I attended the Apple Developer conference in June where they introduced a new feature called Screen Time. Primarily, this is a way for iPhone users to understand how much and how often they use their phones. It’s a much needed update that will be released this Fall.
There have been a number of other apps and services that have done this sort of monitoring, but this one is the most ideal:
- It’s free on every new iPhone and on all iPhones from the last handful of years.
- It’s built into the operating system, which means it has more access and automation to all of the phone software, including apps that are installed and technology like WiFi and cellular.
- The service will run on your own phone, as well as anyone in your family.
It’s that last point that I’d like to cover a little bit here.
If your family has had iPhones for more than a few years, there’s a good chance that you have been using a shared Apple ID. This was the ideal way to buy apps, music and video so everyone in the family could access it.
A few years ago, Apple introduced family sharing. It takes a little time and effort to setup, but it’s worth it. Family Sharing will allow you to share calendars, purchases, your location, and also storage. This means that you can pay for just one iCloud storage account and everyone can back up their phones to it. Each family member would have their own password, address book, etc but will be recognized as a group.
In addition to all these other features, Screen Time will also be available to those registered as Parents on the family account. This means that you can work with your children to set some guidelines and use technology with intent in their life.
Once released, you’ll be able to set app limits, determine times when the phone will not work other than essential apps like making calls and sending messages. You will also have a daily and weekly report on how often phones are picked up and for how many hours they are used.
I highly recommend taking the time to understand technology and it’s use in your family. I’m not a fan of slyly monitoring activities of children. Talking with your kids can help them use this powerful tool in just the right way. It will help them understand balance in their life, mange better sleep schedules, and enjoy all that the real world has to offer.
I’ve been using the beta of Screen Time in our family. We use it to make the iPods in our home productive tools to include messaging with family, writing in a daily journal, and sharing fun family photos. Games and social media apps are disabled and only available for travel during vacations.
As the release of Screen Time nears, I’m considering presenting some free public workshops on how to use this free service in your family. Let me know if you’d be interested.
In the mean time, take the opportunity to line up your Apple ID situation in your family. To move from an individual iCloud account to Family Sharing is not difficult, but it takes a little organization.