Show me a child with a phone/tablet and no limitation, and I’ll show you a child that struggles with some type of addictive behavior. But, come on, even us adults will struggle if we don’t understand our limitations. That being said, let’s talk about Apple’s Screen Time.
If you haven’t set up Screen Time on your Apple devices, you’re missing out on one of the best functions of Apple’s iOS. Indeed, one of the best features of Apple’s iOS is the Screen Time program. This easy-to-set-up feature is one of the best tools for parents to help manage their family’s access to the web, apps, and just general parental controls. Granted, it’ll only work with other Apple devices. For example, if you’re trying to work Screen Time from your iPhone on your kid’s Android device, it won’t work. With Screen Time, you can keep an eye on how your kids spend time on their devices, and you can also set limits to help them get the right balance. It’s not a high-level, intrusive program but a workable alternative if you’re looking for something to help manage your family’s time on their devices.
What It Does. What It Doesn’t.
Screen time will allow you to place restrictions on apps, schedule downtime, create content restrictions, give you reports on how you’re using your devices, and a bunch of useful functions to help manage your screen time. What it won’t do is monitor who your kids are calling (although you can place restrictions on contacts). It won’t monitor what they’re saying in text messages. If you’re trying to use Screen Time to do those kinds of functions, you won’t find it. Instead, you’ll need something like Bark, OurPact, Circle, or MMGuardian.
Setting Up Screen Time
To set up Screen Time on your kid’s device, they will need to have their own Apple ID. You both need to be part of the same Family Group in Family Sharing as well. You also need to turn on Screen Time on your child’s device, which you can do from your iPhone (or your iPad). We prefer doing it all from the iPhone. The next steps are super simple. Then, add a Screen Time passcode to access certain features. Do not share this passcode with your children. Another important tip is this passcode should be different from your main device passcode. Below, we’ll briefly show you how to review your kid’s device use (and yours), add app limits, and schedule downtime.
Monitoring Your Child’s Device Usage
How your child uses their device is something you should have a firm understanding of. We have weekly discussions about our screen time use. On your device, go to Settings, then scroll and tap Screen Time. From here, tap your child’s name. You’ll see their weekly activity summary. Tap See All Activity to learn more, like which apps they use the most, how many times they pick up their device, where they go on those pickups, and which apps are sending the most notifications. You can view these stats based on a full week or just focus on today. Reviewing these stats each Sunday has led to many interesting and constructive conversations with the family.
Limiting Time With Certain Apps with Screen Time
What if you do want to put some time limits on some apps? If you want to limit how much time your child spends on certain apps, you’ll love Screen Time. You can set time limits on individual apps or on app categories, like games, entertainment, and social media. It’s really easy to set up.
To create these time limitations, you’ll need to do the following:
- Tap App Limits.
- Tap Add Limit.
- Then enter your Screen Time passcode if prompted.
- Now select the app category you’d like to limit. Or tap a category and select apps to set individual limits.
- Then, tap Next. From here, set a daily time limit.
- You can also customize app limits for specific days of the week and block the app for the day once the limit expires.
- When you’re done making changes, tap Add.
Additional Scheduling Features With Downtime
If you don’t want your child using their device at certain times of the day, like bedtime or during school, you can schedule what is called “Downtime”, which will block selected apps and notifications. This is probably one of the most effective parental controls with Screen Time. To do this, tap Downtime, enter your Screen Time passcode if prompted, and tap the switch to turn it on. From here, you’ll want to choose which days you’d like to schedule downtime and pick a start and end time. We’ve customized downtime, so the kids have a little later start on the weekends vs. weekdays. During downtime, they’ll still have access to phone calls and the apps you select on their Always Allowed list. You can edit this list anytime back in Screen Time settings. Of course, you’ll have to customize that list to what fits your family’s needs. The three Always Allowed list apps we use are Phone, Podcasts, and Audible. There are some pretty cool podcasts out there to help kids calm down and get ready for bed. We’ve leveraged that.
When they’ve reached the limit, this screen will appear and block them from using the app. It happens instantly, and it’s wonderful. Your kid will have the option to ask for more time (which they will…over and over again), and you will receive a notification on your Apple device. To let them use the app a little longer (approve for 15 minutes, an hour, all day, or don’t approve), swipe down on the notification and extend their time. Or tap “Don’t Approve” to keep the app locked. One benefit of the Apple iOS ecosystem is all your Apple devices work in unison and communicate flawlessly with each other. If you’re working on your Mac and get an “Ask For More Time” alert, you can approve it right there on your Mac. If you’re on your iPad, it’ll come through on your iPad. Most of these requests will show up on your Apple Watch (if you have one) and that makes it really nice to have that functionality (and power) right on your wrist.
It’s Not About Control. It’s About Empowerment
All too often, we are seeking out solutions for maximum control on how our kids use their devices. And that’s up to you as a parent to decide if that’s the right course of action. Some parenting styles are more full-control and others are a little laxer in nature. With these screen time guidelines in place, you can help your family make the most of the time they spend on their devices. Of course, it’s not the BEST solution if you want a lot of control, but what screen time can deliver is unique in the way that it can lead to conversations about how your family is interacting and using technology. Even for yourself, to be able to see usage stats and how you’re spending time on apps can and will be an eye-opener at first. We think Screen Time is a clever way to make you and your family more aware of their tech habits and how you can use technology in a way that benefits and empowers your life instead of becoming beholden to the devices we are so close to.