If you’re anything like us, your smartphone is a big part of your life. That little elongated one keeps you in touch with your friends, plays fun games, shows your videos and a lot more. But you can get too much of a good thing. If you’re starting to think that some of the time you spend on your phone is better spent elsewhere, then you’re certainly not alone.
Fortunately, there are now some easy ways to monitor and reduce your smartphone usage should you wish to. Since iOS 12, Apple has added a small tool called Screen Time. Hidden in your iPhone’s settings menu, Screen Time tracks how much time you spend on your phone, how much you spend on specific apps, and even how often you answer your phone every day. Getting the most out of Screen Time can take a little willpower, but it̵
How much time is too much?
First, how do you know how much time is too much? The truth is probably unique to you. Six hours a week on social media might not be too much if you have to check feeds – but then again, those three hours of play Candy Crush can ruin your productivity.
Our recommendation for measuring your own personal limits is to turn on Screen Time and use your phone normally for at least a week. You can then use those statistics to find out if there are specific apps you want to reduce or if you want to remove them during certain hours.
So, with that in mind, how do you get started with Screen Time?
Set screen time and monitor usage
Setting Screen Time is very easy.
- Go to you Settings app.
- Scroll down and press Screen time.
- Touch Turn on Screen Time, followed by Continue.
- You will be asked to confirm if this is your own phone or if it is a child’s phone. We’ll cover parental controls later.
That’s it – Screen Time is on and from this point it starts tracking your usage. To set a passcode for your Screen Time settings, return to Settings > Screen time, scroll down and tap Use the Screen Time passcode. Then enter a four digit numeric code. You must then enter the code to change any limits.
To view your Screen Time information, open Screen time from Settingsthen tap See All activity to access the full report on your statistics. Here you can see when you have used your phone, in which apps and for how long. You can also see how the total time spent on your phone compares to the average. If you scroll down, you can even see how many times you’ve picked up your phone and how many notifications you’ve received.
Using screen time to limit specific app types
It’s all very well knowing you’ve wasted some hours of your life on YouTube, but what can you actually do with that information? If you find yourself spending too much time on social media, games, or any other app, you can use Screen Time to set a daily time limit for specific app categories.
It is easy to set app limits.
- Start by going to your Screen Time app at Settings > Screen time.
- Then tap App Limitsand tap Add limit.
- From the list of available categories, choose the one for which you want to set a limit and click The next.
- Set your timer and tap Add.
Your timer will now appear on it App Limits list and Screen Time will alert you when you approach your daily limit for that category. When you hit the wall, Screen Time will let you know with a full screen notification. This is where willpower comes into play though, as you can choose to ignore the limit for the day or give yourself a 15 minute extension. Like Android’s digital wellbeing, Apple’s Screen Time allows you to set daily limits for specific apps and entire app categories.
Use downtime and always allow
Instead of applying a hard limit to your app usage, you can instead use Screen Time’s Downtime option to set a blanket ban on most apps for a period of time.
- As always, your first step is to get to Settings > Screen time.
- Then tap Downtimeand use the switch to turn it on.
- Set your start and end times – whether it’s bedtime or a specific ‘no phone’ time.
While Downtime is active, you can only use a small number of stock apps on your phone. Phone calls are allowed, but you must manually mark apps as Always allowed to open them.
- Crane Always allowed from the Screen Time main menu.
- Find the app (s) you want to open during Downtime and tap the green “+” icon to add it to the list of exceptions.
- To remove an allowed app, tap the red “-” and confirm by tapping the remove button.
Create and manage a child account with Screen Time
There are a ton of great parental control apps out there, but Screen Time is a great way to keep track of how much your child is using their iOS device, what it’s using, and to lock down any unauthorized purchases or otherwise.
- Scroll to Screen Time and press Screen time for family.
- You will then need to sign in to your child’s existing Apple ID or create a new one.
- After doing that, tap on your child’s name in your Screen Time menu,
- Turn on Screen Time for your child’s account.
From here you can use Screen Time to see the same stats you can see in your own account, including the apps being used and for how long. You can set downtime limits or daily limits. However, instead of ignoring the request itself, a child cannot request more time until a daily limit has been reached. That request will then be notified on a parent’s phone.
But one of the most interesting controls in Screen Time can be found in Content and Privacy Restrictions. While there are too many options to really list, this gives you, in short, control over whether your child can purchase from iTunes or the App Store, whether they can access explicit music, videos or podcasts, and movies and books can block, or TV shows above a certain rating. You can even turn off multiplayer games or explicit web results. This is definitely worth investigating if you are a parent concerned about the Internet.