Setting Up Parental Controls on an iPhone

How to set up Screen Time, Apple's built in parental controls for iPhones and iOS. Don't forget to toggle a couple KEY settings!

Apple finally discovered that parents actually want the ability to monitor and control their children’s phones, and they are moving away from iPhones in droves in order to have better control over these devices. So, starting with iOS 12 Apple released Screen Time.

Screen Time promised to be a great way for parents to be able to monitor and control their teen’s iPhone. Many kids have been finding ways around these parental controls, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Apple.

When you are setting up Screen Time there are a few “gotcha’s” that many parents miss, so make sure you check those out as you get your settings dialed in.

The first “gotcha” is that you need to have an iOS device in order to manage the settings. So, if your child has an iPhone, but you have an Android, this is not going to work. While the opposite always works since Androids are easier to manage. If you have an iPhone you should be able to monitor and control your child’s Android at any time.

Set Up Family Sharing

The first step in getting your Screen Time settings dialed in is to set up Family Sharing. To do this, open your settings app and then tap on your account right at the top. Scroll down to Family Sharing and select it.

From here you can add a family member through 1 of 3 options. If your child already has an iPhone set up with their own account, you can invite them via iMessage. This will send your child a message asking them to complete the setup.

You can also add the family member by just entering their Apple ID and password into your device.

Finally, you can create a child account from this area. Child accounts are for kids under 13 and can require approval for iTunes and App Store purchases. To create a Child account, you do need to have a payment method on file inside iTunes, but you will not be charged for the Child account.

Set Up Screen Time

Now that you have all of your family members added to Family Sharing, the real fun can begin. While you are still in the Family Sharing settings, scroll down a little further to the “Shared Features”. Tap on Screen Time and the app will list all of the features you can enable through Screen Time like this image…

When you tap Continue, you will go through each feature individually and set the limits according to your house rules.

Here is another one of the “gotchas”. Make sure as you are setting your limits to toggle the “block at downtime” or “block at end of limit” to the on position so that it actually will lock out the app or phone at the specific times. Without this switch turned on, the Screen Time settings will not do what you are really trying to get it to do.

There are also several content restrictions you will want to set as well.

Additionally, you will also want to set the ability to install new apps to “Don’t Allow”. This will completely disable the App store, so if they need to download an app, you will need to switch this to allow temporarily.

Another Gotcha here is that if the app has previously been approved, they will be able to install those apps, if they have access to the App store. So you won’t be able to take away Instagram through this method and not have them be able to just install it again without you knowing. What you CAN do, though is block the app entirely instead.

Approving more time

When your child runs out of time, they can have Screen Time send a message to the parent phone, and the parent can add more time if necessary, or if earned. Even though we use Android devices, my favorite question from my daughter is “can I have more time”

I use this question to make sure she’s got her homework done, her chores are completed, and she’s done other things we want or need her to do before she has earned herself some more time. Being able to grant more time directly from your phone is extremely helpful in these situations.

Nothing is perfect, conversation is still king

Even with these Screen Time rules in place, kids are able to get around these restrictions frequently. Having conversations with your children and layers of protection in place is still the best solution. Make sure you stay informed with what is going on in your child’s life and eventually they will be able to monitor and control themselves if you have taught them how.


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