You’re probably all-too-familiar with Screen Time feature on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, if only because it is constantly pinging you with anxiety-inducing stats about how much time you spend staring at screens.
Certainly the feature is effective at forcing you to confront just how much time you spend looking at your devices instead of at other people or things. In theory, you can also look deeper, and read its reports to find out of you’re overdoing it on a particular social media app.
But there’s a lot more to the Screen Time feature than guilt — like these features, which can help you use that knowledge to improve your relationship with your devices.
Set limits for addictive apps
So you’ve enabled the Screen Time feature for Settings and you have the data for a couple of days. The next step is to use it to make informed decisions.
Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad (System Preferences on your Mac) and go to “Screen Time.” Here, explore the data for the day or the week, and note the apps and websites that are taking up too much of your time.
Choose an app, swipe to the bottom, and choose the “Add Limit” option. Set the time (and days of the week), and tap the “Add” button.
When you have spent the allocated time in the app, Screen Time will block your access to it. You can extend it or ignore it if you want, but you’ll need to make the conscious choice to do so.
Use Downtime to automatically block certain apps and calls
It’s very easy to lose an hour in the morning or before bed to mindless scrolling. This is where the Downtime feature can help. It’s like Do Not Disturb on steroids. It can be set to turn on via a schedule; when enabled, it will block access to most apps, messages, and calls. You can create a whitelist for apps and notifications that can get through.
Go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime and enable the Scheduled option (alternatively, you can turn on the Downtime feature just till midnight).
Customise the date and time, head back to the “Screen Time” section, and go to “Always Allowed.” Here, you can choose which apps and contacts are always allowed through, even during Downtime.
View a Screen Time report for any device
By default, Screen Time will show you a combined tally of all your devices, and that can be quite a shock. But don’t worry — you did not spend 14 hours on your iPhone yesterday.
When you’re viewing Screen Time reports on your iPhone, you can tap the Devices button to see the screen time of only the current device, or any device connected to your Apple account.
Create a Screen Time passcode
Screen Time feature lets you create a separate passcode just for Screen Time, and you should. This passcode will be used when you need to change any Screen Time settings or extend the time limit for a given app.
There are two different use cases for this passcode. It can be a great way to limit your kids’ access to certain apps, but more importantly, it can be used to resist your own temptation to extend time allowances for your most troublesome activities.
Consider getting your partner or a friend to create the passcode for you, so there’s one more barrier to your ability to extend the time limits.
Go to Settings > Screen Time > Set Screen Time Passcode to get started.
Set different Screen Time rules for different Apple devices
By default, Screen Time syncs all your settings and limits between all your Apple devices. In theory, this is great. When you set a 30 minute limit for the Twitter app on iPhone, you won’t be able to get around it by using the Twitter website on your Mac.
But what if you want different rules to apply to different devices (say, because you need to use a particular app during work hours)? Or you don’t want to bother with restrictions on a particular device? The only way to do that is to stop sharing Screen Time settings between a device (or devices).
On your Mac, you can go to System Preferences > Screen Time > Options > Share Across Devices to disable this feature. On the iPhone and iPad, you’ll find it under Settings > Screen Time > Share Across Devices.
Take Screen Time seriously by adding the widget to the iPhone home screen
Screen Time sends you a summary notification at the end of every week, but that’s not nearly enough. If you are serious about reducing your screen time, you need a constant reminder. And the best way to do that is by putting the Screen Time widget on the home screen.
The widget comes in three different sizes and shows the total screen time of the day, and the usage time for your top apps.
To set it up, go to the iPhone or iPad home screen and tap and hold an empty part of the home screen. Tap the Plus button from the top-left corner of the screen, go to the Screen Time section, and add the widget of your choice. Now, every time you unlock your iPhone, your screen time will be right there, staring you in the face. Judging you.
Disable Screen Time summary notifications
Like we said, the weekly summary is actually not that useful. It’s much better to monitor your screen time on a day-to-day basis. To disable the summary notification, go to Settings > Notifications > Screen Time and disable the “Allow Notifications” option. Use the widget instead.
Set up Screen Time for your entire family
If you use Apple’s Family Sharing feature, here’s some good news. The Screen Time feature is also supported. You can set yourself up as a parent, and you can not only see how much time your kids spend on their devices, you can control their usage too.
For example, you can block adult content on their devices, or stop them from accessing particular apps during a set time using the Downtime feature.
To set this up, go to Settings > [Your name] > Family Sharing > Screen Time to get started.
Turn of Screen Time for a particular device
Lastly, you can disable the Screen Time feature altogether for a particular device. You might want to do this if you are sharing an iPad with a family member and want to keep your own report clean, or you just don’t want to track your time on a Mac that’s mostly used for work anyway.
To do this on the iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Screen Time > Turn off Screen Time to get started. On the Mac, go to System Preferences > Screen Time > Options and click the “Turn Off” button in the top-right corner.