iPhone Screen Time: The New iOS 12 Feature - dummies

iPhone Screen Time: The New iOS 12 Feature

By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

Your kids are addicted to their phones. Admit it — you are too. Much as we rely on these wondrous pocket computers, we can all use a break from our digital devices. Apple’s solution is Screen Time, a fresh set of tools that arrived with iOS 12. Although Screen Time includes the parental controls that used to appear under the since replaced Restrictions setting, this new feature is as much about policing your own behavior as well.

For starters, this new iOS 12 feature gives you a snapshot of how long you’ve been on your phone on a given day or during the past week, and what you’ve been doing on the phone. Screen Time shows you which apps you’re spending the most time with, how many times you pick up the device per day, and how many notifications you receive.

iPhone Screen time
Screen Time reveals how you’re spending time on your phone, including how often you pick up the device.

Armed with such data, you can set a Downtime schedule, which is when you or your kids should steer clear of the screen. You’re first asked to enter a Screen Time passcode, which is different than the passcode you use for the device itself. You then choose a designated chunk of time when only the apps you greenlight, as well phone calls, will be available. If you flip the Ask for More Time switch, you’ll receive a notification five minutes before the Downtime period kicks in.

After entering a Screen Time passcode again, you can also set daily limits for given app categories: Health & Fitness, Entertainment, Social Network, Games, and so on. Apple determines which apps fit which category. You get to choose on which days and for how long those limits will be imposed, through carousel-type controls. You can also choose apps that you want to permit even during Downtime, keeping in mind that the Phone app itself is always permitted.

When you reach a time limit, a screen appears, in this example for the Darts of Fury game. And yes, depending on how you set things up, you can choose to ignore the limit or be nagged again in 15 minutes.

iPhone Screen Time notifications
Sorry. Time’s up. Choose to ignore?

You can apply appropriate Downtime and app limits for your kids in the Family section of Screen Time settings.

App limits apply across all the devices you have signed into a single iCloud account.

Parents and bosses may love the Content & Privacy Restrictions found in the Screen Time settings, but kids and employees usually think otherwise. You can clamp down on — um, provide proper parental guidance to — your children by preventing them at least some of the time from using Mail, Safari, the camera, FaceTime, Siri & Dictation, Wallet, and CarPlay. Other limits can be placed on iTunes Store, Books Store, Podcast News, and other apps.

You also might not let the kids remove old apps, install new apps, or make purchases in the apps you do allow. You can try to avoid exposing them to explicit language. When restrictions are in place, icons for off-limit functions are removed from the Home page.

You can allow Junior to watch a movie on the iPhone but prevent him from watching a flick that carries an R or NC-17 rating, for example. You can also restrict access to certain TV shows, music, podcasts, books, websites, and apps, based on explicit content or age-appropriate ratings, and stop the kids from engaging in multiplayer games, adding friends, or recording the screen in Game Center.

Among the other limits that can be imposed here: the capability to make changes to accounts, cellular data usage, refreshing background apps, TV provider, and volume limits. You can also access the various Privacy setting, including settings for Location Services, Bluetooth sharing, and more.

So poke around, employ an iron fist where necessary, and don’t feel guilty: You have your users’ best interests at heart.