Our Complete Guide to iOS 12 Restrictions

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 around categories giving parents more discretion to designate what is educational versus entertainment.
  • Track and limit Screen Time across multiple iOS devices
  • Review children’s web browsing history (sites visited)
  • Manage parental controls from the convenience of their own devices 


Set up Family Sharing

Before setting up Restrictions for your child, we recommend setting up Family Sharing.

To verify your settings and to confirm you are the designated Organizer, Parent or Guardian, Click Here or  To add a child Click Here.


Review Requirements

You and your child must be both be running iOS 12 or higher to use Screen Time. Click Here To Check.

  • Your child must have his or her own Apple ID
  • Access to your child’s device(s).
    • If your child has both an iPad and iPhone, you can set up Screen Time so that it applies to both devices. However, you need direct access to at least one of your child’s devices to do this (instructions below in #3).  
    • There is a time delay between setting up Screen Time and being able to set up time limits for specific apps. ARROW: Your child has to open each app for at least 5 seconds once Screen Time has been enabled before you can set specific time limits for specific apps.
  HIFAF Recommendation:

You can eliminate this time delay, and do it yourself. This can also be a good time to review which apps are installed on your child’s device and delete any that are not frequently used (checking in with your child is a good idea). This is not an essential step, but will make setting time limits much easier and can be a good opportunity to clear storage space.  


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

  • Create 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 . Link to Tech Tip #19

After you’ve set up Screen Time, your child will get a notification like this on his  or her phone, and you will see this screen on YOUR DEVICE ICON.

  • If your child uses both an iPhone and an iPad, you can set one Screen Time limit that governs both devices. Any usage on either device is counted against the overall limit no matter which device he or she is using.
  HIFAF Recommendation:

At this point in the set up process, we recommend toggling on Share Across Devices. From your child’s phone icon, go to Screen Time (Settings > Screen Time) and toggle to the ON position.

Even though Screen Time limits apply to both devices, we still find it helpful to restrict what our child can do on her iPhone versus her iPad. 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 one way to facilitate helping your kids to build 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)  The 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 Dashboard, you will see:
    • Which apps your child uses the most (Most Used Apps)
    • Which websites your child has visited (under Most Used Apps)

You will not be able to see which specific pages were viewed on a website

  • Which apps are governed by the time limits you’ve set
  • You can set a specific time limit by tapping Add Limit
      • Set the start and end time
      • Toggle Block At Downtime to the ON position, so the device shut shuts off during those hours. If you want to customize time limits for certain days, you can that by tapping Customize Days

  Your child will be able to request more time (unfortunately, there is no way to turn this off)

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. You 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 downt times 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. ADD OUR GUIDES ICON linked to a coupon code at the end.  

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

    • Set the start and end time
    • Toggle Block At Downtime to the ON position, so the device shut shuts off during those hours.


  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 you’ve reviewed this section entirely before customizing Screen Time 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 could expect to find under each category:

Entertainment–e.g. Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Music

Educational–Quizlet, IXL Math, Reading A to Z

Social Networking–Netflix, SnapChat, Facetime and Messages

Games–high value and low value–Mad Libs, Crossword puzzles, Candy Crush

Creativity–iMovie, Photos

Productivity–Calendar, Notes, Mail

Reading & Reference–Safari, Weather, Kindle

Health & Fitness

Other–Uber, Lyft, Amazon

*Unfortunately, you cannot easily 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, but 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, those designated as Always Allowed.

  • Remove and add any apps to Always Allowed by selecting the minus or plus sign on the left.  


How to Set Time 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.

Now that you’ve set a Downtime and made any changes to Always Allowed, begin with:


  • Remove from always allowed. This will mean that FaceTime and Messages are always accessible until Downtime.Do you want to set specific time limits for FaceTime and Messages?
    • No, no further action is required unless your child uses social media. If your child is active on social media, see Scenario #4.
    • Yes

1)  You can combine both of them, and add a global time limit-Click here to see how


2)  You can set a specific time limit for each of them-Click here to see how

  •  Every other app on your child’s phone will remain open until Downtime kicks in unless you set further time limits. Apps you’ve designated as Always Allowed will be available 24/7.


    FaceTime and Messages are defaulted to Always Allow which means they will be active even during down time. No further action is needed.

      HIFAF Recommendation:

    We do recommend requiring children to return their devices to a centralized charging station at bed time.  LINK TO FAMILY AGREEMENT.


    • If yes, then we recommend creating a new group for ‘higher value’ apps and giving it its own global time limits. Then we recommend grouping the remaining games and entertainment apps together and setting another global time limit.
      HIFAF Recommendation:

    When grouping apps, you will first need to make sure that they’ve been open on your child’s device for at least 5 minutes so that they appear in the Dashboard section. Also, you must include every app from the categories you’re pulling from in your grouping. Otherwise, they’ll be open until Downtime.

    • For example, Netflix and YouTube are both in the Entertainment category and Subway Surfers and MineCraft are both in Games.  
    • If you grouped Netflix and Candy Crush, but forgot to include YouTube and Minecraft, then your child would have access to YouTube and Minecraft without time limits.

    Setting limits in this way will likely require you to have a good working knowledge of what these games entail, so it’s always a good time to check-in with your child. Several years ago, we were surprised to learn that in order to earn more ‘coins’, our daughter was required to watch advertisements!

    In the example below, we’re granting 30 minutes per day for these ‘higher value’ apps: eg.,Photos, iMovie, Solitaire, Mad Libs together, and 1 hour on weekends for other ‘fun’ games and entertainment apps.

    • From Your Child’s Device, open every game and entertainment app
      • Parent Phone ICON > Settings > Screen Time > Your Child
      • Go to your Child’s Dashboard and tap.
      • Scroll down to Most Used
      • Click on Photos,
      • Scroll down to Edit Apps and click iMovie, Solitaire and Mad Libs and any other ‘high value’ apps
      • Click Add
      • Set a time limit and hit Today (back arrow)
      • Now group any other ‘fun’ games and entertainment apps by tapping on your Child’s Dashboard.
      • Select YouTube, Add Limit
      • Scroll down and select Edit Apps, choose all other ‘fun’ game and entertainment apps
      • Click Add and then set time limit of 1 hour
      • To grant this for weekends only, select Customize Days
      • Next select 1 minute for Monday through Thursday (this is the only way block time on weekdays)
      • Set a time limit and hit Today (back arrow)

     Every other app on your child’s phone will remain open until Downtime kicks in unless you set further time limits. If you want to set Apps you’ve designated as Always Allowed will be available 24/7.


      HIFAF Recommendation:

    We recommend grouping games and entertainment together (‘Fun’ Screen Time).  However, if your child enjoys listening to music, this only works if you designate music as Always Allowed. ANCHOR link to #7. Otherwise, refer to the section below for how to set time limits.  

      • Determine a global time limit

    Within that global limit, consider if you want to time restrict certain apps.  For example, you’ve granted 2 hours of Screen Time on a Saturday, but you’d prefer your daughter didn’t play Candy Crush the entire time,   If you want to add an individual time restriction. Click here to see how

      HIFAF Recommendation:

    Based on our research, we recommend limiting a teen to 1-2 social media platforms and setting time limits on specific social media apps.   LINK to Social Media–What’s the recommended Amount of Time?

    • One Time Limit for all social media apps: In this example, let’s say you want to set a 2 hour time limit for the entire Social Networking Category. Click here to see how.
    • Different time limits for each social media appIn this example, let’s say you want to set a 35-minute limit for Instagram and a 32-minute limit for Snapchat.

    Click here to see how.

    Remember, you must set a limit for every app that falls in the social networking category. Otherwise, it will be open until Downtime kicks in. This will be the case for Facetime and Messages if you removed them from Always Allowed in Section#1. If you want to set further restrictions, refer to instructions in Section #1

    The default setting is that Safari is accessible until Downtime kicks in.  

    • No

    Then no further action required other than limiting adult content.

      HIFAF Recommendation:

    Make sure you’ve limited adult content on the Safari Browser.  LINK. You will likely want to consider setting time limits for YouTube.com (see Scenario #6) to prevent binge-watching on the web browser version.

    Lastly, we do not recommend using Chrome because parental controls are limited, and installing additional browsers means more parental controls to manage.  

    • Yes
      Limit Safari Click here to see how.

      Every other app on your child’s phone will remain open until Downtime kicks in unless you set further time limits. Apps you’ve designated as Always Allowed will be available 24/7.


    Two things parents should know:

    1. Apple categorizes YouTube as Entertainment, so if you give the Entertainment Category a time limit, any time spent watching on Youtube will be tabulated against any app limit you set for the whole Entertainment category.  
    2. Screen Time measures the cumulative time spent on YouTube regardless of whether your child is accessing the web browser or the app.
      HIFAF Recommendation:

    Whether your child accesses YouTube via a web browser or the app, be sure to set up YouTube restrictions and monitor your child’s activity! LINK TO YOUTUBE GUIDE.


    We recommend setting Youtube Limits.  Click here to see how.

      HIFAF Recommendation:

    If parents grant their children permission to use YouTube, then we recommend considering limiting children to using the browser version through Safari. If you give your child permission to download the app, you will have to override  the app level restrictions for the App Store because it’s rated as 17+. Basically, this means your child could potentially download any app in the App Store, unless you turn the App Store off.

    Every other category–Productivity, Education etc. will always be accessible except during Downtime.

    Most parents are fairly open to their children listening to Music and are not inclined toward restrictions beyond Blocking Explicit Music Lyrics.-Link to tech tip

    • If you created customized time limits for other entertainment apps, then Music will be open until Downtime kicks in and is not counted against Screen Time
    • If you’ve put restrictions on Entertainment as a category, then you need to make move music to Always Allowed
    • If you want to set a liberal, but specific time limit for Music
      • Go to your Child’s Dashboard and tap.
      • Scroll down to Most Used
      • Click on Music
      • And hit Add Limit
      • Choose a time limit and click Add

    Click here to see how.

    This will ensure that your child’s devices are locked down. However, any apps designated asAlways Allowed will still be active (the default is Phone, Messages, FacetimeandMaps). Everything except the phone can be turned off.


    • No, then no further action is needed


    Set Content & Privacy Restrictions 

    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, and here is where you do that as well as protect your child’s online privacy.

    At this point, we recommend setting these restrictions for your child from YOUR device:

    1)  Manage Purchases and Downloads

    Under Settings > Screen Time> Your Child> tap on Content & Privacy Restrictions from the Dashboard view

    • 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 Don’t Allow is selected, then the App Store will be turned off
      • Deleting apps
      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 to prevent your child from downloading apps by clicking Don’t Allow under Installing Apps.

    ARROW: If you any other parental controls that require installation on your child’s device, you should not allow your child to Delete Apps.

      • Block in-app purchases to avoid your child from 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
      HIFAF Recommendation:

    If you want to tightly manage your child downloads, turn off the App store and also keep your child’s Apple ID and password for your eyes only.  If you want to give your child freedom to explore, but you want to approve all downloads, you can use the Ask to Buy Feature found under Family Sharing LINK TO GUIDE, or make it a requirement in your Family Agreement.

    Allowed Apps — Consider What You Will Allow Your Child to Do

    You have more control than you may realize–you can turn off literally everything, except calling. How to turn off texting is addressed in Section #10

    Settings icon: Settings > Screen Time > Your Child > Content & Privacy Restrictions> Allowed Apps

    Settings icon: Settings > Screen Time > Your Child > Content & Privacy Restrictions> Content Restrictions

    Content Restrictions

    Under the Allowed Store Content section,

    • Click on Ratings For and choose the desire region
      • 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

      HIFAF Recommendation:

    Be advised that these 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. LINK TO GUIDE TO CONTENT PROVIDERS

    • Apps
    • Your children will only be able to browse apps in the App store that you’ve 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+. Arrow 12+ means up to age 18.
        2. If your child is 10 and you grant her permission to use Musical.ly, then you’ll have to set the entire App Limits to 12+ because Musical.ly is rated a 12+ app
        3. If you grant permission to your child to use YouTube, then you’ll have to set app limits to 17+, which means he or she will be able to potentially download any app in the App Store
      HIFAF Recommendation:

    If your kids watch YouTube, you may want to limit them to watching on the browser-version through Safari:

    If you give your child permission to download the app, you will have to override the app level restrictions for the App Store. Basically, this means your child could potentially download any app in the App Store, unless you turn the App Store off.

    Whether your child accesses YouTube via a web browser or the app, be sure to set up YouTube restrictions and monitor your child’s activity! LINK TO YOUTUBE GUIDE.

      • In Web Content, select either:
        1. Limit Adult Websites
        2. Allowed Websites only
      HIFAF Recommendation:

    For younger kids who use learning programs such as Starfall or IXL, you may want to consider using the Allowed Websites Only feature to contain them. When you select Limit Adult Content, the private browsing mode is automatically disabled. If you want to block access to additional websites, you can select Never Allow.  This is a good option if you’re not okay with your child using YouTube.com.

    Parents may also want to consider advanced filtering options.  We profile these in Our Complete Guide to Web Filters and Browsers LINK

    Siri Selections – Don’t Allow Explicit Language

      • Game Center – Decide whether you will allow Multiplayer Games and Adding Friends

    From your child’s phone:

    • Go to Settings, go to Privacy
    • Tap Share My Location
    • Make sure Share My Location is turned


    • Go to Messages, find your name
    • Tap the “i” icon, click on Share My Location
    • Tap Share Indefinitely
    • On your phone, go to the Find My Friends app, and you’ll be able to see your child



    Review Location Sharing

    At this point, you will need to switch to your child’s device. If he or she has both an iPhone and and iPad, start with the iPhone, and then repeat for the iPad.

    Child Device ICON > 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.

    To find your child’s device, log into Find My iPhone (Parent ICON) -> You will need your child’s Apple ID and Password


    Review Privacy Settings

    Child Device ICON > Settings > Privacy > Location Services

    • Review which apps your child is sharing location with and make changes.
      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:

    Child Device ICON > Settings > Privacy > Location Services

    1. Scroll down and tap on System Services
    2. Tap Significant Locations and toggle it OFF


    Lock Parental Control Settings 

    You may want to consider restricting your child from making changes to their Location Sharing settings as well as 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 iPhone.

    HIFAF Recommendation:

    • Scroll down to Allow Changes and within that:
      • 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 completely delete the Touch ID and Passcode option from your child’s device.  If you need to make future changes through Screen Time
      • 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.  
      • Cellular Data Changes–If you want your child to only use Wifi, you can change this setting on his or her device  HOVER: (Child’s Device >Settings > Cellular > toggle to ‘Off’), and then select Cellular Data Changes Don’t Allow

    If your teen is driving and you want to lock his or her phone, so he or she can’t text and drive, you would need to set upThis triggers the tooltipfirst.


    Turn Off Messages

    Your Phone> Settings> Screen Time> Your child

    • Go to your Child’s Dashboard and tap.
    • Scroll down to Most Used (the Messages app must have been opened for at least 5 seconds)
    • Click on Messages
    • And hit Add Limit
    • Choose 1 min and click Add

    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 are hopeful there will be future updates

    • 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!

    • iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro (12.9, 2015), iPad Pro (9.7), iPad 2017, iPad Pro (10.5), iPad Pro (12.9, 2017), iPad 2018
    • iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4
    • iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max (iOS 12 is preinstalled on last three)
    • iPod touch (sixth generation)

    So if you’ve got an iPad Air 1 or later, an iPad mini 2 or later, an iPhone 5s or later, or a sixth-generation iPod touch, you can update your iDevice to iOS 12


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