Our Complete Guide to Apple’s Screen Time

What is Screen Time?

Apple’s latest functionality allows parents to manage their kids digital access.  At a high-level, parents can:

  • Set Downtime to turn the iDevice completely off (except for the ability to make phone calls)
  • Set specific limits for specific apps
  • Review children’s web browsing history
  • Assess the overall amount that their children spend online

Key Features


Downtime lets you mute most of your phone’s notifications during specific times. By default, Apple turns on Downtime from 10pm to 7am.

App Limits

You can set daily time limits for apps. App Limits refresh every day at midnight, and you can delete them any time.

Always Allowed

Here’s where you can manage which apps are available at all times, even when Downtime limits have kicked in. The top of the screen features allowed apps, with Messages and FaceTime included by default along with the Phone app. (You can remove those first two, if you prefer they not always be available, but your phone stays accessible at all times.

Content & Privacy Restrictions

In this section, you can manage the kind of store content — movies, music, TV shows, books and apps — that can appear on your phone. You can also manage things like web content restrictions, location sharing, and privacy features. These controls existed in previous versions of iOS, but they’ve moved to Screen Time in iOS 12.

How to set up App Limits?

Like Screen Time, App Limits factor in usage for all of your iOS devices, and you can also set it up with a family account to monitor how your kids are using their gadgets and implement appropriate App Limits remotely.

  • To access it, go to Settings —> Screen Time —> App Limits.
  • When you choose to add a limit this way, iOS will ask you to pick an entire category of apps that the time restriction will apply to.
  • If you want to focus on one particular app, you’ve actually got to do it a bit differently. Go back to Screen Time, find the app in the list of “Most Used” and tap it. You’ll see an “add limit” option near the bottom of the following screen.
  • Choose the amount of time you want to give that app or category. (The timer restarts at midnight local time.)
  • A few minutes before your daily allotment is about to run out, iOS will send a reminder notification. Once the limit is hit, a white screen comes up and presents options to extend the limit by 15 minutes or just ignore it altogether.

You can set up a four-digit passcode for use with App Timers. The passcode will then be required to extend the limit or dismiss it for the remainder of that day. You’ll also need to enter it when making any changes to existing App Limits.

Note: iMessage is categorized under “Social Networking.”

How to set up Downtime?

To set up downtime, go to Settings —> Screen Time —> Downtime. Choose the time of evening you want Downtime to begin and what time the next morning it should end.

Another note about Downtime – one of its weaknesses is that you can’t set multiple and different “Downtimes.”

How to set up Content and Privacy Restrictions?

To make any changes in this section, you’ve first got to turn on the Content & Privacy switch at the top of the screen. It’s toggled off by default. Once that’s enabled, you can the following changes:

  • Block inappropriate content
  • Prevent iTunes purchases and downloads
  • Prevent Explicit Content and Content Ratings
  • Set Location Preferences on Apps
  • Allow changes to privacy settings

How to set a passcode for Screen Time?

All these restrictions barely mean anything if your kid is bright enough to simply wander into settings and turn them off. Fortunately, Apple allows you to make a separate four-digit passcode for Screen Time.

  1. Open Screen Time.
  2. Scroll down to Screen Time Passcode.
  3. Enter a four-digit code, and then re-enter it for security and accuracy. Whenever you try to alter a setting in Screen Time, you’ll have to enter this code.
  4. To disable the code, simply repeat the steps above, and you’ll find that Screen Time Passcode has changed to Change Screen Time Password. Press it, and you can either change the passcode or disable it entirely.


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