When Apple device users upgrade to iOS 12, Screen Time can help parents monitor their kids activity and set App Limits.
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An early review of Apple’s Screen Time software isn’t great.
Part of the new iOS 12 operating system update that’s imminent this fall, Screen Time was recently tested by Washington Post technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler. The new software will give all users data on phone and tablet use as well as have new parental control capabilities.
Fowler tested a beta version of iOS 12 using an iPad and the 9-year-old son of an editor. (The story includes a helpful video on how to set up Screen Time, and according to Fowler, you’ll need it.)
“I was surprised how difficult Apple’s parental software was to use. Even discounting for beta-software bugs Apple will hopefully squash, Screen Time is one of Apple’s weakest software launches in years. Apple treats parents like IT administrators for their kids, saddled with a zillion choices to make and knobs to adjust.”
Parents beware: Default controls don’t prevent NC-17 movie watching
Apple’s Screen Time help parents create time limits on their kids’ games and apps.
The most alarming thing about the software review was that Fowler found that Apple’s Screen Time may, he said, “make parenting more difficult.”
“One example: Apple’s bad default settings give kids access to NC-17 movies, explicit books and the entire web – even when it knows their exact age,” he said.
Default settings, he explained, are not child-appropriate and don’t restrict explicit content or add privacy protections such as limiting sharing location data. Parents can remotely change these settings and approve media purchases, but it’s one more hoop to jump through.
Among the review’s other findings:
- Screen Time is designed to work with only one account per device: So parents with multiple kids are out of luck if their children share devices.
- There’s a time-limit loophole you know kids are going to figure out: If a child is watching a video on Netflix and presses the home button so it appears as a picture in picture, the minutes won’t count against the child’s screen-time limit. The child could watch all day long and the parent would not be alerted.
- Apple allows children to request screen-time extensions that pop up on parents’ Apple devices: These can happen ALL. DAY. LONG.
- Setting daily screen time limits for a specific app is difficult: “Even I couldn’t figure out how to set a daily time limit for a specific app without asking Apple for instructions,” Fowler said.
How Apple’s Screen Time works
Parents can access their child’s Internet Activity Report from their own iOS devices.
A child needs his or her own account with Screen Time, with an individual email address and password that is associated with a guardian. Parents can create this through their Apple ID setting. This gives parents the power to approve downloads and control functions.
Screen Time allows parents to create detailed daily and weekly Activity Reports that show the time a child spends on each app, their usage across categories of apps and games and how often they pick up their iPhone or iPad.
Parents can approve or reject apps, determine when the Apple device is to be used and receive a bar-chart readout of the child’s use during the day and the previous week.
Parents can also schedule a block of time when their child’s iOS device can’t be used, such as at bedtime. Parents can choose specific apps that will always available, even during downtime or after a time limit is spent.
Apple intends to offer training in stores for parents and instructions on its parents website.
But, as Fowler puts it, “If tech companies are going to make software to help, they need to make sure they’re not just creating more work.”