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Children on iPhone, iPad or Mac too long? Set parental controls using Apple’s screen time


To be sucked? Use the screen time on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to reduce the time you spend on your device.

Angela Lang / CNET

If the kids refuse to breathe fresh air or help around the house because they are stuck to their screen, it’s time to set some limits. Like you, I relaxed my rules to respond to the difficulties of stay at home and quarantine life. But sometimes enough is enough. The number of YouTube videos a child can watch in a single day must be limited, right?

Enter Apple’s screen time feature for iPhone, iPad, Mac and IPod Touch. It is integrated and tracks and monitors how much time you spend on your devices, and can lock you or your children out of apps after a set period of time. You can even block access to your child’s Apple device every night at a set time to prevent them from staying awake after bed and playing their favorite games under the covers.

Before you start monitoring a child’s device usage, we recommend that you use Screen Time on your own devices to familiarize yourself with its functionality. The screen time is a bit complex because many settings and functions are hidden in different menus.

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Turn on the screen time for yourself

Screen Time monitors and helps you track or limit your usage on iPhone, iPad and Mac. You need to set up the service on every device you use. To get a complete picture of the total usage, you need the screen time and the Share across devices Possibility. This ensures that the time spent on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac is calculated together.

Screen time iPhone or iPad.png

Turn on the screen time with just a few taps.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

On an iPhone or iPad

1. Open that the settings App.

2nd Choose Screen time.

3rd Tap Turn on screen time.

4th When prompted, choose This is my iPhone / iPad.


You can find the Mac version of Screen Time in System Preferences.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

On a Mac

1. to open System settings.

2nd Choose Screen time.

3rd Make sure your name is selected from the drop-down list below your user profile photo.

4th click Options in the lower left corner.

5. Choose Switch on.


You may want to sit down before reading your screen time stats for the first time.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Use the screen time for your child

To monitor and control a child’s device usage using screen time, you must first set up Apple’s Family Sharing service. Family sharing offers many advantages. One of them is that you save money by sharing purchases between members. If you haven’t used it yet, Take a few minutes to activate it using our full family sharing guide.

With family sharing turned on and your kids’ accounts added, you can remotely turn on screen time on their devices. You can do this on your iPhone or iPad at the settings > Screen time > Choose your child’s name> Turn on screen time. Go to a Mac System settings > Screen time > Select your child’s name from the drop-down list> Turn on screen time.

Make sure you create a screen time passcode when prompted. Do not skip this step. This passcode prevents a child from turning off screen time or changing parental controls. It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t choose a passcode that your kids can easily guess. I made this mistake when I first set up Screen Time and couldn’t figure out why it kept getting disabled on my child’s iPod touch. Children are smart.


Screen time spreads the total device usage across all of your devices.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Screen time is on, what now?

As soon as the screen time is switched on, a graphic is immediately displayed in which it is tracked how much time you spend in an app or on a website. Tap on Show all activities For a breakdown of the current day, the last seven days, which apps you spent your time in, how often you pick up your phone daily and how many notifications you receive – and which apps. You will receive a notification every Sunday with your statistics and trends.

Below the activity diagram, there are various categories within the screen time, which you can adapt to your personal goals or restrict your child’s device use. Here’s a quick breakdown of what everyone is doing:


Take a few minutes to go through the different categories, adjust the settings, and get an idea of ​​what each category is doing.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Downtime: If this option is activated, only the apps listed under Always allowed and Phone calls are available. Create a custom schedule, such as turning on downtime just before going to bed so you can start separating and unwinding.

App limits: Set daily time limits for specific apps or app categories. As soon as the time limit is reached, the app displays a welcome screen informing you that your time limit has been reached. Don’t worry, you can override the limit or your child can send a request for more time if more time is needed.

Communication limits: You can control who and how long your child speaks on a daily basis. This setting applies to phone, FaceTime, messaging, and iCloud contacts.

Always allowed: Select the apps that should always be available even during downtime. By default, phone, messages, FaceTime and cards are marked as always allowed.

Content and privacy restrictions: Here you can block mature content, request a purchase authorization on a child’s device, restrict downloads, and adjust privacy settings.

Take a few minutes to go through each section and familiarize yourself with the options.


Angela Lang / CNET

A note on parental controls

It will take some time to find the right combination of these settings, especially for your child’s account. When I used Screen Time for the first time to disable my children’s devices before going to bed, I marked messages as an always-allowed app. At the time, they only sent each other, my wife and me.

What I didn’t realize or even think about was the fact that they had access to iMessage apps like Game Pigeon – an app that lets you play turn-based games in an iMessage conversation. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that they were using messages well after bedtime because they were actually playing.

Now they’re limited to podcasts and music when downtime is activated before bed.

Another problem I encountered with one of their accounts is that the screen time settings set on my device weren’t syncing with their devices. I still have to find out why, but I’ve found a workaround in case you encounter the same problem. First disable the screen time for the account on your device and then run the screen time on the device. When prompted, choose This is my child’s device, set your passcode and adjust its settings.

After mastering screen time, check everyone hidden features that we discovered in iOS 13. For more general tips and tricks for iPhone and iPad We also have these. If you’re new to Mac, Make sure you change these settings first.

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