Our Guide to Apple Screen Time Set Up

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 
  • Control which apps their child can access, block explicit content and set privacy settings


Set up Family Sharing

Before setting up Screen Time, you must first set up Family Sharing

To set up Family Sharing for the first time, or if you’re not sure whether it’s been set up properly, follow the instructions here. Then continue on to Step #2.


 Turn On Screen Time

To get started, from YOUR device:

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap Screen Time
  • Click on your 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 appears, 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

password, kids,screen time, apple manage

 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 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 also help facilitate building healthy digital habits.


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 used most often, and which websites they’ve visited. The Dashboard is also where you can set time limits for specific apps.  

screen time, ios device

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. You can customize by the day of the week to give kids more flexibility on weekends versus weeknights, or during vacation. However, you can only set one Downtime per day, so this is a limiting factor for parents who want multiple downtimes to shut devices off during homework time or during dinner. There are Wifi solutions that will allow you to block internet access at the touch of a button, there is 


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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[icon name=”arrow-right” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] 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.

[icon name=”arrow-right” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] 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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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:


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. 

[icon name=”arrow-right” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]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.


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


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.  


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 your child has both an iPhone 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!


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    


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!

©2022 Heard It From A Friend

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