Forest Hills dad creates app to test kids for screen time

Tim Smock's 'Test 4 Time' a free June download in Google Play Store

Test 4 Time
Left to right: Dylan and Braden Smock use their father's creation, "Test 4 Time," to unlock screen time during summer. (June 2017)


ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As school lets out and summer begins, parents everywhere are working to avoid the “summer slide.”

Another challenge for parents is controlling their kids’ screen time. With an extra eight hours a day of unstructured time, many children eventually find their way to smartphones, tablets, computers, game consoles and TVs, and the hours of screen time add up fast.

Tim Smock of Forest Hills knows the problem all too well. He encountered it a few summers ago when his son was just 7 years old.

“We had a Wii and in the summer, Braden would come to me in the morning and say, “Hey, can I jump on the Wii?’” he recounted.

The answer from Smock was usually no, but then he started thinking: What if he could make Braden earn time for video games by learning something?

“I’m going to write down 20 math questions. I said, ‘If you answer all questions, you can have an hour of time on the Wii,'” said Smock.

That’s how Smock’s “Test 4 Time” was born.

The smartphone app serves up math to kids in kindergarten through sixth grade with questions geared to their grade level. If they do the test, they get the time.

“We got our first prototype, he was in control of it. (He) never had a single complaint. I’d see him upstairs, I’d say, ‘Aren’t you still playing?’ ‘No, I used up all my time.’ There were no more arguments. It was really kind of neat,” Smock said.

That first “Test 4 Time” prototype wasn’t an app, but a box that literally cut the power to the TV and video games. Smock hopes to get the program back to that level someday, but for now he’s hoping other parents will benefit from his smartphone creation.

“(So they can) see how it changes things. I think for parents it will be a relief, that they know if their kids goes off and plays for an hour on the device, the kid will have done 60 math questions at their level,” he said.

In the future, he would like to have a version that asks ACT and SAT prep questions.

“Test 4 Time” is available on Android devices and its beta version is free for the month of June.