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Getting Down to Brass Tax with Screen Time

When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, it was hard to imagine how important it would become for keeping us connected, informed, and entertained. In fact, many people are now concerned that they use their iPhones too much. But with Screen Time, Apple has provided tools that help you use your iOS devices more thoughtfully.

Screen Time can help you control three major ways of overdoing it with the iPhone. Everything discussed here also works on an iPad, and if you have an iPhone and iPad signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID, they can share Screen Time settings and present a combined report.

Too Much Time in the Wrong Apps

Screen Time allows you to limit how much time you spend per day within all apps in a certain category, such as Social Media, Games, or Entertainment. To see the categories, go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits > Add Limit. To set a category limit, tap the category and then tap Add (or to limit all apps, tap All Apps & Categories, at the top of the list). Use the wheels to set a daily time limit for that category, and then tap Customize Days to set a different limit on some days; for example, you could allow more time on the weekend.

 

If you’ve set a time limit for a category, and if you try to use an app in that category once time is up, a Time Limit screen appears. If that’s enough of a reminder to stop, you’re all set. But if you need to use the app, tap Ignore Limit and then choose whether Screen Time should remind you again in 15 minutes or ignore the limit for the rest of the day. Icons for apps whose time has run out appear dimmed out on the Home screen, with a small timer badge, as you can see at the upper right in the image below where time has run out for Social Networking apps like Facebook and FaceTime.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • If a certain app in a limited category should be less restricted, you can add that app to the Always Allowed list. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Always Allowed, and tap the app’s green plus button to add it to the Allowed Apps list.
  • To remove a category restriction, tap Settings > Screen Time > App Limits > Category Name > Delete Limit.

Too Much Time on Your iPhone

If you find yourself using your iPhone too much before you go to sleep and immediately when you wake up, Screen Time’s Downtime feature can help. Found on the main Screen Time screen, Downtime lets you schedule a daily time period when all you can do with your iPhone is make and receive phone calls and use any apps in the Always Allowed list (described earlier). For example, if you want to cut down on iPhone usage at bedtime other than reading, you may want to allow the Books app or Kindle app.

If you try to use a disallowed app during Downtime, you’ll see the same Time Limit screen that we described earlier.

Checking Your iPhone Excessively

Another type of iPhone overuse is checking for new information too frequently. That may prevent you from being bored, but research shows that turning off the constant external input is necessary for your brain to generate creative ideas. Or, you may be hoping to set a good example for a child.

Whatever your motivation, you can find out how often you’ve checked by going to Settings > Screen Time and tapping the name of your device. A secondary screen opens, showing usage statistics. Tap buttons at the top to switch between the current day and the past seven days. Either way, scroll down to the Pickups area—you may be shocked at how often you’ve picked up your device.

Screen Time doesn’t have a feature aimed at helping you lower your pickup count, but by looking at that number, you can assess whether you have a problem. If you’re concerned, you might try limiting how much time per day you use certain apps. For example, if a lot of your pickups involve checking in on a multiplayer game, you could break the habit by limiting your time in the Games category. Or, you could expand your Downtime. Of course, you can seek solutions outside Screen Time as well, perhaps by not always carrying your iPhone in your pocket.

The iPhone helps us find information, companionship, entertainment, and so much more, but if you’re unhappy with how much time you’re spending engrossed in its little screen, give Screen Time a try.

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