How to Use Screen Time in Apple’s iOS 12

Sep 27, 2018 · 7 min read

Spending too much time on your iPhone and iPad? Develop some healthy device habits and combat technology addiction with Screen Time in iOS 12.

By Lance Whitney

Are you or your kids glued to your smartphones? Do you want to scale back? One of the many cool features in Apple’s iOS 12 is Screen Time, which lets you see how often you use your phone, where you spend your time, and which apps you use the most.

To help kick your smartphone habit, you can set up and schedule different options to block certain apps or limit the time you spend with them on your iPhone or iPad. And since the feature is cloud-based, it can show you how much time you spend on all your iOS devices collectively.

If you’re ready to tackle tech addiction, here’s how to get started.

First, make sure you’re running iOS 12 or higher. To check, open Settings > General > About. Scroll down the About screen to the entry for Version. If you see 12.0 or higher listed, you’re set. If not, tap the Back arrow to return to the General screen and tap the entry for Software Update to download and install the latest version of iOS.

To enable Screen Time, navigate to Settings > Screen Time and tap the Turn On Screen Time option. Read the information at the Screen Time screen and tap Continue. At the next screen asking if this iPhone or iPad is for yourself or your child, tap the option for This is My iPhone. (We’ll go over the child option later.)

Screen Time turns on and starts monitoring how much time you spend with individual apps, features, and settings on your phone, starting with the Settings app. Swipe down the screen. Tap the link to Use Screen Time Passcode if you want to secure your Screen Time settings and finagle more time with an app if the set amount of time expires. Type and retype a passcode.

Next, turn on the switch to Share Across Devices if you have more than one iOS device and want to record and view your Screen Time information across them all. If you set a passcode, you’re prompted to enter it to enable sharing across devices.

Now, you can set limits on which apps and features you can access and for how long. Tap the entry for Downtime and turn on the switch. You can create a timeframe in which only certain apps will be allowed. Tap the Start time and then the End time to set both.

Back at the Screen Time menu, tap App Limits > Add Limit. At the Categories screen, you can either leave the default setting for All Apps & Categories, or select individual apps to limit.

After your desired apps are selected, tap Add. At the Time screen, set the number of hours and/or minutes after which the apps in the categories you chose will be blocked from further use. You can also set different limits for different categories by setting them up separately.

At the main Screen Time menu, tap the entry for Always Allowed. Here, you can fine-tune your limits to allow certain apps to bypass the block. To add an app to the allowed list, tap its plus sign. If you want to remove an app from the Always Allow list, tap the minus sign and tap Remove.

Tap the entry for Content & Privacy Restrictions on the Screen Time menu. Here, you can allow or disallow specific content, privacy settings, and other changes. Turn on the switch for Content & Privacy Restrictions.

Tap the entry for iTunes & App Store Purchases from the Content & Privacy Restrictions menu. You can allow or disallow installing apps, deleting apps, and in-app purchases. You can also require a password to make in-app purchases on an app you’ve already downloaded.

If you want to enable or disable specific apps, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps and toggle apps on or off. If you want to allow or ban specific content from the App Store, the web, and other sources, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions and pick what you’d like to allow or block.

If you want to limit the data that is shared on certain apps, you can control your settings in the Content & Privacy Restrictions menu under the Privacy section. Tap each entry to allow or disallow it.

Once you make changes on the Content & Privacy Restrictions, those changes must be approved before they go into effect. In the Allow changes section, tap each change to allow or disallow it, and you’re done.

Now, let’s say you want to create limits for a child’s account. The easiest way to do this is on your child’s iPhone or iPad. Turn on Screen Time and tap Continue. At the screen asking if this device is for yourself or your child, tap the button for This is My Child’s iPhone.

At the next screen, pick the Start and End times for Downtime. Tap the button to Set Downtime.

At the screen for App Limits, keep the setting for All Apps & Categories or tap the specific categories you want to include. Tap Set. Choose the hours and/or minutes for the app limit. Tap Set App Limit.

At the Content & Privacy screen, tap Continue. At the Parent Passcode screen, enter and re-enter a passcode. Screen Time then goes into effect.

From here, you can drill down into the settings for Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions to make or modify further changes for your child’s account.

If you set up Downtime on your device or your child’s device, a message will appear when you have five minutes left. After the time is up, your apps are grayed out. If you try to open a specific app, you’re told that you’ve reached your limit.

If you set up App Limits on your device or your child’s device, a message will pop up when any selected apps have five minutes left before they’re blocked. After the time is up, you can add more time by entering your Screen Time passcode and requesting access for an additional period.

If you are worried about how much you or your child is using certain apps, you can monitor usage directly from Screen Time. The main screen displays the amount of time spent on each category. Tap the chart to drill down and see the amount of time for each app, either for today or for the last seven days.

Read more: Experts weigh in on methods families can use to get children away from screens.

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