Confused about iOS 12+’s Screen Time feature? If so, you are not alone! We see quite a few comments and emails every day about how to use this feature. In particular, many parents (and grandparents or guardians) want to know how to use Screen Time for keeping track of their children’s iDevice use. Since many of these families also share a Family Sharing Account, we’re diving deep into how to use Screen Time with those family plans.
So let’s get to it!
With the release of iOS 12 and for Macs, macOS Catalina, Apple gave parents a handy new feature called Screen Time. This tool allows you to see how much time you are spending on your device and with which apps. Also, you can set up restrictions, downtime, and limits on specific apps.
Along with managing your own screen time, you can monitor that of your children and enable restrictions for them as well. For everything you need to know, here’s how to use Screen Time with your Family Sharing account.
- Screen Time Not Working in iOS 12? How to Fix
- Where are Restrictions in iOS 12? We Found It and More!
- How-To Reset the Screen Time Passcode on iOS 12
- 1 Enable Screen Time for Family Sharing
- 2 Set Up the Basic Screen Time Settings
- 3 Additional Screen Time Restrictions
- 4 Screen Time and Family Sharing Troubleshooting Tips
- 5 How To Check Screen Time on iPhone
- 6 Conclusion
Enable Screen Time for Family Sharing
To get started, you can enable the Screen Time feature with your Family Sharing account two different ways.
- Open Settings on your device.
- Select Screen Time.
- Tap Set Up Screen Time for Family.
- Follow the prompts to set it up for an existing child account or create a new account.
- Open Settings on your device.
- Select your account at the top.
- Tap Family Sharing.
- Choose Screen Time at the bottom to turn it on.
- Select your family member.
- Tap Turn On Screen Time.
Regardless of which method you use to enable Screen Time for your Family Sharing account, you end up in the same spot where you configure the settings for your family member.
Set Up the Basic Screen Time Settings
Now that you have Screen Time turned on, you should be ready to set it up for your first family member.
You’ll move through the basic settings to begin and can then adjust and drill down within them as you like.
The first thing you will be asked to create is a Downtime schedule. This feature lets you set a start and end time for screen use.
For example, you may not want your child using their phone between the hours of 8 pm and 8 am. Just select the times you want to use and tap Set Downtime.
iOS 12.2+ Now Allows you to schedule Downtime by calendar day
iOS 12.2 and above provide the new option to customize Downtime settings based on days of the week. This has been a feature that many users were patiently waiting for.
Using this feature, you can customize the downtime settings to start at a particular time for a given day. This allows flexibility to manage schedule for school nights/ weekend nights for parents and will play an important role when Apple Arcade hits later this year!
- Tap on Settings ⇾Screentime ⇾Downtime
- Tap on the new ‘Customize Days’ option
- Customize Downtime based on your preferences
So if, for example, you want Downtime to kick in at 10:00 pm on work nights but not until after midnight on the weekend, these options have been made easy to manage with iOS 12.2
Set App Limits
Next, you’ll be asked to set up App Limits. This feature lets you limit the amount of time spent on specific types of apps like social networking, games, entertainment, or creativity.
Tap a category and then at the bottom tap Time Amount. You can set the time limit for what you’re comfortable with and then tap Set App Limit when you finish.
Create a Parent Passcode
After that, you will be prompted to customize the Content & Privacy settings.
When you tap Continue, you will need to create a Parent Passcode.
This passcode is required to allow more time or make changes to the Screen Time settings that you set up.
Once you have these basics set, you can stop where you are or add more restrictions if you like.
Screen Time won’t let you change its passcode?
Some parents discovered that their kids figured out the screen time passcode and were able to work around all the restrictions! To get those parental controls back in place, they tried changing the passcode, only to discover that the old passcode remained active on their kids’ devices.
If you are unable to get Screen Time to update its passcode, the most reliable fix we know if is to perform a reset all settings on your children’s devices. We usually use this as the last resort since it resets all your personalized features back to factory defaults.
Reset all settings
- Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All
- This resets to default everything in Settings, including notifications, alerts, brightness, and clock settings like wake up alarms
- Resetting all settings also reverts all your personalized and customized features like wallpapers and accessibility settings back to factory defaults.
- Performing this action does not impact any of your personal device data, including photos, texts, documents, and other files
- You need to reconfigure these settings once your iPhone or iDevice restarts
Additional Screen Time Restrictions
Along with the ability to edit those basic settings you configure, you can dig deeper for more restrictions and limits.
Customize Days for the App Limits
You may want to allow your child to use certain apps like entertainment or games more on weekends than during the week when they have school.
This is easy to do and here’s how
- Tap App Limits.
- Select Add Limit.
- Choose one or more categories that the apps would fall into.
- Tap Add at the top.
- Set the time allowed for the apps.
- Tap Customize Days right below the time setting.
- Then select each day of the week to customize the time limit for that day.
Content and Privacy Restrictions
This setting is an important section for all parents to review in the Screen Time area.
It lets you decide the type of content your child is allowed to view, what changes they can make and more.
Begin by enabling the Content & Privacy Restrictions slider at the top. Then, work your way down through each option.
Purchases, Apps, and Content Restrictions
You can allow or disallow your child to install and delete apps, make in-app purchases, and decide if a password should be required.
Next, you can enable or disable specific apps from being allowed such as Mail, Safari, AirDrop, Camera, and Wallet.
The following section is another important one for you to check out. Content Restrictions lets you decide what type of content your child can view from movies and TV shows to books and apps.
Each has its own options for you to choose from including age for apps and ratings for movies.
You’ll also notice this area lets you restrict certain types of web content, language, and Game Center options.
Just go through each of these Content Restrictions one-by-one so that you don’t overlook an important setting.
Privacy and Allowed Changes
The last two areas here let you allow or disallow location sharing, passcode changes, account changes, and a few other items.
Just tap each one and choose either Allow or Don’t Allow.
Screen Time and Family Sharing Troubleshooting Tips
If for some reason Screen Time with Family Sharing isn’t working properly, here are a few things you can try:
- Make sure your child’s device has Screen Time installed and that it’s running.
- Disable and re-enable Screen Time.
- Sign out and back into the iCloud accounts.
- Restart the devices.
Many of the issues with Screen Time and Family Sharing integration arise from misunderstanding how this works. There are three key rules that you should be aware of when using Screen Time with Family Sharing:
- When Family Sharing is enabled for an iCloud account, only family members designated Parent/Guardian may disable Screen Time on their device.
- To enable a Restrictions Passcode on a Child device where the Child has enabled Screen Time, the Parent/Guardian must first disable Screen Time on the Child device and reenable Screen Time from the Parent/Guardian device.
- If a Child account wishes not to share Screen Time usage with Parent/Guardian accounts, they should either become a Parent/Guardian or leave the iCloud family.
Gray Screen on Screen Time
So, if you happen to see a Gray Screen when accessing Screen time, it means that you are not setup as a Parent/Guardian. It is important to point out here that an “Adult” account is not necessarily a parent or guardian account.
If your Family Sharing Organizer turns on the Parent/Guardian setting for you, you will be able to use Screen Time by yourself.
Turned Off Screen Time by Mistake, Cannot Access any more
We have seen this issue from many users. They have family sharing on and under screen time there is an option to not allow parents/guardians to view screen time information.
When they turn it off and they cant use screen time features, everything is just greyed out. How do you turn this/turn back on the ability to allow parents or guardians to view screen time?
The parent or guardian for your family sharing account has to give you parent/guardian family sharing privileges, and then it’ll work again. Thats the only way out.
Screen Time Pass Code Issues?
If issues with your Screen Time passcode are where you’re stuck, check out the video below for how to reset it.
How To Check Screen Time on iPhone
Another wonderful feature of Screen Time is the Activity Report.
This gives you a detailed view of how much time was spent on the device, with which apps, and more
- Head to your Settings and select Screen Time.
- Choose the family member whose activity you want to see.
- You’ll then see a summary report at the top and can tap it for further details.
On the detailed screen, you can view the amount of time spent on each app.
And, you can optionally select Today or Last 7 Days at the top.
Then when you scroll down, you can check out the number of pickups, number of notifications, and the most popular times for each.
This report is a valuable tool for gaining insight into where your child spends most of their time on their device.
Hopefully, these steps, help, and tips will get you on your way to setting up Screen Time with Family Sharing for you and your loved ones.
And, if you have tips of your own you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!
Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a project manager, department manager, and PMO Lead. She then decided to follow her dream and now writes about technology full-time. Sandy holds a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology.
She loves technology– specifically – terrific games and apps for iOS, software that makes your life easier, and productivity tools that you can use every day, in both work and home environments.
Her articles have regularly been featured at MakeUseOf, iDownloadBlog and many other leading tech publications.