In the past, parents could apply a handful of limits on a child’s iPhone or iPad usage, but iOS 12’s new Screen Time feature goes much further. Although you can set up the Screen Time parental controls directly on your child’s device, we recommend you set them up remotely on your iOS device. That way you can adjust and monitor them from your device at any time.
The first step is to create a Family Sharing group, with yourself as a parent. If you still need to do that, see our article Simplify Modern Family Life with Family Sharing.
With Family Sharing active, Settings > Screen Time on your iPhone or iPad gains a Family section with the names of your children. Tap a child’s name, and you can restrict how they use any iOS device signed in with their Family Sharing iCloud Apple ID.
The first time you tap a child’s name, a multi-screen wizard introduces you to some of the features and helps you set up some restrictions. You can easily change these later, so don’t stress about getting everything right initially. You’ll also be asked to create a 4-digit passcode, which you’ll use to adjust settings or override time limits in the future.
Once you’ve gone through the wizard, when you tap your child’s name, the four Screen Time categories appear: Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions.
Downtime lets you set a time period during which your child can use only those apps that you specify in the Always Allowed screen. You’re allowed only one period, so choose wisely. Downtime is ideal for banning usage during sleeping hours, but if you’ve dealt with that another way, you can use Downtime to block usage during homework or dinner time.
The Block at Downtime switch is important. When it’s off, your child can access any app they want during Downtime, as long as they haven’t reached that app’s daily limit. If a child tries to open a managed app, they’ll get the block screen, but they can tap Ignore Limit and then select whether to be reminded in 15 minutes or to ignore the limit for the rest of the day. That could be appropriate for teens who are trying to learn better digital balance but need Facebook access at midnight to check their sports team’s bus schedule. Turn on Block at Downtime, however, and you’ll need to enter a passcode for your child to access blocked apps.
App Limits specify how long a child may use certain categories of apps. They apply by day and reset at midnight. To create one, tap App Limits and then Add Limit. On the Choose Apps screen, either go with the default, All Apps & Categories, which lets you apply an overall time limit, or restrict individual categories, such as Social Networking, Games, and Entertainment. Tap Add to open the time screen. Set an amount of time and then, if you like, tap Customize Days—it appears after you’ve picked a time—and set a per-day limit for each day of the week.
The categories you’ve limited then appear on the main App Limits screen. Tap it to edit: change the Time restriction by tapping time, add more categories by tapping Edit Apps, or delete it by tapping Delete Limit. You can also add additional items with different time limits, so you might allow 30 minutes of Entertainment, but only 15 minutes of Social Networking.
Always Allowed lets you specify certain apps that should be available regardless of Downtime or App Limits. Phone is always on, and Settings, Clock, and Find iPhone appear to be exempt, but you can add other apps that might be important, like the Home app for controlling lights or security systems. It may be easiest to apply App Limits to All Apps & Categories and then use Always Allowed to override that limitation on an app-by-app basis.
To add an app to the Allowed list, tap its green plus button in the Choose Apps section. To remove an allowed app, tap its red minus button.
Content & Privacy Restrictions
Open this screen and turn on the Content & Privacy Restrictions switch to access numerous available restrictions. You can limit adult-themed Web sites; set the age level of items that may be purchased from Apple; lock on Do Not Disturb While Driving; and block a slew of options—in most cases, if you tap an option, you’ll see a description of what it does.
Screen Time has a reporting feature that lets you see an overview of which apps have been running on the child’s device for the current day or the last 7 days. The ability to examine and discuss app use can be illuminating for guiding usage in the future. Children can also view these reports directly on their devices—tap Settings > Screen Time > Name of Device.
All in all, Screen Time should be extremely helpful for parents who want to encourage good screen-time habits.