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.
Do you frequently reach for your iPhone for a quick check of Facebook or Messages? It’s all too easy to let social media, the latest hot game, or even your work email intrude on your real life. If you’re uncomfortable with how much—and when—you use your iPhone or iPad, iOS 12’s new Screen Time feature can help you limit your usage in two ways, by time of day and by time spent in an app.
(Screen Time can help you monitor and limit your children’s iOS usage too. This article focuses on setting it up for yourself; we’ll examine Screen Time parental controls another time.)
Get Started with Screen Time
To enable Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap Turn On Screen Time. After you see an introductory splash screen, tap This Is My iPhone to go to the main Screen Time screen.
Two options on the lower portion of this screen help you customize Screen Time overall. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode to create another passcode that controls access to Screen Time settings and lets you extend time limits. It’s designed for parents who let their children use their devices, but you could use it as a speed bump when overriding your self-defined limits.
If you use both an iPhone and an iPad, enable Share Across Devices to aggregate your usage. This syncs settings between your devices, so if you want different setups, keep this option off.
To limit your usage according to a schedule, perhaps so you don’t get caught up in a game before bed, tap Downtime, turn on the Downtime switch, and set start and end times. Unfortunately, you can’t create multiple schedules for different portions of the day.
When you tap App Limits and then Add Limit, Screen Time presents you with a list of categories and examples of your apps in each one. Select one or more—say Social Networking and Games—and then tap Add. Then set the amount of time you want to allow yourself overall for apps in that category. You can create multiple category limits with different amounts of allotted time.
If an app category is too broad, you can limit a particular app. Tap the Screen Time graph at the top of the screen, scroll down to the Most Used section, and tap an app in the list. At the bottom of that screen, tap Add Limit and specify a time limit.
There are a few exceptions to the apps limited by both Downtime and App Limits, regardless of your settings. The Phone app is always available, and Clock, Find My iPhone, Safari, and Settings appear to be exempt. For other apps you never want limited, tap Allowed Apps on the main Screen Time screen, and then tap the green plus button next to any app you want to allow. Apple adds FaceTime, Maps, and Messages to the Allowed Apps list by default, but you can remove them if desired.
Living with Screen Time
Screen Time alerts you 5 minutes before a time limit expires and displays a Time Limit screen when time runs out. Although the point of Downtime and App Limits is to help you stop playing the latest addictive game or reflexively checking Facebook, you can tap Ignore Limit to keep using the app, either for 15 minutes or for the rest of the day.
Screen Time also dims the icon for any affected app on the Home screen and puts a tiny timer icon next to the name. You can still open such apps, but you’ll go right to the Time Limit screen.
Equally as helpful is the way Screen Time reports on your usage so you realize how much you’re using different apps. It provides a weekly report, but you can always go into Settings > Screen Time to see your daily usage.
Tap that graph, and Screen Time lets you dive into the details, for example, by revealing your most-used apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many interrupting notifications you receive. Much of the information in this screen is interactive—tap various items to see more details or adjust settings.
Only you can decide if you’re using your iPhone or iPad more than you like, and only you can exercise the self-control to restrict your usage. But Screen Time highlights how you’re actually spending time, both as you’re doing it and after the fact. Give it a try!
Poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they can’t stop talking about and many will launch into frustrated rants about how too few people back up. Backups are always important since you can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break. But one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”
On the Mac side, there are plenty of ways to back up, and a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave. More generally, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. Finally, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.
What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.
Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSavers can recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.
So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.
We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens). And it’s way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.
With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Neither is necessarily better or worse, and you can—and should!—use both for added safety. We’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.
To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you get 5 GB for free and can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.
To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.
Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.
If you have sufficient iCloud storage, we recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.