Are you or your kids glued to your smartphones? Do you want to scale back? Apple’s Screen Time feature allows you to see how often you or your kids use the phone, Check Screen time, where you spend your time, and which apps you use the most. To help kick your smartphone habit, you can set up different options to block certain apps or limit the time you spend with them on your iPhone.
In iOS 13, Apple updated Screen Time with some new and improved features. You can now better limit your access to certain content by combining specific apps, app categories, and websites. Your children’s screen time can be viewed as weekly reports with graphs and compared week over week. If you upgrade to iOS 13.3 or higher, you can manage who can contact you or your kids via phone calls, FaceTime, or messages.
If you’re ready to tackle tech addiction, or just keep a closer eye on how much time you spend staring at your phone, here’s how to get started.
What is Screen Time?
Screen Time is Apple’s solution for those of us who want to know how often and when we are using our iPhones and iPads and how much time we spend on certain apps (cough, cough, Instagram). It shows you how long you used your device every day, and which apps you used the most. Plus, it lets you set a limit on how long you want to use your device each day.
Most importantly, Screen Time can help you get the most out of the time you spend on your handheld digital devices, whether that’s on productivity-boosting activities, social connections, or a little entertainment.
The first thing you should know is that Screen Time cannot be synced to your Mac. This means that, while Screen Time is great for tracking activities you can perform on your iPhone or iPad, it won’t help you to organize your productive hours of work (you’ll have to leave that to Timing!)
Screen Time is not a separate app, but a feature that you can activate and control within Settings. To activate Screen Time, simply go into “Settings > Screen Time,” and tap “Turn on Screen Time.”
Tap “Continue” and then choose whether you are selecting your own device or your child’s device (one of the best features about Screen Time is that it can help you manage the time your family spends on their iPhones or iPads, which we’ll get to in a little bit).
Usage Tracking on Iphone
Screen Time gives you a weekly report showing how long your kids ( Screen Time) have used their device that week and at what times of day (kids can see this on their device, too).
You can also see what categories of apps (Productivity, Entertainment, etc.) and specific apps (Snapchat) they use the most.
How You Can Use It
Since you can see your own usage info, too, it’s a great conversation starter around balance and goals — for the whole family. Take a look at which apps you’re using most and when, and talk about the whys (why you use it the most) and hows (how you feel after using it).
Figure out if your device is pumping you up or bumming you out. Could you stick to watching only 15 minutes of YouTube per day? Would that help you get your homework done faster or meet other personal goals?
App Limits on iPhone
If your kids are using apps that you’re concerned about (like, they can’t control themselves) you can use App Limits to cut them off after a certain amount of time or on certain days.
You can set App Limits by categories, such as Social Networking or Entertainment, and for specific apps. You can even customize the amount of time for specific apps on particular days.
If you want to limit everything, you can go into App Limits and select All Apps & Categories. Once kids hit their time limit, they can send a request for more time; you can either approve it or not.
How You Can Use it
Ultimately, you want to get kids to manage their own use by themselves, with no tools. If you can get them to set a goal, such as “I want to stick to 30 minutes of Fortnite a day,” they’ll feel great when they reach it.
If you need a quicker solution, it’s still a good idea to get kids’ buy-in. Talk about their goals — setting them for yourself might help, too — and praise their efforts. If you’re still having trouble, pull out your Family Media Agreement to make your rules concrete.
Make sure to discuss the Request More Time feature, where kids can ask to extend the limit (through their device). Avoid using this feature as a reward for chores or homework: It’s bound to lead to begging and take you away from the end goal of balance.
Downtime on iPhone
This feature lets you block off a chunk of time when kids can’t use their devices — like from right around bedtime until they wake up. If your kid says, “But I listen to music to help me go to sleep!” No problem:
You can set the Music app to Always Allowed, and your kid can access that app during Downtime.
How You Can Use it.
Downtime is helpful to have for critical times, such as bedtime, meal times, and when your kid is in a particularly funky mood and just needs, well, downtime. Since late-night device use can really interfere with kids getting enough sleep, consider setting Downtime about an hour before bed until morning.
This helps them wind down before they go to sleep and also frees up some time to talk about the day and do quiet, calm activities such as reading. To get buy-in, talk it through first, and set it up on your own phone so that it’s a bonding experience rather than a top-down order.
This is where you can select apps that your kid can always access, even during Downtime. Though you can never turn off the phone entirely, you can control who kids can contact during Downtime using Communication Limits.
You can also turn off core apps like Messages, FaceTime, and Maps so that they won’t come on either.
How You Can Use it.
You might decide to allow access to certain apps that you don’t mind your kid using at any time for any reason. These may be educational, soothing, or otherwise beneficial, such as bedtime music, podcasts, the Books apps, or meditation apps. Be choosy here, though. Otherwise, what’s the point of Downtime?
Content & Privacy Restrictions
This section is basically the old Restrictions section, and you can control everything you could before: music, TV shows, apps, movies, web content, multiplayer games, and more.
The iOS default is Allow All, Unrestricted, and Explicit (for music), so if the content is a concern, you’ll want to change those settings.
In this section, you can also turn off in-app purchases and location services, and prevent your kids from changing your settings by locking them with a passcode.
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How You Can Use it.
Handing your kid’s iPhone gives them access to all kinds of stuff, even if you don’t download a single app. You can use the Content & Privacy Restrictions area of Screen Time to control the settings that mean the most to you and prevent your kid from making changes.
Some of the settings you can make in this section, such as location tracking, are for your kid’s safety. Talk about why these settings are nonnegotiable. Also, you might consider allowing your kids to “earn” the features they want, such as the ability to make in-app
How do I check how much screen time I have left?
To track screen time, go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & parental controls > menu > Manage your data > toggle on Daily device usage
How do I bypass time without password?
Go to Settings > Screen Time. Tap Change Screen Time Passcode, then tap Change Screen Time Passcode again. Tap Forgot Passcode? Enter the Apple ID and password* that you used to set up the Screen Time passcode.
What is a good amount of screen time?
Experts recommend that you stop using screens ideally two hours, or at the least 30 minutes before you go to sleep