Are you or your kids glued to your smartphones? Do you want to scale back? Apple’s Screen Time feature allows you to see how much time you spend on your phone and what you’re looking at most.
To help kick your smartphone habit, you can set up different options to block certain apps or limit the time you spend with them on your iPhone or iPad. Since the feature is cloud-based, it can show you how much time you spend on all your Apple mobile devices collectively.
Screen Time has been around since 2018, but Apple updates the feature regularly. In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, third-party developers can now add more controls and options for parents, paving the way for greater use and flexibility.
If you’re ready to tackle tech addiction, or just keep a closer eye on how much time you spend staring at your phone, here’s how to get started.
Update Your Device
First, make sure you’re running iOS/iPadOS 15 or higher. Go to Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll be informed that iOS is up to date or be prompted to download and install the latest update.
Enable Screen Time
To enable Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap Turn On Screen Time. Read the information at the Screen Time screen and tap Continue. You are then asked if this device is for you or your child. If it’s for you, tap This is My iPhone.
Set Screen Time Passcode
Screen Time will now monitor how much time you spend with individual apps, features, and settings on your phone. Swipe down the screen and tap Use Screen Time Passcode. This will allow you to secure your Screen Time settings and request additional time with an app if the set amount expires.
Type and retype a passcode. A Screen Time Password Recovery message pops up to tell you that if you forget your Screen Time password, you can use your Apple ID to reset it. Type your Apple username and password and tap OK.
Monitor Multiple Devices
Next, turn on the switch next to Share Across Devices if you have more than one Apple device—iPhone, iPad, or Mac—and want to record and view your Screen Time information across them all. You’ll need to enable two-factor authentication, if it’s not already activated. If you set a passcode, you’re prompted to enter it to enable sharing across devices.
Set Downtime Hours
Now you can set limits on which apps and features you can access and for how long. Tap the Downtime entry to create a time frame during which only certain apps will be allowed. Tap the From time and then the To time to set the time limits for all days. You can also tap Customize Days to schedule different times for each day of the week.
To block all apps and activity on your device at downtime, turn on the switch next to Block at Downtime. You can also activate Downtime immediately if you tap the Turn On Downtime Until Schedule link.
Set App and Website Limits
From the main Screen Time menu, tap App Limits to set how long you are allowed to use specific apps. Tap Add Limit, then you can select a category and individual apps or choose All Apps and Categories to set the same limit on all your apps.
You can limit your time on individual websites. From the Choose Apps screen, swipe down to the bottom of the categories list and tap Websites. Tap Add Website and type the URLs for any websites you want to include.
Once you have made your selections, tap Next and set the amount of time you are allowed to use the apps you selected. You can choose a different duration for each day by tapping Customize Days. If you wish to make different limits for individual categories, you must set them up separately. Tap Add to finalize.
Set Communication Limits
You can also set up limits to how long you can make phone calls, use FaceTime, send text messages, or otherwise communicate with iCloud contacts. From the main Screen Time screen, tap the Communication Limits option. You can then set who has permission to contact you while Screen Time is activated.
Tap During Screen Time to choose who can get through to you when Screen Time is active. Tap During Downtime to choose specific contacts that can reach you during downtime hours. You also have the option to block everyone but your contacts.
If you choose Specific Contacts, tap Add Contacts from the menu below. You can then select the contacts you wish to add, and only those people will be allowed to call.
Allow Certain Apps
If you always want certain apps to bypass the Downtime block, you can set that up from the main Screen Time menu. Tap Always Allowed, then tap the plus sign next to an app to allow it. To remove an app from the Always Allow list, tap the minus sign and choose Remove.
Set Content and Privacy Restrictions
If you want to allow or disallow specific content, privacy settings, or any other changes, you can do that by tapping Content & Privacy Restrictions from the main Screen Time menu. Turn on the switch next to Content & Privacy Restrictions to proceed.
Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases to allow or disallow the installing or deleting of apps, as well as any in-app purchases. You can also require a password to make in-app purchases on an app you’ve already downloaded.
To enable or disable specific apps from the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen, tap on Allowed Apps and toggle apps on or off. If you want to allow or ban specific content from the App Store, the web, and other sources, go back to the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen, select Content Restrictions and pick what you’d like to allow or block.
To limit the data that’s shared from certain apps, you can control your settings at the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen in the Privacy section. Tap each entry to allow or disallow it.
Once you make changes on the Content & Privacy Restrictions, those changes must be approved before they go into effect. In the Allow changes section, tap each change to allow or disallow it, and you’re done.
Set Up Screen Time for a Child
Now, let’s say you want to create limits for a child’s account. The easiest way to do this is on your child’s iPhone or iPad. Turn on Screen Time and tap Continue. At the screen asking if this device is for yourself or your child, tap This is My Child’s iPhone.
However, you can also do this from your own phone. The Screen Time screen should show the other members of your Apple Family. Tap the name of the child for whom you want to set up Screen Time and then tap Turn On Screen Time.
You will then be asked to set a start and end time for Downtime. At the App Limits page, select All Apps & Categories or choose specific categories you want to include.
Tap Show All Categories to see them all, then swipe down to the bottom of the screen and tap Time Amount. Choose the amount of time for the app limit, then tap Set App Limit. At the Content & Privacy screen, tap Continue. Then enter and re-enter a passcode to make Screen Time go into effect.
From here, drill down into the settings for Downtime, App Limits, Communication Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions to make or modify further changes for your child’s account.
Ask For More Time
If you set up Downtime on your device or your child’s device, a message will pop up when five minutes are left before you’re blocked from using most of the apps on your phone. After the time is up, you can add more time by entering your Screen Time passcode and requesting access for an additional period of time.
If you set up App Limits on your device or your child’s device, a message will pop up when any selected apps have five minutes left before they’re blocked. After the time is up, you’ll see a Time Limit screen if you try to open the app. Tapping Ask For More Time allows you to ask for one more minute or the option to enter the Screen Time Password to lift the limit.
Monitor App Usage
If you’re worried about how much time you or your child spend using certain apps, you can monitor usage directly from Screen Time. The main screen displays the amount of time spent on each category. Tap the chart to drill down and see the amount of time for each app, either for the week or for the current day.