Complete guide to Screen Time and parental controls on iPhone

All the best iPhones have tons of great features that draw you into grabbing them 24/7. However, if you paid attention to how much time you actually spend on your smartphone, it would be shocking. That’s why people nowadays are taking steps to cut down on their screen time by doing things like setting daily usage limits.

Sometimes, this falls into a parent’s hands when it comes to teenagers and preteens who are glued to their screens. It isn’t just about setting time limits, though. You might also want to make sure your child isn’t accessing content that isn’t age-appropriate or using the phone when they aren’t permitted to do so, like during school hours or after bedtime.

This is where features like Screen Time and parental controls come in, both for curbing your own online time and monitoring your kids’ usage.

What is Screen Time?

The Screen Time feature is on older iPhones and newer ones like the iPhone 14. It’s an informative way to track how much time you actually spend on your phone (not how much you think you do). It provides a detailed report that includes the total time spent on the device and time spent using different apps. Are you spending way too much time scrolling through Instagram Reels? Or maybe you’re checking your e-mail way too often when it’s supposed to be your week off. Looking at the report can give you an idea and motivate you to adopt better habits.

Meanwhile, within the Screen Time menu, you can set things like time limits, content restrictions, and even schedules for when certain apps can be used on the phone and when they can’t (or shouldn’t), like downtime during dinnertime.

How to use Screen Time and other parental controls

If you decide you want to explore this further, either for yourself or for a chill, it’s simple to navigate the Screen Time menu. Here, we’ll explore each section and what you can do within it.

Go to Settings and click Screen Time. There, you’ll see your daily average and how it compares to the previous week, with data updated in real-time.

Select Downtime. Here is where you can turn Downtime on or off, or even set it on a schedule. With Downtime activated, only apps you allow, along with phone calls, will be available. (You’ll select these later. See Step 5.)

Next, go to App Limits. Select Add Limit and set a daily time limit for apps by category, like Social, Games, Entertainment, and others.

Now, select Communication Limits. This will limit access to any communications apps on the phone, like Phone, FaceTime, Messages, and iCloud contacts. Any numbers identified as emergency contacts, however, will never be blocked. You can choose to allow communication with Contacts Only when Screen Time is activated, or even limit it to Specific Contacts only, like mom and dad.

Under Always Allowed is where you can select the apps that the user will always have access to, regardless if Downtime is on or off. This might include Maps, a smart home control app for controlling devices like your TV and security camera, a Google Classroom app for schoolwork, and more.

Ideal for parents is Content & Privacy Restrictions, which allows the user to block inappropriate content. You can choose to block things like iTunes and App Store Purchases, or set Content Restrictions for various types like music, music videos, TV shows, apps, and more, location services, advertising, and more.

To ensure that a sneaky teenager doesn’t simply turn Screen Time off when you aren’t looking, you can set a Screen Time Passcode that must be input to turn the feature on and off.

iphone screen time screen time passcode

For those on a Family Sharing plan, you can also set Screen Time restrictions across all devices or just for individual ones. If you enable Share Across Devices in the Screen Time Settings menu, you’ll also see a combined screen time report for everyone in the household.

iphone screen time screen family

It’s worth exploring all the options within the Screen Time app, especially for kids. But even for adults. While you might not need to worry about the content restrictions for yourself, you can do things like turn off ads and limit your screen time after a certain time.

But even simply checking your screen time usage daily will give you a better idea of how much more you’re (probably) using your phone than you think, and prompt you to make positive changes. Maybe you need to keep in touch with others as necessary, but you want to shut down the most distracting apps when it’s family time in order to focus on the people in front of you. Either way, Screen Time is a great tool, whether you want to use it for your kid or for yourself.

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