Screen Time tracks how much you’ve used your iPhone or iPad. It also lets you schedule times when you shouldn’t be using apps or set maximum amounts of time you’d want to use specific types of apps, like games.

You can use Screen Time as a parental control feature with your child’s iPhone or iPad, too. This feature is new in iOS 12, which Apple will likely release in Fall, 2018.

How to Find Screen Time Settings

To find Screen Time settings, head to Settings > Screen Time. The “Screen Time” option is just under “Do Not Disturb” near the top of the Settings list.

If you only see a “Turn On Screen Time” option here with no data, that’s because Screen Time is currently disabled on your device. You can tap “Turn On Screen Time” to enable it, but you’ll need to wait for your iPhone or iPad to collect data about how you use your device before viewing any informative reports.

RELATED: What's New in iOS 12, Arriving Today, September 17

How to View Reports

To view reports about screen time usage, tap the report options at the top of the Screen Time screen. At the top of the screen, you can choose to see a report for only today or the last seven days.

You can also tap the “Devices” option at the top right corner of the screen and select which devices from which you want to see reports. For example, if you have both an iPad and iPhone, select “All Devices,” and you’ll see a combined report that shows how much you’ve used both devices. You can also select a single device to see only its usage report.

The graph here shows you how much you’ve used your device over the past 24 hours or the past week. Long-press a bar if you want to see exactly how much time it represents.

This data is also broken down by the specific type of application, so you can see how much time you spent using reading apps, productivity tools, entertainment applications, and games. This tells you exactly how you’re using your time.

Other information shown here includes how your current usage today compares to your average daily usage, the length of the most extended session you’ve used your device today, and the total amount of time you’ve spent using your device in the last week.

Look below the screen time graph for more information. Under the “Most Used” section, you’ll see how long you spend using specific apps—or you can tap “Show Categories” to see how long you’ve used specific types of apps.

Under the “Pickups” section, you’ll see how many times you picked up your phone or tablet today or in the last week. You’ll also see how often you’ve picked it up and the times when you most frequently pick it up.

Under the “Notifications” section, you’ll see how many notifications you get, when they arrive, and from which apps. This might make you realize one or more apps are bugging you too much and help in deciding whether to turn off their notifications.

RELATED: How to Disable Notifications on Your iPhone or iPad

How to Schedule Downtime

Screen Time lets you schedule “downtime” when only receive phone calls and use apps that you explicitly allow. For example, you might want to set downtime during the hours when you’re supposed to be asleep, which will—hopefully—prevent you from lying in bed on your phone rather than trying to sleep.

To schedule downtime, tap “Downtime” on the main Screen Time page and enable the “Downtime” option. Set your desired start and end times here. This setting will be synchronized to all devices you sign into using the same iCloud account, and you’ll see a downtime notification five minutes before your scheduled downtime.

When the downtime arrives, all the app icons on your home screen—except the ones you’re allowed to access, like Clock, Settings, and Safari—will be grayed out.

If you tap one, you’ll see a message saying you’ve reached your time limit. You can tap “Ignore Limit” to open the app anyway. You can then tell your iPhone or iPad to remind you to stop in fifteen minutes or to ignore the limit for today permanently.

After all, it’s your device, and you can do what you want. This won’t lock you out of your apps—the feature is just designed to give you a helpful nudge if you want it.

How to Set App Limits

The iOS operating system now lets you set time limits for specific categories of apps. For example, you might limit yourself to only 30 minutes of games per day, or just one hour inside social media apps. These limits reset every day at midnight.

To configure this, tap “App Limits” on the Screen Time page and then tap “Add Limit.”

Choose one or more categories of apps and then tap the “Add” button. You can also select “All Apps & Categories” here if you’d like to limit your time in all apps on your phone or tablet instead of specific types of apps.

Finally, select the maximum amount of time you’d like to spend on these apps every single day. You can choose different amounts of time for different days of the week if you like. For example, you might want to give yourself more time for games and other time-wasting apps on the weekend.

As with downtime, even when you’ve exceeded your time limit, you can still bypass the time limit and use the app, if you want. These limits are just designed to help you make plans and stick with them.

How to Choose Always-Allowed Apps

Screen Time lets you set apps that are “always allowed,” even during downtime or if you’ve exceeded your app time limits. For example, the Phone, Messages, and FaceTime apps are always allowed by default, ensuring you can still communicate.

To configure this list of apps, tap the “Always Allowed” option on the Screen Time page. You can then add and remove apps from the list. You can remove Messages and FaceTime from your always allowed apps if you like, but the Phone app is essential, and there’s no way to restrict it.

How to Configure Content & Privacy Restrictions

Content & Privacy Restrictions, while available under Screen Time, are more like parental controls. They let you set limits on App Store purchases, restrict certain types of websites, and prevent someone with the iPhone or iPad from changing system settings. Many of these options were previously available elsewhere at Settings > General > Restrictions.

To set content & privacy restrictions, tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions” on the Screen Time page. You’ll be prompted to set a PIN, which prevents people from changing these settings without your permission. This is particularly useful on a shared iPad, for example. You can then enable the “Content & Privacy” option and configure your desired options here.

How to Set a Screen Time Passcode

Parents can use the Screen Time options to lock down a device, too. For example, you can enable downtime on a child’s iPad to prevent them from using most apps during bedtime hours, or configure app limits to prevent them from playing games all day.

To do this, tap “Use Screen TIme Passcode” at the bottom of the Screen Time page and then enter your passcode. No one can get more time when an app’s time limit expires or modify Screen Time settings without that passcode.

How to Use Screen Time With a Child’s Account

Screen Time integrates with Apple Family Sharing. If you have one or more child accounts in your family, you can view those accounts under the “Family” section here. Tap an account to enable Screen Time for it, which will let you view reports about your children’s device usage and set limits if you want.

RELATED: Share Apps, Music, and Videos with Apple Family Sharing on iPhone / iPad

How to Disable Screen Time

If you don’t like Screen Time and don’t want to use these features, you can disable it. This will stop your iPhone or iPad from keeping track of how you use your device, so you won’t be able to see reports. Your device will immediately delete its collected data, too.

Disabling Screen Time will also stop your device from showing the Weekly Report notification when iOS generates a new Screen Time report.

To disable it, scroll down to the bottom of the Screen Time page and tap the “Disable Screen Time” option. Your iPhone or iPad will delete its collected usage data and stop tracking it. You can return here and re-enable Screen Time in the future if you like.

Apple will probably start tracking more types of data and provide more Screen Time options in a future version of the iOS operating system. For now, Screen Time gives you the essential data you need to understand how you use your device, and it can provide some helpful nudges if you want them. For parents, Screen Time includes more powerful parental controls, too.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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