I have a confession to make. Nighttime is the tough time in our household, trying to get toddlers and even grandma to bed at a decent hour. Our iPads and iPhones have become a staple nighttime thing for both young and old.
We read bedtime stories, play games, watch some Netflix shows, listen to music, and even tune into football games. And grandma loves listening to Old Time Radio shows at night! What we need is a good old-fashioned timer!
Our youngest at 5 years old loves playing games just before bedtime, and we usually play some music to help her unwind at the end of the day and hopefully bring on sleep.
But oftentimes, it’s a struggle to get her to put that iPad down and actually go to sleep, even when she’s obviously tired. To keep our sanity, we really want to avoid fighting and tears every night.
So what we really need is an iPhone sleep timer which shuts everything down automatically so our toddler goes to sleep and we get a little time to ourselves before we go to bed as well. And Grandma needs this too!
All too often, we wake up in the early hours hearing loud noises from her room, only to discover she’s left her iPad on playing back-to-back shows. She might fall asleep but the rest of us are wide awake!
And of course, having your iDevices play all night long means waking up to a lot of battery drained devices–not good for those of us that share our iDevices!
No iPhone Sleep Timer, So What To Do?
Despite my hours of researching, there isn’t a universal solution for automatically turning off your iDevice after a specific time. At least not yet! Apparently, Apple sets some strict rules for app developers.
Apple limits how iOS apps affect iPhone, iPads, and other iDevices. And part of those limitations is not allowing apps to decide when other apps close. And not allowing any apps to put the iOS device to sleep. But this is EXACTLY what we are trying to do i.e. close the radio, music, game, or movie app and go directly into sleep mode.
However, there still are a few solutions that work in tandem, covering my toddler as well as my grandmother’s nighttime use of their iDevices.
The Clock App
Apple’s stock clock app has a timer built-in, and kind of hiding at the end of a list of options under “When Tine Ends” is “Stop Playing.” Using this option seems to work for music and audiobooks but it doesn’t (unfortunately) work for everything.
And there is no hard and fast rule for when it WILL WORK. So best practice is to test it out on the app you are hoping will end with this timer set. So give it a try on your own iPhone, iPad, or iDevice and discover which third-party apps work and which don’t.
Setting the Clock Timer
- Launch Clock app
- Tap Timer icon in lower right
- Set the Timer for hours and minutes desired
- This is how long you want the timer to run–not at what time you want it to stop
- Tap When Timer Ends
- Scroll through all selections and select Stop Playing
- Choose Set from upper right
- Select Start to begin the timer
The Music App
If you or your loved one enjoy listening to music at night to help fall asleep, there’s another way to stop the music. While there still isn’t a timer, disabling both autoplay and repeat allows your music to play once and done.
So once the last song plays everything just stops and your iDevice goes to sleep. We recommend creating a playlist for bedtime and then allowing this to play through to the end and then your iDevice essentially turns off into sleep mode.
YouTube Kids App
I searched forever for a timer on YouTube, since we often look or listen to stuff on YouTube. But I couldn’t find a timer no matter where I looked.
In that exploration though, I found You Tube’s app for kids called YT Kids which indeed has a timer built in!
YT Kids requires a “grown-up” to enter a YT Kids provided code which of course works only with really, really small kids.
The content of YT Kids is curated via YT’s automated system. But as you, your child, or anyone else starts watching videos, the app starts recommending videos based on your searches and views.
As an FYI, YT Kids tries to include content that’s designated as appropriate for children but there may be videos included that are outside your definition of appropriate.
So be mindful! And if you find a video that’s concerning, you’re able to flag it. There’s also an option to turn searching on or off, depending on what you think best for your children.
Once inside the app, tapping the lock icon opening up a “Grown-ups only” passcode unlock–here you either enter in a provided passcode or you set up your own.
Once a passcode is unlocked or set-up, you access settings and timer options. Tapping Timer opens a slider to set a time limit from 1-120 minutes. Once set, press Start Timer to begin. When the time is up, the app locks.
And More Apps
Many apps include timers within them. Pandora, OldTimeRadio, and others include timers you manually set.
Others, like Amazon Video, include settings that allow you to turn off autoplay. Netflix has this feature too but you need to navigate to your account to Playback Settings to turn off autoplay.
I’m sure there are a bunch of apps out there that allow some version of a timer or auto-play disable within their individual settings or via your account settings.
What we are missing STILL is that universal timer–one that works for all apps and all types of content.
Set Your Auto-Lock
Auto-lock is an iPhone or other iDevice feature that puts it to sleep and locks the screen after a designated period of no use. It puts the device to sleep to conserve energy.
And that’s a pretty convenient feature. Turning auto-lock to Never means that your iDevice doesn’t go to sleep. In consequence, it drains your battery.
So one of the first things to do is leverage the power of auto-lock by setting this to a designated time instead of Never. Choices include 2, 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
We wish Apple included longer time periods like 30, 60, and even 120 minutes. But at the moment, these lower time intervals are our only options.
Change your auto-lock time interval by accessing Settings>Display&Brightness>Auto-Lock.
And Finally Some PParent-FriendlyApps!
Are you looking for an app that does the job of an auto shut-off sleep timer for your iPad, iPhone, or other iDevice?
Or do you or your loved one just want to turn on Netflix or similar, throw a movie on, and then hopefully fall asleep with your iPad or other iDevice set to automatically shut off in 1 or 2 hours?
If that sounds like your household, you’re not alone! And luckily, there are a slew of paid apps out there that claim to do the job.
ParentKit is basically a monitoring app for parents. But it also allows parents to schedule iDevice use so you choose what your children (or other loved ones) watch and WHEN they watch it.
It also allows you to block Apps, Movies, TV Shows and Music based on age ratings. And ParentKit gives you the power to turn off and close apps at certain times. The caveat is that when setting a schedule, that schedule applies to ALL apps.
ParentKit is controlled by the parent’s or another iDevice, acting essentially as the remote control for the child’s or loved one’s iPad, iPhone, or other iDevice. Once the ParentKit app is downloaded to the parents device, it prompts you to set up profiles for any children’s or loved one’s devices that you wish to manage.
Once a ParentKit profile is installed, parents set up a schedule for each child’s access to Safari, purchased apps, and media, on every device ParentKit is enabled on. Then each device is scheduled and controlled separately, all from the parent’s “remote” device.
ParentKit offers a one-month free trial followed by a paid subscriptions service for either 6 months or 1 year. And there is no limit to the number of profiles or devices that you can have. All of your children and loved ones AND their devices are included in your single paid subscription.
Similar to ParentKit, Kidtrol helps parents control and limit phone use and allows you to remotely disable or block third party apps on any connected iPhone, iPad or iPod. Kidtrol also offers scheduling and on demand features.
These give you the ability to control phone usage on your child’s or loved one’s iDevices right from your own iPhone. You set iDevice schedules and let the Kidtrol app follow that set schedule automatically each day.
Kidtrol’s scheduling feature lets you to set the time’s of the day and days of the week you want to disable or lock your child(s) mobile device apps. So setting up study and homework time, bedtime, dinnertime and time-outs is easy.
When the time scheduled approaches, Kidtrol app kicks in and disables or locks third-party apps. You can even set a number of schedules for disabling or locking phones on different days or different times.
There’s also an On Demand feature. This lets you instantly disable devices anywhere from 5 minutes up to twelve hours. And there’s a “Until I Say” option that locks the selected phones for indefinite time lengths.
KidTrol offers a trial followed by a monthly subscription of $2.99 or $29.99 yearly.
Making It All Kid Friendly
If, like me, you have a young one constantly pushing on-screen buttons, setting your iDevice into what we call “Kids Mode” is a great option. Restricting access to a single app helps parents control the iDevice experience and kids learn pretty quickly that pressing on-screen does nothing. And that way, they start paying attention to the content on the device rather than the iDevice itself.
And “Kids Mode” isn’t just for kids! It’s great for anyone who struggles with distraction or who needs a bit extra help in navigating the complex world of iDevices. It utilizes one of iOS’s best features, Guided Access! Check out our comprehensive article on Guided Access and Kids Mode if this sounds like something your family could use.
Hopefully, Apple will soon update iOS to include an automatic shut-off timer that works universally. Until then we must put the pieces together from a variety of sources, including app settings, using the stock Clock app, and even setting or resetting auto-lock.
All that means we need to invest time into finding a solution that works best for our family and for our particular needs.
Hopefully, this article points you in the right directions and arms you with strategies that work. If you have found methods not mentioned that seem to fit the bill, please share those in the comments section. We love to hear more tips and tricks from you, our readers.
For most of her professional life, Amanda Elizabeth (Liz for short) trained all sorts of folks on how to use media as a tool to tell their own unique stories. She knows a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides!
Her clients include Edutopia, Scribe Video Center, Third Path Institute, Bracket, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Big Picture Alliance.
Elizabeth received her Master of Fine Arts degree in media making from Temple University, where she also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member in their department of Film and Media Arts.