5 Tips for Educators and Families with Young Children using Apple’s iOS 12 Screen Time Settings: Screen Time Settings Monitor More Than Just Time

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Written By Tamara Kaldor, Jenna Herdzina, & Alexis Lauricella, PhD

Screenshot from https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-12/

A current and constant struggle for educators and families is finding balance with digital technology use and other activities. Families are now using technology to support their own technology behaviors and those of their children such as Accountable2You, Google Family Link, Circle, and unGlue.

Just recently, Apple released their new software, iOS 12, which includes the new settings, Screen Time. The Screen Time settings allow adults to limit, restrict, and monitor screen use for their device, as well as all shared devices.

Key Features of the Screen Time settings:

    • Downtime – Schedule time away from the screen
    • App Limits – Set time limits for apps
    • Always Allowed – Choose apps you want to access at all times
    • Content & Privacy Restrictions – Block inappropriate content for young children
    • Use Screen Time Passcode – Set a passcode to be able to change the settings
    • Share Across Devices – Allow the settings to be shared across multiple devices your family uses and to keep track of the total and types of screen time your family engages in

These new features can make monitoring screen use of children easy for educators and families. (See article from Wired about how to use Screen Time Settings). TEC Center encourages educators and families to prioritize understanding quality over quantity for digital media use with young children. Here are our 5 tips to guide your use of Apple’s iOS 12 Screen Time settings with young children in grades preschool through third grade.

Screenshots of Screen Time settings

5 Tips for Educators and Families Using iOS 12 Screen Time Settings:

  1. Be a positive role model and be present with presence: Children and adolescents do watch and learn from adults media and technology behavior. If you want your child to be more mindful of their technology use, be a good role model and put the phone down too!

What the research tells us:

    • Research demonstrates that parents digital media use is very much related to their children’s media use behaviors. If parents value and use their phone regularly, their children are seeing these behaviors and replicating them once they have access to devices (Lauricella, Wartella, & Rideout, 2015).
    • A 2017 TEC Center and Fred Rogers Center report found that adults are often physically present but often without presence when children interact with technology and media. (Paciga & Donohue, 2017)
    • “An adult’s, presence, however, did not always imply active, co-engagement. When adults were present, they often supported a child’s use by setting up the device or familiarizing the child with the activity and leaving the child to engage fairly independently, despite the recommendation of the AAP for joint engagement” – report co-authors Dr. Katie Paciga and Dr. Chip Donohue (Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice, 2017)

  1. Talk, Learn, &  Explore. While iOS 12 Screen Time settings focus on time and categories as a measure of screen use, TEC Center encourages educators and families to prioritize the quality of technology experiences. 
  2. Communicate limits and expectations. Have a conversation with children before setting limits and restrictions and then create Screen Time settings together.
    • Talk to your children about what apps and tools they use on their phone and what they get out of those experiences to better understand the technology from their perspective.
    • Explain to children why you are going to set screen time limits for them and for yourself.
    • Create your own Family Media Plan, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
    • Show children what you learn about your own use and discuss how you are working to change your habits each week or monthly.
  3. Investigate. There is a lot to still be known about how Apple will categorize children’s apps and how they will be tracked. There are many categories for Screen Time use including, social networking, entertainment, creativity productivity, reading & reference, games, etc.
    •  Instead of just relying on the report for data, try to ask your children to show you what they are planning to use and for how long. Check in with them, set a timer and then look at the Screen Time report to see what it says and how it categorizes the apps your child has used.
      • In the Screen Time report, you can receive on your devices, one of the categories is Creativity. We still don’t know much about how Apple categorizes children’s apps in the Screen Time feature so this is an important category to watch as you see what apps you are allowing children to use.
    • Keep in mind, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated, “Very few of the commercially available apps found in the educational section of app stores have evidence-based design input with demonstrated learning effectiveness.” (Children and Adolescents and Digital Media, 2016).
    • Read #MediaMentors: Selecting And Curating Apps For Young Children by TEC Center’s associate director, Tamara Kaldor
  4. Communicate, Revisit, and Reset. Learn what you can about your family’s technology use and adjust Screen Time settings as needed.
    • Check in monthly as a family and revisit how accurate the Screen Time reports are and if they are helping you all to develop healthy habits. This is very new technology and you know your children best so don’t rely on the technology to make the most informed decisions about what quality screen time means for all of you.


Ceres, P. (2018, September 25). How to Use Apple’s Screen Time Controls on iOS 12. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-use-screen-time-ios-12/

Herdzina, J. (2017, October 27). Quality Digital Media Checklist. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from http://teccenter.erikson.edu/publications/tecqualitycheck/

IOS 12 is available today. (2018, September 24). Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/09/ios-12-is-available-today/

Kaldor, T. (2017, October 1). #MediaMentors: Selecting and Curating Apps for Young Children. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from http://teccenter.erikson.edu/tec/curateapps/

Kaldor, T. (2016, May 3). 5 Things every parent, caregiver and educator should know about “screen time” and media use with young children. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from http://teccenter.erikson.edu/what-we-are-doing/5-things-every-parent-caregiver-and-edacator-should-know-about-screen-time-and-media-use-with-young-children/

Lauricella, A., Wartella, E., & Rideout, V. (2015). Young children’s screen time: The complex role of parent and child factors. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 36, 11-17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2014.12.001

NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. (2012). Technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8.” Joint position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC; Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning at Saint Vincent College. Retrieved from www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PS_technology_WEB2.pdf

Paciga, K.A. & Donohue, C. (2017). Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice. Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. http://teccenter.erikson.edu/publications/tecfrcreport/

Reid Chassiakos Y, Radesky J, Christakis D, et al., AAP COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5): e20162593

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