We indulge them with love, care, and compassion. We also, as parents, need to provide them with guidance and rules to help them grow and prosper in a safe environment.
The children of this generation are sometimes called digital natives! They are born in an age abundant with electronic screens (smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) and comfortable with being online most of the time.
On the one hand, we want them to embrace this reality and be able to navigate through the cyber world. On the other hand, we are worried that leaving them unattended and unguided would expose them to the harmful effects of the digital age.
With more and more children raising up with electronic devices in their hands, it is becoming increasingly important for parents to take responsibility in guiding their children and setting healthy and reasonable restrictions.
In this article, we are going to focus on the iOS feature of Screen Time; what is it and how to use it to design a safe environment for our children.
# Screen Time: What & Why?
With iOS 12, Apple introduced Screen Time to help users (and parents of young users) set limits on the usage of iPads and iPhones. Theses limits could be set for blocked times of the day, maximum amount of time allowed to use certain apps, and the age ratings of apps/media that children could use.
This is important as children are less capable than adults to resist getting pulled into harmful app/content territories. In many cases, it is no longer sufficient to just inform the children of what to use and how much time to spend on their device. Ultimately, even adults sometimes struggle to control themselves!
I firmly believe that when parents provide their children with electronic devices, they should also properly manage and set up these devices in order to minimize any possible harms to the children.
# Screen Time: How?
To set up Screen Time, simply start by going to Settings -> Screen Time
The first time you do this, you would need to tap on “Turn on Screen Time” then select “This is my child’s iPad/iPhone.”
Once you do this, you will see four main settings; Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions.
The idea of Downtime is to give you the option of setting a “No-Screen” time. In other words, it is a way to restrict your children from using their devices beyond sleep time and before breakfast time!
To do this, simply tap on “Downtime” and set the times accordingly.
App Limits, on the other hand, deals with setting a usage time limit for an app category, like games or entertainment. For example, you could set your children’s devices to not allow them to play games during weekdays, and only be able to play games for a total of one hour during a weekend day.
Note that it is not possible to set a time limit to zero! So the best alternative is to set the limit for one minute.
As for the Always Allowed setting, you could consider this to be the Green List of apps, which overrides Downtime and App Limits restrictions. You could, for example, add the Notes app in here for your children to journal their day or make an inspirational sketch!
The last Screen Time setting is the Content & Privacy Restrictions item. This is where you could set restrictions on the type of content your child views. Remember, a lot could happen on the iPad/iPhone and there’s a possibility of suffering lifetime consequences as a result of what your child does on the device today. This is an area where you could make sure that no content or service gets to your child that you believe is inappropriate for his/her age.
iOS provides the option of only allowing appropriate content for apps, books, movies, web, music, etc. It is recommended that you set suitable restrictions as per your child’s age.
To limit unwanted credit card surprises, it is wise to also restrict downloading apps and in-app purchases. You could always re-enable these as needed.
Other useful settings under Contents and Privacy Restrictions include the ability to restrict changes to account information and cellular data usage, as well as to manage privacy settings.
# Screen Time: In action
As you get the above settings in place, your child would be using the iPad/iPhone in the way that you approve as a parent/guardian. If the time limit is approaching – either from Downtime or App Limits – the device would (mostly!) notify the child about 5 minutes before.
When Downtime is effective (like if it is after sleep time for the child), restricted apps would look dim in color and would not be able to launch.
Of course, every rule has exceptions. If you have allowed an hour for the children to play games and they really want to play more, they could ask for more time. In these cases, you have the option of adding 15 minutes, an hour, or approving the app for the day! This gives you the flexibility that you could sometimes need (like, when the children are really bored and it is school holidays). The added time you allow, however, only applies to the app that the child has asked for. To allow more time across the board, you would need to adjust the limits set in Downtime and App Limits.
# Closing notes
Of course, different parents would have a different set of rules and behavioral expectations for their children. The parents could also have different restrictions on different children in accordance with their ages. The point is that the available settings are flexible enough to accommodate different parental needs.
So, as you let your children have their playtime with their cool iDevices, you also have the ability (and responsibility!) to put in place suitable restrictions that would enable them to grow in a healthy and safe environment.