Our Complete Guide to Apple’s Parental Controls (Screen Time iOS 12) 

What is Apple’s Screen Time?

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

  • Turn iPads and iPhones completely off (except for calling) by setting Downtime 
  • Set time limits for specific apps and categories, giving parent much more discretion as to how they want to allocate time
  • Manage Screen Time settings from the convenience of their own iPhone
  • Review their family’s app usage and web browsing history (sites visited)

#1

Set up Family Sharing

Before setting up Screen Time, you must set up Family Sharing to access all of the features. 

The major benefits include:

  • Ability to set up an Apple ID for a child under 13
  • Paying just once for content and sharing it across the family
  • Tracking your family members’ locations (at least their devices)
  • Approving your child’s app downloads remotely with the Ask to Buy feature

If you want to verify your settings and to confirm your status as the Organizer, Parent or Guardian:

  • Go to Settings > Select Your Name 
  • Tap Family Sharing. Your designation will be listed under your name.  
  • If you’ve not been designated as a parent or guardian, you will need the Organizer to make this change. You will then both be able to approve purchases and downloads for your child as well as to make changes to your family account.  

If you need to set up Family Sharing, follow the instructions found here and continue to Step #2.

#2

Review Requirements for Screen Time

  • You and your child must be both be running iOS 12 or higher to access all the best features of Screen Time. To verify:
    • Open Settings > General > About and scroll down to see which version you’re runnin
    • If you don’t see 12.0 or higher, then tap the Back arrow and tap Software Update to install the latest version of iOS
  • Your child must have his or her own Apple ID (for children under 13, this is done through Family Sharing
  • Access to your child’s device
    • You can set up Screen Time so that it applies to both your child’s iPhone and iPad. However, you need direct access to at least one of your child’s devices to do this (Step #3) 
    • Before you can set up time limits for specific apps or websites, they must have been open on your child’s device for at least 5 seconds. You can open them yourself to avoid having to wait for your child to use them
 HIFAF Recommendation:

This can be a good time to check in with your child and review which apps are installed on his or her devices. Deleting any that are not frequently used will make setting time limits much easier because it will cut down your time and is also a good opportunity to clear storage space. 

Note: If your child has access to an iPhone and an iPad that can run iOS 12, be sure to update both. If a device cannot be updated, see Our Guide to Apple’s Parental controls for iOS11. 

#3

Turn On Screen Time

To get started, from YOUR device:

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap Screen Time
  • Click on the child
  • Click on Turn on Screen Time
  • Hit Continue to go to the next step
  • We are going to skip through a series of steps and come back to them where we think it makes the most sense.  When the following appear, tap Not Now
    • Downtime
    • App Limits
  • When the Content and Privacy appears, click Continue
  • Set up a Parent Passcode which you will need to make any changes to Screen Time parental controls

 HIFAF Recommendation:

Be sure to record your passcode in a place where you can easily retrieve it. We often use a Locked Note in Notes for family passwords.

After you’ve set up Screen Time, your child will get a notification like this on his  or her phone:

If your child uses both an iPhone and an iPad, you can set Screen Time so it governs both devices. Any usage on either device is counted against the overall limit no matter which device he or she is using. At this point in the set up process, we recommend toggling on Share Across Devices.

From your child’s phone:

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time 
  • Toggle Share Across Devices to the ON position.
 HIFAF Recommendation:

Even though Screen Time limits apply to both devices, we still find it helpful to restrict what a children can do on iPhones and iPads if they happen to have both. Generally, we have established the iPad for entertainment–watching and playing games and the iPhone for communicating. We find that this imposed separation makes each device slightly less engrossing and can make it easier for kids to take a break. It can be also help facilitate building healthy digital habits.

#4

Understanding the Major Features of Screen Time 

Once Screen Time is set up, go to your child’s Screen Time dashboard from YOUR device:

  • Settings  > Screen Time > Select your child

1) Dashboard

The Dashboard is one of the most important features of Screen Time. Here you can see how much time your child is spending online, which apps they’ve use most often, and which websites they’ve visit. The Dashboard is also where you can set time limits for specific apps.  

At the moment, you’re likely looking at an empty Dashboard. Once Screen Time begins tabulating your child’s activity, you can set specific time limits for specific apps. In the example Dashboard below, you will see:

  • Which apps your child uses the most (Most Used apps)
  • Which websites your child has visited (but not specific pages viewed on the website)
  • Time spent on each of the apps used
  • Which apps are governed by the time limits you’ve set
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2) Downtime

With Downtime, you can shut your child’s iOS device completely off; only the phone will remain active. What you should know is that you can you can only select one Downtime. Thus, you will need to select a time that will work for you for both weekdays and weekends.  

The limitations of Downtime can be tricky for parents who want multiple downtimes to shut devices off during homework time or during dinner. And for parents of teens, your kids may be out later on weekends, but you may want an earlier  down time on school nights. While you can easily change the down time as needed, it becomes a job to manage. For a more seamless solution, we recommend OurPact.  

To set a Downtime:

From Your phone> Settings > Screen Time > Your Child > Downtime

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  • Set the start and end time
  • Toggle Block At Downtime to the ON position, so the device shut shuts off during those hours
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When the time limit is reached, your child will be able to request more time — unfortunately, there is no way to turn this off!

3) App Limits 

 HIFAF Recommendation:

We recommend that you review this section entirely before setting App Limits for your child. In section  #5, we’ll guide you through setup with specific scenarios.  

In App Limits, you can set limits by category. Apple has assigned eight general categories, and any app downloaded to your child’s device will appear here. Below, we have provided examples of which apps you can expect to find under each category*:

  1. Entertainment–e.g. Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Music
  2. Educational–Quizlet, IXL Math, Reading A to Z
  3. Social Networking–Netflix, SnapChat, Facetime and Messages
  4. Games–high value and low value–Mad Libs, Crossword puzzles, Candy Crush
  5. Creativity–iMovie, Photos
  6. Productivity–Calendar, Notes, Mail
  7. Reading & Reference–Safari, Weather, Kindle
  8. Health & Fitness
  9. Other–Uber, Lyft, Amazon

*Unfortunately, there is no easy way to see how apps are categorized.

 While you cannot edit or add your own categories, you can essentially group individual apps together which is like creating your own category. However, you have to do this in the Dashboard section.

4) Always Allowed

By default, Apple has designated 4 apps as Always Allowed–Phone, Messages, FaceTime and Maps. These apps remain active even during Downtime, so they are on 24/7. Once Downtime is enabled, all apps will be blocked except for calling and those designated as Always Allowed.

  • Apps can be removed or added to Always Allowed by selecting the minus or plus sign on the left.  
  • Select which ones you want now
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#5

How to Set Limits

Screen Time tabulates how much time one spends on a device, measuring both activity on the web and in apps. If you have access to more than one iOS device, it can capture your usage for any activity logged in under your Apple ID on one dashboard. Once you’ve set a limit for a category or specific apps, Screen Time will block those when the time runs out.

For parents who believe that not all screen time is created equal, we recommend grouping individual apps to create customized time limits. We prefer this option because it gives parents the flexibility to customize screen time around educational, creative, and entertainment purposes, while also making room for communication.

While Apple does pre-assign categories, we tested dozens scenarios and have found that customizing settings is the path of least resistance. This is because we think that several of Apple’s pre-assigned categories don’t line up very well with how parents view screen time use. For example, we think most parents regard listening to music differently than they do watching Netflix. Since music is categorized under Entertainment, setting a category limit might shut off the music earlier than intended.

Now that you’ve set a Downtime and made any changes to Always Allowed, you can apply other restrictions using these scenarios as a guide:

#6

The Many Screen Time Scenarios 

One of the main features of Screen Time is the Dashboard where you can monitor which apps your child is using and which websites he/she has visited. It is by tapping on the Dashboard, that you can set specific time limits and group apps together to create customized limits (it is very confusing because most people would think to do this by tapping App Limits in the section below)!

HIFAF Recommendation:

The Dashboard is blank when Screen Time is first set up, and only registers activity once an app or website has been opened for at least 5 seconds on your child’s device. This is why we recommend that parents have access to their child’s device when setting time limits for specific apps–you can speed the setup process by opening them on your child’s phone. Otherwise, you’ll will have to wait until your child has accessed all of his/her most used apps and web sites.

Once Screen Time is active, go to Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Profile to review activity from the convenience of your phone

  • From the Dashboard for your child, tap on the graph to see a detailed view, including a 7 day history 
  • Scroll down to the list of the Most Used, and it will show you a list of all the websites and apps your child has accessed (note: you cannot view pages within the website)

 

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You can also review every app downloaded on your child’s device(s), by going to Always Allowed from your child’s profile and scroll through the list.

There are several known issues mentioned at the end of this roadmap , where kids have figured out how to bypass Screen Time. While the Dashboard is a great resource to monitor Screen Time activity, it is no substitute for a parent!

Apple does not allow you set create multiple Downtimes, so effectively you have to select a Downtime that will work for both weekends and weekdays, if you want to avoid making daily adjustments. To minimize distractions on school mornings, we schedule Downtime to end after the kids are out the door :).

To schedule Downtime:

  • Go to Settings, Screen Time and tap Downtime from your child’s profile page
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  • Enter your Screen Time Passcode
  • Make sure Downtime is toggled to the ON position
  • Select a Start and an End time
  • Make sure Block at Downtime is toggle on
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Your child’s device will shut off except for any apps that are designated Always Allowed. To review your settings:

  • Go to your child’s profile page, and tap Always Allowed. Make changes by clicking the red minus Botton and the green plus button.
  • Parents should know that FaceTime and Messages are defaulted to Always Allowed, and Apple does not allow users to turn off the phone.
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Also, if you child has multiple iOS devices, this Downtime will carry over if you select Share Across Devices. From your child’s phone:

  • Go to Screen Time and scroll down and make sure Share Across Devices is toggled to the ON position.

Apple gives parents the option, to designate any app as Always Allowed, meaning it will remain active 24/7 and will not be blocked by Down Time. By default, Maps, FaceTime and Messages are set to Always Allowed, and parents should know Apple does not allow users to turn off the phone.

To make changes:

  • Go to Settings, Screen Time, and tap Your Child’s Profile
  • Enter your Screen Time Passcode
  • Tap Always Allowed
  • Make changes by selecting the green plus or the red minus sign
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Any app that is not designated as Always Allowed will remain active until Downtime kicks in.

  • Go to Screen Time, scroll down and make sure Share Across Devices is toggled to the ON position.

To shut off your child’s device(s) from your phone*:

  • Go to your child’s dashboard, Select Downtime (found in Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Name)
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  • Then set the Start time for one minute after the present time. For example, if it is 6:00pm, set the time to 6:01pm
  • Decide when you want the device to be unblocked by setting the End time
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  • Tap Always Allowed and select remove
  • If your child has multiple iOS devices, these changes will apply provided you’ve selected Shared Across Devices (see Scenario #2)
 HIFAF Recommendation:

While effective, this multi-step process is not the most elegant solution. You also will then need to remember to change the Downtime and Always Allowed settings back! We recommend using Siri to set a reminder.

*The above assumes that you and your child are both running iOS 12.

For some parents, all screen time is created equal, and they just want to set a general allowance time for All Apps & Categories. When the allowance time is up, the device will shut off, except for any apps that have been designated as Always Allowed which are available 24/7. To set this up:

From your child’s profile page in Screen Time:

  • Tap App Limits
  • Enter your Screen Time passcode
  • Tap Add Limit
  • Select All Apps & Categories and hit Next
  • Scroll to set the desired time.  If you want to set different limits for different days, first tap Customize Days, adjust accordingly and then tap Back arrow
  • Next tap Add
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By now we’ve all heard of the addictive nature of Fortnite. To set time limits, here’s what you can do:

  • Be sure your child has played since you’ve set up Screen Time; otherwise, you will need to set a limit from your child’s device
  • Go to Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Profile
  • Tap the Dashboard
  • Scroll down until you find Fortnite under Most Used Apps and tap
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  • Scroll down until you see Add Limit
  • Set the time; if you want to set a different time limit for different days, tap Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Then tap Add top right
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 HIFAF Recommendation:

While Screen Time measures the cumulative time spent on Fortnite regardless of whether your child is accessing the web browser or the app, this time limit will only apply to iOS devices, not PlayStation consoles or computers.  To set time limits on Mac computers, see Our Complete Guide to Mac’s Parental Controls and Our Complete Guide to Circle which controls every internet-run device. 

If you’re uncomfortable with your child using YouTube because of the potential for mature and questionable content, you can block it from your child’s device. Navigate to www. youtube.com on your child’s device. To register on your child’s Dashboard so you can block it, you must be on the site for at least 5 seconds.

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Profile 
  • Tap the Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll Most Used to find youtube.com and tap
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  • Tap Add Limit
  • Set the time to 1 minute (Apple doesn’t allow you to set a 0-minute time limit
  • Tap Customize Days to make sure every day is set to 1 minute
  • Tap back (top left arrow)
  • Tap Add (top left)
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This limit will apply to both the browser version and the YouTube app, so you’re covered in any scenario. There is also YouTube Kids which has pre-filtered content.  For information, continue on this Screen Time Roadmap

 HIFAF Recommendation:

We recommend that parents turn on YouTube’s Restricted mode and set Safari Restrictions. 

While Screen Time measures the cumulative time spent on YouTube regardless of whether your child is accessing the web browser or the app, we suggest that parents discourage their children from using the YouTube app. Unfortunately, YouTube’s Restricted mode is easy to deactivate, but Safari Restrictions will still provide some protection on youtube.com. Continue the journey on this Screen Time Roadmap for more direction. 

Monitoring what videos your kids are watching is always a good policy! 

Option #1: Turn Safari Completely Off

Some parents aren’t ready for their children to use Safari, so the good news is they can be completely turned off.

  • From Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Dashboard, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions
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  • Make sure Content & Privacy Restrictions is toggled to the ON position
  • Tap Allowed Apps
  • Turn off Safari and (and while you’re here, any other apps you don’t want to allow)
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See other stops in our Screen Time Roadmap  for more information about content and privacy restrictions.

HIFAF Recommendation:

We recommend that parents limit their kids to one browser to sidestep having to set parental controls in multiple places. We tested Safari Restrictions extensively and think they are fairly effective as they:

  • Automatically disable the Private Browsing Mode
  • Can be enabled for on all iOS devices and Mac Computers
  • Work when using cellular or Wifi, so your child’s web-browsing activity is covered at home and on-the-go
  • Can be locked with a passcode, so children can’t turn them off

Parents should know that if they don’t take action to limit Safari, it will be available until Downtime kicks in.  There are many popular games and video sites that have a browser version (amazon.com–can view Prime Videos, youtube.com, fortnite).

You can set a specific time limit for Safari, but it must have been running for at least 5 seconds on your child’s device following the setup of Screen Time. Go to:

  • Settings > Screen Time > tap your Child’s Dashboard 
  • Scroll down to Most Used
  • Click on Safari
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  • Hit Add Limit
  • Choose a time limit; if you want to set a different time limit for different days, select Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Add (top right)
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 HIFAF Recommendation:

Without a specific time limit for Safari, it will remain open until the scheduled Downtime. Parents will likely want to consider setting time limits for YouTube.com (Scenario #7) to prevent binge-watching on the web browser version. And you may also want to set specific time limits or block other web-sites (e.g. ESPN or Facebook). 

Instructions to enable Safari Content Restrictions are included in Step #8. Continue on the Screen Time Roadmap, and we will also provide recommendations for web filtering and browsers. 

When considering setting limits for social media apps, you must first consider your parental view on texting because texting (via Messages) is counted under Apple’s Social Network Category. You have four options:

Option #1: Leave Messages Defaulted to Always Allowed

To review your child’s settings, go to:

  • Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Profile Page
  • Tap Always Allowed to confirm that Messages is designated as Always Allowed
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This means that Messages will remain active 24/7.

Option #2: Set a limit on the Social Networking category

  • Go to App Limits (from your child’s profile page) and tap Social Networking
  • Tap Next
  • Scroll to select the time; if you want different time limits for different days, select Customize Days, adjust, tap Back (top left)
  • tap Add (top right)
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If you’ve taken Messages out of Always Allowed, parents should know if they set a category limit, then it’s possible for a child to spend all his/her time on just one app (e.g. Instagram), so you’ll want to factor that in when setting allowance time.

 HIFAF Recommendation:

Based on an extensive review of the latest research, we recommend limiting a teen to 1-2 social media platforms and spending no more than approximately 30 minutes on each platform

Option #3: Block Messages only at Downtime

This requires setting a time limits for all OTHER apps included in the Social Networking Category. It’s best to do this from your child’s device, or make sure that every app has been opened for at least 5 seconds after setting up Screen Time

In this scenario, we take you through setting a combined 1 hour limit for Instagram and Snapchat  

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time> Your Child’s Profile
  • Tap your child’s Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down under Most Used until you find Instagram
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  • Scroll down and tap Add Limit and select 1 hour; if you want to set a different limit for different days, click Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Edit Apps, and tap Snapchat
  • Tap Add (top right)
  • Tap Add again (top right)
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Or, to set an individual 30 minute limit for Instagram and Snapchat:

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time> Your Child’s Profile
  • Tap your child’s Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down under Most Used until you find Instagram
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  • Scroll down and tap Add Limit and select 30 minutes; if you want to set a different limit for different days, click Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Add
  • Tap back (top left) to return to Your Child’s Profile
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  • Repeat steps for Snapchat

Option #4: Set a separate time limit for Messages and specific limits for all remaining apps in the Social Media Networking Category. This is best to do this from your child’s device, or make sure that every app has been opened for at least 5 seconds after setting up Screen Time

Begin by setting a time limit for Messages (for example, 1 hour).

  • Go to Your Child’s Dashboard and tap (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down to Most Used Apps and tap Messages
  • Scroll down and tap Add Limit and select 1 hour; if you want to set a different limit for different days, click Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Add

Then create a combined 1 hour limit for Instagram and Snapchat  

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Profile
  • Tap your child’s Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down under Most Used until you find Instagram
  • Scroll down and tap Add Limit and select 1 hour; if you want to set a different limit for different days, click Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Edit Apps, and tap Snapchat
  • Tap Add (top right)
  • Tap Add again (top right)

Or, to set an individual 30 minute limit for Instagram and Snapchat:

  • Go to Settings > Screen Time> Your Child’s Profile
  • Tap your child’s Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down under Most Used until you find Instagram
  • Scroll down and tap Add Limit and select 30 minutes; if you want to set a different limit for different days, click Customize Days, adjust, and then tap back (top left)
  • Tap Add
  • Tap back (top left) to return to Your Child’s Profile
  • Repeat for Snapchat

Option #1: Turn off FaceTime and Messages altogether.

Some parents aren’t ready for their children to use FaceTime and Messages, so the good news is they can be completely turned off.

In the default settings, FaceTime and Messages are Always Allowed apps, so the first step is to remove them:

  • From within Screen Time, click Your Child’s Profile, tap Always Allowed
  • Remove FaceTime and Messages 

To turn off Messages and Facetime, you need to make sure the apps have been open for at least 5 seconds following the set up of Screen Time, so that it registers on your child’s Screen Time Dashboard.

  • Go to Your Child’s Profile Page (from Settings > Screen Time)
  • Tap the Dashboard (where you see Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll through Most Used and tap Messages
  • Tap Add Limit
  • Set the time to 1 minute, select Customize Days to confirm that 1 minute is set for every day
  • Tap back (top left)
  • Tap Add top right
  • Repeat for Facetime

Apple does not allow you to set a 0-minute time limit, so technically, Messages is not completely off 🙂

Option #2: Set specific time limits for FaceTime and Messages

To set specific time limits, you need to make sure the apps have been opened for at least 5 seconds following the set up of Screen Time, so that it registers on your child’s Screen Time Dashboard.

If you want to set specific time limits for FaceTime and Messages, first you need to check to see what the current settings are: 

  • From within Screen Time, click Your Child’s Profile, tap Always Allowed
  • Remove FaceTime and Messages 

Now you have two choices: you can group FaceTime and Messages together and set one limit for both, OR  you can set individual time limits for each.

a) To group FaceTime and Messages together:

  • Go to your child’s Dashboard (from Settings > Screen Time) and tap (you will see your child’s Screen Time activity)
  • Scroll down to Most Used
  • Click on FaceTime
  • Scroll down to Add Limit

  • Select the time; if you want to set different time limits for different days, select Customize Days first. Make adjustments as needed and click back arrow (top left)
  • Next select Edit Apps
  • Select Messages and click Add at the top right

b) To set a separate time limit for FaceTime and Messages:

  • Go to Your Child’s Dashboard (from Settings > Screen Time) and tap where you see your child’s Screen Time activity
  • Scroll down to Most Used
  • Click on FaceTime
  • Scroll down to Add Limit
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  • Select the time; if you want to set different time limits for different days, select Customize Days first. Make adjustments as needed and click back arrow (top left)
  • Select Add and then back arrow labeled Today (top left)
  • Repeat for Messages
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The time spent listening to music is not counted against Screen Time limits; however, the time you spend in the app scrolling playlists or searching for songs will be tabulated.  If you leave music to its default settings, it will shut off once Downtime kicks in.

If you music to be available outside of Downtime, then you can move it to Always Allowed.

  • Go to your child’s Screen Time Profile Page, select Always Allowed
  • Add the music app with the green plus button

 HIFAF Recommendation:

Apple currently categorizes all games together, but if you’re of the opinion that some games have more redeeming value than others, then you can create customized groups. We recommend grouping ‘higher value’ games and setting a specific time limit. With the remaining ‘entertainment’ games, we recommend grouping them with the other entertainment apps (e.g. Netflix), and then creating a time limit for these.

When grouping apps, you first need to make sure they’ve been opened on your child’s device for at least 5 seconds following the activation of Screen Time. This is so they appear in the Dashboard section.  It’s best to do this from your child’s device so you can be sure you’ve assigned every game and entertainment app.

In the example below, we’re granting 15 minutes per day for these ‘higher value’ apps: eg. Solitaire, Mad Libs, Hangman together, and 1 hour on weekends for ‘entertainment’ games and apps which include Crossy, Candy Crush, Netflix and Prime Video

  • From Your Child’s Device, open every game and entertainment app for at least 5 seconds
  • On your Phone > Settings > Screen Time > Your Child
  • Go to your Child’s Dashboard
  • Scroll down to Most Used
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  • Click on Mad Libs
  • Scroll down to Edit Apps and click Solitaire, Mad Libs and Hangman
  • Click Add
  • Set a time limit for 15 minutes and hit Today (back arrow)
  • Now group the other ‘entertainment’ games and apps by tapping on your Child’s Dashboard
  • Select Netflix, Add Limit
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  • Scroll down and select Edit Apps, choose Prime Video, Crossy and Candy Crush
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  • Click Add and then set time limit of 1 hour
  • To grant for weekends only, select Customize Days
  • Next select 1 minute for Monday through Thursday (this is the only way block time on weekdays)
  • Tap Today (back arrow)
  • Tap Add top right
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 Every other app on your child’s phone will remain open until Downtime kicks in unless you set further time limits, or they’re designated as Always Allowed which means they’re available 24/7.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Limit the Number of Apps Your Child Uses

If your child is using lots of apps, it is a challenge to keep up with them, and time and again, we have been unpleasantly surprised.  Here is the issue with so many apps: if children want to keep playing they are required to watch ads, which may also be gamified, meaning that children earn extra points or special rewards for watching. We find the underlying manipulation deeply concerning. Here is one example of an ad that appeared when my daughter was playing Wishbone, an app rated 12+ that is a seemingly harmless would you rather game: movie vs. read a book, hamburger vs. pizza.

Further, because these aspects of an app may not be readily apparent, we do encourage parents to spend a few minutes playing the games, so you are fully informed. Establishing content parameters is especially helpful, and we have a section for this in our Family Agreement.
  The Fewer the Apps, the Better!

 HIFAF Recommendation:

We recommend creating your own customized groups because Apple’s categorization system is inflexible, and you can’t re-assign apps to different categories. Also, we recommend turning off the App Store because any app downloaded after you’ve set up these customized group will remain active until the scheduled Down Time unless you take further action. To turn off the App Store go to:

  • Content & Privacy Restrictions
  • Enter Screen Time passcode and make sure Content & Privacy Restrictions are toggle on
  • Tap iTunes and App Store Purchases
  • Tap Installing Apps and tap Don’t Allow
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Some parents really like to slice and dice Screen Time–they want to encourage creativity, for example, but don’t want their kids to be glued to devices all the time. If this is your scenario, you can set a category limit or group individual ‘creative apps’ together.

Option #1: Create a category time limit

In this example, let’s say you wanted to give you child 1 hour on weekends for to use iMovie and Photos for creative purposes.

From your Child’s Profile in Screen Time:

  • Tap Add Limit
  • Enter Screen Time Pass Code
  • Tap Add Limit
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  • Select Creativity
  • Tap Next
  • Select 1 hour, Customize Days and set to 1 minute Monday through Friday
  • Tap back arrow (top left) and tap Add
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Option #2: Group ‘creative apps’ together and set a limit

In this example, let’s say you wanted to give you child 1 hour on weekends for to use iMovie, Photos, and Book Creator for creative purposes.

When grouping apps, you first need to make sure they’ve been opened on your child’s device for at least 5 seconds following the activation of Screen Time. This is so they appear in your child’s Dashboard.

  • From Your Child’s Device, open iMovies, Photos and Book Creator for at least 5 seconds
  • On your Phone > Settings > Screen Time > Your Child
  • Go to your Child’s Dashboard
  • Scroll down to Most Used
  • Click on Photos
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  • Click Add Limit
  • Scroll down to Edit Apps and click iMovie and Book Creator
  • Click Add
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  • Set a time limit for 1 hour, and select Customize Days
  • Next select 1 minute for Monday through Thursday (a 0-minute setting is not an option)
  • Tap Today (back arrow)
  • Tap Add top right
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 Every other app on your child’s phone will remain open until Downtime kicks in unless you set further time limits or they’re designated as Always Allowed which means they’re available 24/7.

My 13-year old has both an iPhone and iPad–Screen Time Limits are shared across both of there devices. Here’s her setup:

Her iPhone is for communicating and productivity purposes primarily:

  • Downtime is set from 8:30pm to 7:30am (she is not permitted to use her phone on campus, so it’s not an issue)
  • Messages and FaceTime have been removed from Always Allowed, but no further limits (we want to encourage social communication and are not concerned about over-use)
  • Safari Restrictions to limit adult content are active, and a time limit for Safari is set for 20 minutes (to encourage curiosity)
  • Content Restrictions are enabled to limit explicit content
  • Youtube Restricted mode is set on the browser version (the app is not allowed), and also there’s a time limit for 15 minutes (some good with YouTube, some bad, so trying to minimize exposure)
  • A few ‘higher value’ apps (e.g. Solitaire, Hangman, Mad Libs) are downloaded in the rare instance that she needs a distraction while waiting somewhere. These are grouped together and assigned a 15 minute time limit.
  • Productivity apps such as Notes, Calendar, Mail are active until Downtime
  • No other entertainment apps, games, or social media apps are downloaded (she’s not interested in social media yet)

iPad: for entertainment

  • Downtime is set from 8:30pm to 7:30am
  • Games and Entertainment Apps are grouped together with a time limit of 1 hour Friday-Sunday only; the other days are set to 1 minute
  • Safari Restrictions to limit adult content are active and a time limit for Safari is set for 20 minutes
  • Content Restrictions are enabled to limit explicit content
  • Youtube Restricted mode is set on the browser version (the 15-minute limit set above carries over)
  • Netflix parental controls are enabled
  • Prime Video parental controls are enabled

#7

Manage Purchases & Downloads

To manage purchases and downloads (from your device, under Settings > Screen Time> Your Child> tap on Content & Privacy Restrictions):

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  • Enter your Screen Time Passcode
  • Toggle Content & Privacy Restrictions to the ON position
  • Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases and decide whether to grant your child permission for:
    • Installing apps–if you select Don’t Allow, then the App Store will be turned off
    • Deleting apps
  • Block in-app purchases to avoid your child receiving repeated enticements to upgrade to the paid version of an app.  
  • Prevent your child from going on a buying spree, by turning on Always Require a passcode
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 HIFAF Recommendation:

Unfortunately, a major flaw of Screen Time is that a child can delete any app and then download it again which effectively nullifies any screen time limit you’ve set. You have two choices to prevent this:

  • Block your child from Deleting Apps by clicking Don’t Allow
  • Block the App Store by selecting Don’t Allow under Installing Apps

If your child is using lots of apps, it is a challenge to keep up with them, and time and again, we have been unpleasantly surprised.  Here is the issue with so many apps: if children want to keep playing they are required to watch ads, which may also be gamified, meaning that children earn extra points or special rewards for watching. We find the underlying manipulation deeply concerning. Here is one example of an ad that appeared when my daughter was playing Wishbone, an app rated 12+ that is a seemingly harmless would you rather game: movie vs. read a book, hamburger vs. pizza.

Further, because these aspects of an app may not be readily apparent, we do encourage parents to spend a few minutes playing the games, so you are fully informed. Establishing content parameters is especially helpful, and we have a section for this in our Family Agreement.
  The Fewer the Apps, the Better!

If you want to give your child more freedom to explore and choose to leave the App Store on, you still have the option to approve downloads before your child can access them. This is known as the Ask to Buy feature and is found under Family Sharing.

While some parents love this feature, we find it a bit clunky and unnecessary if you are typically approving purchases when under the same roof. Our Family Agreement can also help you to establish protocols around downloading apps, while also creating the opportunity for discussion. 

If you want to spot check which apps your child has downloaded on his or her devices, you can click on your child in Screen Time, and tap Always Allowed. Every single app should appear here.

#8

Consider Which Apps You Will Grant Access to

You have more control than you may realize–you can turn off literally everything, except calling.

From Content & Privacy Restrictions (found under Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Name):

  • Tap Allowed Apps

Once you haveto the Off position, these settings will be locked under your Screen Time passcode.

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 HIFAF Recommendation:

We recommend turning off AirDrop to prevent anyone from sending files to your child and Apple News for its potentially mature content.

#9

Block Explicit Content

What many parents don’t realize is that all Apple devices are sold with settings defaulted to allow explicit content. Parents must take action to modify these settings. From your phone, go to Settings > Screen Time > Your Child’s Name > Content & Privacy Restrictions):

1. Set Content Restrictions Ratings

  • Under the Allowed Store Content section, click on Ratings For and choose the desired region

2. Block Explicit Content by tapping each of the content types under the Allowed Content section. Your options include:

  • Music, Podcasts, News

  • Movies

  • TV Shows

  • Books

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  • Apps–when the App Store is unlocked, your child will be able to browse apps that you have designated as age-appropriate. For example,

      1. If your child is 11, and you’re comfortable with him playing apps up to age 13, you would select 9+.
      2. If your child is 10 and you grant her permission to use Tik Tok Musical.ly, then you’ll have to set App Limits to 12+ because Musical.ly is rated 12+. This means she will can browse all apps up to age 18. 
      3. If you grant permission to your child to download the YouTube app, then you’ll have to set app limits to 17+, which means he or she will be able to browse all apps in the App Store.
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3. Set Web Site Restrictions: in Web Content, select either*:

  1. Limit Adult Websites — here you can also select websites to NEVER ALLOW (for example, if you’re not okay with your child watching youtube.com)
  2. Allowed Websites only for younger kids who use learning programs such as Starfall or IXL, you may want to consider using the allow this feature to contain them. Scroll down to add web-sites and swipe left to delete
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4. Set Siri Restrictions — Tap Don’t Allow Explicit Language

5. Set Game Center Restrictions — Decide whether you will allow Multiplayer Games and Adding Friends

*Setting either of these website restrictions options automatically disables private browsing.  

If your kids watch YouTube, we recommend limiting them to watching on the browser-version through Safari for two reasons:

  1. You won’t have to override all App restrictions, so your child will only be able to browse apps you’ve designated as age appropriate
  2. You can layer on Safari web browsing Restrictions on top of YouTube parental controls for extra protectionWhether your child accesses YouTube via a web browser or the app, be sure to activate YouTube Restricted mode and monitor your child’s activity!

And be advised that the above Apple Restrictions only apply to movie and TV shows downloaded from the iTunes store — they do not cover content streamed through Netflix or Amazon, so you will need to set up parental controls for these content providers as well. See Our Guides to the Major Content Providers.  

#10

Review Location Sharing

You can set up your child’s iPad or iPhone, so you can monitor his or her location, or at least the location of the device. At this point, you will need to switch to your child’s device. If you’ve already set up Family Sharing, you’ve automatically completed this step, but we recommend confirming the settings below. If you child has both an iPhone and and iPad, make sure you do both. 

Child Device > Settings > Privacy > Location Services

  • Under Location Services, make sure it’s toggled ON
  • Tap Share My Location, make sure Share My Location is toggled on and confirm it says, From this Device (recommended from the iPhone)
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To find your child’s device, log into Find My iPhone on your phone.  Note: you will need your Apple ID and Password. Select your child’s device and Play Sound to help you locate the device.

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 HIFAF Recommendation:

So often we find we are trying to get in touch with our kids when we are out of the house.  Our kids ignore the landline and really don’t pay much attention to their iPhones.  So we have found it effective to use Find my iPhone to grab their attention.  When you select their device (even if you don’t expect that they’re on it), use the Play Sound feature. When we set multiple devices off at once, they know we are really trying to get in touch and should call us immediately!

#11

Review Privacy Settings

From Your Child’s Device > Settings > Privacy > Location Services

  • In Settings, scroll down to Privacy and tap
  • Review which Apps your child’s device is sharing its location from
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 HIFAF Recommendation:

Generally, the only app we think it’s essential to share location from is Find My iPhone so you can locate your child’s device if it gets lost. We recommend turning off Location Sharing for Camera to prevent your child from sharing photos with geotags (e.g. If your child took a photo at home and posted it online, someone could easily figure out your address.)

If you are particularly concerned about protecting your child’s privacy, we recommend blocking Apple’s ability to track your child’s device behind the scenes.  While Apple does say that it encrypts the data, parents may be surprised to see that their child’s device’s location can be pinpointed to an exact location, at a specific time of day, with a history of previous locations.

To turn this off:

  • From Settings > Privacy > Location Services
  • Scroll all the way to the end and tap on System Services
  • Tap Significant Locations and toggle it OF    

#12

Lock Parental Control Settings 

You may want to consider restricting your child from making changes to their location sharing settings as well as to their account settings. Some teens have been known to get fairly creative – hiding text messages and faking their location. To prevent this from happening, make sure you’ve locked down your child’s devices.

From within Screen Time for your child, scroll down to Allow Changes and:

1. Block making Passcode changes – Select Don’t Allow if you don’t want your child to be able to change his or her passcode without your permission. This will remove the Touch ID and Passcode option from your child’s device. You can reactive it here when needed

2. Block making Account changes – Select Don’t Allow if you don’t want your child to be able to change their Apple ID password or add additional accounts to texting, email or calling

3. Block making Location Services changes – you must do this from your child’s device: go to Settings, Screen Time, Content and Privacy Restrictions, Locations Services, and select Don’t Allow Changes

 

 HIFAF Recommendation:

If your teen is driving and you want to block texting while driving (highly recommended!), you need to activate this setting from your teen’s device.  Settings >  Do Not Disturb > look for the the Do Not Disturb While Driving section > select Automatically.  Then return to Content and Privacy Restrictions and select > Do Not Disturb While Driving and tap Don’t Allow to prevent changes. Note: do not activate the Do Not Disturb toggle switch at the top as this will put your your teen’s phone into permanent DND mode!

If your child’s iPad can access data, but you want to avoid burning through your data plan, you can block cellular from your child’s device.  Go to Settings > Cellular data > toggle to the OFF position. Then return to Content and Privacy Restrictions and select > Cellular Data Changes and tap Don’t Allow.

In our testing, Screen Time does a fairly effective job of calculating even if your kids might try to tell you otherwise :). It only measures the time that an app is being actively used and does not count apps running in the background; however, remind your child to pause Screen Time by pressing the home key before he or she takes any breaks.

There are several known scenarios where Screen Time is ineffective, and there is no easy fix at this point in time. We will continue to make sure Our Voice is heard!  

  • Children can change the time zone and keep playing games

If this becomes an issue, then we recommend OurPact as it allows you to lock in a time zone.

  • If a child is watching a video on Netflix and presses the home button so it appears as a picture in picture, the minutes won’t count against the child’s screen-time limit. The child could watch all day long and the parent would not be alerted.

We’re asking Apple to fix!

  • One of the kids would send himself YouTube links in iMessage to watch videos which can be watched beyond the time set for the YouTube app.

We’re asking Apple to fix!

  • Screen Time doesn’t work on Apple TV and the Mac

We’re asking Apple to fix!

Getting more control over iOS devices is a major step in parenting technology, but it is not the only one. You don’t have to go it alone–text us at 8HIFAFGOTU!

  • iPhone X iPhone 6/6 Plus and later;
  • iPhone SE iPhone 5S iPad Pro;
  • 12.9-in., 10.5-in., 9.7-in. iPad Air and later;
  • iPad, 5th generation and later;
  • iPad Mini 2 and later;
  • iPod Touch 6th generation.

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