even I don’t want to do that every time I need to redirect him to homework or modify his access time in the summer. And I’m not alone. Parents have become so overwhelmed by technological advances their kids understand far better than they do, that most never even explore those parental controls. Then they wonder why their kids are on Snapchat all night long (literally) or gaming when they should be on study time. Considering this for with an exasperated family for the thousandth time in a decade, I got on Amazon and asked it for a “timed locking phone box.” I could see it in my mind: A box that had a timer and was big enough to fit an iPhone plus and/or a gaming controller. And sure enough, this $54 gadget showed up. I ordered the standard size immediately, though they also sell an extra large version. And just to be clear, while I do own Amazon stock, I don’t have any investment in the K-Box company and they aren’t even giving me a free box for this demo. I just think it’s a good product (except you’ll need to tape the AA battery box closed because it’s not well designed to stay closed by itself.
The problem with the gadget as it comes is that you can’t charge anything in it, so putting a phone in overnight isn’t going to work very well…unless you watch this Fox4 Segment in which my son Alex modifies this box to insert a charging cord (or two or three) through the side of the box. As you can see in the segment, you just insert the phone, plug in the charger, then turn the wheel on the top of the box for five minutes or five hours or five days. Then you push down the wheel and it gives you a countdown. If you do nothing, in five seconds the box will lock and, short of a sledgehammer, you won’t get it open again.
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve seen some teens who are so attached to their phones and game systems (read: pretty close to a behavioral addiction) that they might grab the sledge and go after this thing, but if you’re in that kind of a dire situation, you might need to actually schedule an appointment in our office. Media shouldn’t be seen as evil, but neither should it dominate every minute of the day and night. This box isn’t going to change the next generations relationship to their gadgets, but if you introduce it right alongside a new device, as we did this week when Alex switched from a flip phone to a smartphone, your teen will learn those limits even as they’re learning all the great things wired life can bring.
In the end, it’s all about balance, and this simple device can enforce that balance simply and efficiently.