It’s a constant refrain in many homes—a kid clamoring to use an iPad or iPhone to play games, watch videos, or chat with friends. As a parent, you know too much screen time is bad, especially when it affects homework or family dinners. At the same time, an iOS device may be essential for communication and schoolwork.
In iOS 12, Apple introduced Screen Time, which shows how much time you spend on your own device, and helps you control your usage—see our recent article for details. But Screen Time also has parental controls. They’re best managed with Family Sharing from your own iOS device, so if you haven’t already done so, tap Settings > YourName > Set Up Family Sharing and follow the instructions. (You can also set up Screen Time directly on the child’s device—tap Use Screen Time Passcode to set a passcode that prevents the child from overriding limits.)
With Family Sharing set up, go to Settings > Screen Time and notice your children’s names in the new Family section. Tap a child’s name to set Screen Time limitations and restrictions on their iOS devices. Initially, Screen Time walks you through an assistant that explains the main features and helps you set some basic limitations. It also prompts you to create a four-digit parent passcode, which you’ll need to adjust settings in the future or override time limits.
Subsequently, when you tap your child’s name, you’ll see Screen Time’s standard sections for Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions. For a full explanation of the first three, see our previous article; we’ll focus on what’s different for children and on Content & Privacy Restrictions here.
Downtime is useful for blocking all device usage during a time when your child should be sleeping, doing homework, or just not using the screen. You can set only one time period, so if you want to control usage on a more complex schedule, you’ll need to do that in another way.
For a child, the Downtime screen has a Block at Downtime option that you must enable to actually block access to the device during the scheduled time. If it’s off, and the child tries to use the device during that time, they’ll be able to tap Ignore Limit just like an adult can. That might be appropriate for a teenager who may need to check email late at night to find details for tomorrow’s sports practice. With Block at Downtime on, however, the only override is with the parent passcode.
As our previous article noted, App Limits specify how long a category of apps—or a specific app—may be used each day, with the time resetting at midnight. For children, you might want to try restricting nothing for a week, and see what apps they’re using and for how long. Then have “the talk” about appropriate use of digital devices and agree on limits.
You can tap Customize Days to allow more time on weekends, for instance, and you can exempt an app from all limitations in the Always Allowed screen.
Once your child hits an app limit, Screen Time will block them from using the app, with the only override being your parent passcode.
Content & Privacy Restrictions
Here’s where you’ll find all the previous parental controls, which let you turn on a wide variety of restrictions. To get started, enable the Content & Privacy Restrictions switch. There are three basic sections here:
- Store and Content Restrictions: Use these to control app downloading and deletion, what sort of content can be downloaded from Apple’s online stores, whether or not Web content should be filtered, and more.
- Privacy Restrictions: The entries here depend on what apps are installed, but the main question is if you want to allow location sharing.
- Allow Changes: These items relate to settings on the iOS device itself. You might want to disallow passcode and account changes, and volume limit changes, if you’ve set a maximum volume in Settings > Music > Volume Limit.
At the top of its main screen for the child, Screen Time reports on usage for both the current day and the last 7 days, showing a graph of screen time by hour or day, with color coding to indicate which app categories were in use. Review this report regularly to see if you need to adjust the Downtime or App Limit settings. Your child can also check the same report directly on their device in Settings > Screen Time.
Screen Time’s controls are good but not perfect. Enterprising kids have discovered workarounds such as changing the device’s time setting and deleting and redownloading apps. So don’t see Screen Time as a guaranteed technological solution—it’s just another tool in your parenting toolkit.
With macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple has beefed up the Mac’s privacy so it more closely resembles privacy in iOS. You’ve noticed that when you launch a new app on your iPhone or iPad, it often prompts for access to your photos or contacts, the camera or microphone, and more. The idea behind those prompts is that you should always be aware of how a particular app can access your personal data or features of your device. You might not want to let some new game thumb through your photos or record your voice.
macOS has been heading in this direction, but Mojave makes apps play this “Mother, May I?” game in more ways. As a result, particularly after you first upgrade, you may be bombarded with dialogs asking for various permissions. For instance, when you first make a video call with Skype, it’s going to ask for access to the camera and the microphone. Grant permission and Skype won’t have to ask again.
Skype’s requests are entirely reasonable—it wouldn’t be able to do its job without such access. That applies more generally, too. In most cases, apps will ask for access for a good reason, and if you want the app to function properly, you should give it access.
However, be wary if a permission dialog appears when:
- You haven’t just launched a new app
- You aren’t doing anything related to the request
- You don’t recognize the app making the request
There’s no harm in denying access; the worst that can happen is that the app won’t work. (And if it’s malicious, you don’t want it to work!) You can always grant permission later.
To see which permissions you’ve granted or denied, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. A list of categories appears on the left; click one to see which apps have requested access. If you’ve granted access, the checkbox next to the app will be selected; otherwise it will be empty.
You’ll notice that the lock in the lower-left corner is closed. To make changes, click it and sign in as an administrator when prompted.
Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but it might not always be obvious why an app wants permission. In the screenshot above, for instance, Google Chrome has been granted access to the Mac’s camera. Why? So Google Hangouts and other Web-based video-conferencing services can work.
There are five categories (including three not showing above) that could use additional explanation:
- Accessibility:Apps that request accessibility access want to control your Mac. In essence, they want to be able to pretend to click the mouse, type on the keyboard, and generally act like a user. Utility and automation software often needs such access.
- Full Disk Access:This category is a catch-all for access to areas on your drive that aren’t normally available to apps, such as data in Mail, Messages, Safari, Home, and more, including Time Machine backups and some admin settings. Backup and synchronization utilities may need full disk access, in particular. An app can’t request full disk access in the normal way; you must add it manually by clicking the + button under the list and navigating to the app in the Applications folder.
Automation:The Mac has long had a way for apps to communicate with and control one another: Apple events. An app could theoretically steal information from another via Apple events, so Mojave added the Automation category to give you control over which apps can control which other apps. You’ll see normal permission requests, but they’ll explain both sides of the communication.
Analytics:The Analytics privacy settings are completely different—they let you specify whether or not you want to share information about how you use apps with Apple and the developers of the apps you use. For most people, it’s fine to allow this sharing.
Advertising:Finally, the Advertising options give you some control over the ads that you may see in Apple apps. In general, we recommend selecting Limit Ad Tracking, and if you click Reset Advertising Identifier, any future connection between you and the ads you’ve seen will be severed from past data. There’s no harm in doing it. It’s worth clicking the View Ad Information and About Advertising and Privacy buttons to learn more about what Apple does with ads.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by iOS notifications, particularly if you have chatty friends or apps. In iOS 12, Apple corralled notifications by grouping them into stacks so you no longer see an endless screen of alerts. To expand a stack of notifications on either the Lock screen or in Notification Center (swipe down from the top of the screen), tap the stack. Once you’ve expanded a stack, you can tap Show Less to restack it, tap the X button to remove the entire stack, or tap any individual notification to open it. By default, iOS 12 groups notifications intelligently, which might entail separate stacks for different Messages conversations, for instance. If that’s still too much, you can go to Settings > Notifications > App Name > Notification Grouping and tap By App to collect every notification from the app into the same stack.
At a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Apple threw back the curtains on significant updates to the long-ignored MacBook Air and even longer-ignored Mac mini. Then Tim Cook and company followed up with revamped 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, complete with an enhanced Smart Keyboard Folio and redesigned Apple Pencil. You can order all of Apple’s new gear right away, though demand may delay shipping for a week or two on some items.
MacBook Air Gains Retina Display and Touch ID
When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in 2008 by pulling it out of an envelope, it set the standard for the ultralight notebook category. But Apple has focused on the high-end MacBook Pro line of late, making this major revision extremely welcome.
Retina Display and Touch ID
Most notably, the new MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch Retina display that’s far crisper than the previous model’s screen. Although the screen is the same size as before, Apple eliminated the aluminum bezel around it, taking the screen much closer to the edge. That let the company reduce the MacBook Air’s size, making it almost an inch (2.1 cm) less wide and more than half an inch (1.5 cm) less deep. Even more important, Apple dropped the weight by almost a quarter pound (100 g). It’s noticeably smaller and lighter now.
The other major improvement in the MacBook Air is the addition of a Touch ID sensor in the upper-right corner of the keyboard. Rather than typing your password to log in, you can just place your finger on the Touch ID sensor. It also works to unlock some apps like 1Password. To support the Touch ID sensor, the MacBook Air includes Apple’s T2 security chip, which prevents the boot process from being tampered with, encrypts all data on the SSD, and enables “Hey Siri.”
Many of the remaining changes just bring the MacBook into the modern age. It sports two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side for charging and connecting peripherals, and a headphone jack on the right side—all the previous ports are gone. The keyboard is the same one used in the most recent update to the MacBook Pro, which isn’t universally loved—if you’re particular about keyboards, give this one a try before buying. Apple also replaced the old Multi-Touch trackpad with a larger Force Touch trackpad that’s more responsive and provides additional capabilities.
By default, the MacBook Air comes with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. You can jump to 16 GB for $200, and we generally recommend that. Similarly, you can upgrade the storage to 256 GB for $200, 512 GB for $400, or 1.5 TB for $1200.
We haven’t mentioned performance yet. Apple says only that the MacBook Air’s 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor delivers “the performance you need for everyday activities like organizing your photos, browsing the Web, creating presentations or viewing and editing videos.” Since Apple never misses the chance to say how much faster a new Mac is than the model it replaces, we have to assume that the new MacBook is no faster than the old one. Hopefully, benchmarks will appear soon.
The new MacBook Air comes in silver, gold, and space gray, and pricing starts at $1199 for 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. If performance is important to you, however, you should consider the non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro, which costs only $100 more and is just a bit heavier. And if you’re willing to settle for older technology and a larger form factor, note that the old MacBook Air remains for sale starting at $999. Finally, the 12-inch MacBook also remains in the lineup, but at $1299, it’s overpriced and underpowered, and thus interesting only if you want the smallest possible Mac.
Mac mini Goes Pro with Massive Performance Boost
Apple updated the MacBook Air for consumers and students, but the company is aiming the revamped Mac mini at professional users. This update, the first in over 4 years, takes a cue from the similarly pro-focused iMac Pro in changing the color from silver to space gray, but otherwise, it retains the same form factor—7.7 inches (19.7 cm) square and 1.4 inches (3.6 cm) high.
Speeds and Feeds
What has changed are the guts of the Mac mini, which offer huge performance gains over the previous version from 2014. Those improvements come from eighth-generation Intel Core processors: a base 3.6 GHz 4-core i3, a mid-level 3.0 GHz 6-core i5, and a top-of-the-line 3.2 GHz 6-core i7. Apple claims up to five times the performance of the previous Mac mini and up to 60% speedier graphics performance thanks to the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630.
You won’t lack for RAM or storage either. The Mac mini comes with 8 GB of RAM, but you can upgrade to 16 GB ($200), 32 GB ($600), or 64 GB ($1400). Less expensive memory is available from other vendors. While the Mac mini’s base 128 GB of SSD storage might be adequate if all your data is stored on a NAS device, you can upgrade to 256 GB ($200), 512 GB ($400), 1 TB ($800), or 2 TB ($1600). That storage is automatically encrypted thanks to the Mac mini’s T2 security chip, which also speeds HEVC video transcoding.
While Apple’s notebooks have been shedding ports, the Mac mini has bucked the trend. It features four Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, two USB-A ports, an audio jack, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack, with 10 Gigabit Ethernet as an option. Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI ports, you can connect either a 5K display and a 4K display, or three 4K displays.
All this power comes at a price. The new Mac mini starts at $799 for the 3.6 GHz 4-core Intel Core i3, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. However, build-to-order options for a faster processor, more RAM, and more storage could raise the price to a whopping $4199.
Nonetheless, the Mac mini is once again an attractive option for anyone who already has a good display, keyboard, and mouse, none of which are included. It’s also ideal for those who want to stuff a Mac into a tight space, bring it on stage for a live performance, or stack a bunch of them for rendering video.
11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro Boast New Screens and Redesigned Apple Pencil
As welcome as the MacBook Air and Mac mini updates were, Apple really knocked it out of the park with its new iPad Pro models, which are the most significant changes to the iPad line yet.
Face ID Enables Physical Redesigns
Like the iPhone X series, these new iPad Pros drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID authentication. The 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the front of the iPad Pro that makes Face ID possible also enables support for Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, and Animoji and Memoji.
Losing the Home button enabled Apple to bring the display closer to the edge of the iPad. With the 11-inch iPad Pro (the measurement is the diagonal screen size), that means a larger display in roughly the same form factor as the older 10.5-inch model (which remains for sale). And with the 12.9-inch iPad, Apple kept the display size the same as before but shrank the height of the case by almost an inch so it’s now the size of an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper and a little lighter.
Apple also changed the industrial design slightly, reverting to the flat edges last seen in the iPhone 5s. One of those edges sports a magnetic attachment area and wireless charging spot for the redesigned Apple Pencil.
Speaking of charging, Apple broke with tradition and dropped the Lightning connector in favor of the industry-standard USB-C for charging and connecting to peripherals. That will make it easier to connect to an external display. You may also need a $9 USB-C-to-3.5mm headphone jack adapter.
Those are the most obvious new features, but some of the more evolutionary changes will be equally as welcome. Most notable is the new A12X Bionic chip with an embedded M12 coprocessor and Neural Engine. This Apple-designed chip is reportedly faster than 95% of laptops available today, and it gives the iPad Pro unparalleled performance among iOS devices.
That performance also powers the improved 12-megapixel rear camera, giving it enhanced computational photography capabilities, like Smart HDR, which takes multiple images and combines them intelligently for the best possible exposure. On-screen performance is improved, and everything will look better than ever before thanks to a new Liquid Retina display that features Apple’s True Tone and ProMotion technologies. In a classic Apple touch, the screen now features rounded corners.
Along with the revamped iPad Pro models, Apple introduced a new Smart Keyboard Folio that improves on the previous Smart Keyboard by wrapping around to protect the back of the iPad Pro as well. It uses a redesigned Smart Connector and provides two viewing angles.
More impressive is the new Apple Pencil, which now features a flat, touch-sensitive surface that you can double-tap to change drawing modes in many apps. That flat surface also makes it easy to attach to the edge of the iPad Pro magnetically so you won’t lose it and where it charges wirelessly. The easy-to-lose cap is gone, as is the Lightning connector, so the Apple Pencil is now shorter and more pencil-like—it won’t roll off the desk anymore.
How much will all this goodness cost? By the time all is said and done, you’ll be in MacBook Air range. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for a Wi-Fi-only model with 64 GB of storage. 256 GB runs $949, 512 GB is $1149, and 1 TB will set you back $1549. Add $150 if you want cellular connectivity in any of these configurations.
For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, add $200, so $999 for 64 GB, $1149 for $256 GB, $1349 for 512 GB, and $1749 for 1 TB. Cellular puts another $150 on the tab. Both sizes of iPad are available in either silver or space gray.
The new Apple Pencil costs $129, and the Smart Keyboard Folio is either $179 for the 11-inch model or $199 for the 12.9-inch model.
Remember, you can still get a regular iPad for as little as $329 and the original Apple Pencil is only $99, so if all you want is an iPad, you don’t need to spring for an iPad Pro. But if you’re using an iPad Pro as your primary work device and are willing to pay for the power, these new models are compelling upgrades.