Like that Black Mirror episode, smartphones have become an integral part of our life. We hardly go anywhere without our smartphones and depend so much on these smart devices, it is part of our DNA now. A survival skill which we are passing on to the next generation. This is why even a 2-year old wants to learn how smartphones work. I mean, think about it. In fact, researchers found a direct correlation between screen time, time spent in front of a digital screen, with the overall well-being of the person. I believe it is our fault.
This is why, we have tested some of the best iOS apps to limit screen time and monitor your kids’ activities so you know what they are watching, for how long, and limit their usages so they can get some actual sunlight.
Best Apps to Limit Screen Time – iOS
1. Screen Time
Screen Time was released by Apple with the release of iOS 12 and comes pre-installed on all iPhones and iPads. There is no dedicated icon but you can find Screen Time option in Settings. You can set Downtime which is the time slot when your chosen set of apps like games and social media apps will be unavailable. You can choose days and time here.
App Limits is where you will choose which apps your kids can use or not during Downtime or otherwise. Some apps can be set to always Allowed which means they are always available, even during the Downtime period. For example, phone, SMS, and maps.
The steps to set a specific app limit is a bit confusing though. You need to go to Settings > Screen Time > Tap your phone’s name at the top > select the app from the list you want to limit then tap “Limit” at the bottom and you can set a specific time for that app.
Finally comes Content & Privacy Restrictions where you can control whether kids can install, uninstall, and buy apps from the App Store. Once enabled, Screen Time will ask for a passcode (separate from iPhone passcode) to authenticate. I like the idea of restricting content that are adult and explicit in nature. This works across music, podcasts, video content, books, and apps that you download and watch/read from the App Store. Finally, there are reports that will tell you everything you need to know about your kid’s time spent on the iPhone/iPad.
Screen Time is completely free and comes with no ads.
- Restrict apps, content,
- Set downtime by time, duration, and days
- Reports of kids bypassing restrictions
- Can’t select individual apps
2. Parental Control App – Kidslox
While the native Screen Time feature is good, it has its flaws and smart kids have found ways to bypass the Screen Time limits set by worried parents. Kidslox solves this problem with their unique take on screen time. You can block individual apps separately here.
Apart from the parent and child modes, there is a 3rd option available in Kidslox which is Lockdown. It will lock all apps and even the device itself. You know, when your child misbehaves and you want to ground him/her (digitally). Under the Restrictions tab, you can expand categories to block/unblock apps individually.
Like Screen Time, you can manage and block access to the App Store or parts thereof, restrict adult content, and set day wise limits based on hours.
There is a 14-day free trial which can be extended to 70 days by sharing their link on social media. In either case, you will have to subscribe to the $3.99/month plan eventually.
- Detailed instructions on using app
- Set app-wise restrictions
- Set downtime
- Lockdown mode
ZenScreen is another app to limit screen time on iOS powered smartphones. Like Kidslox, there are some additional steps involved like downloading and installing profiles which then creates a VPN. Easy, just follow the on-screen prompts. Once done, you can create schedules to determine and when and which apps can be accessed by your kiddo. One cool feature is Smart Breaks which forces short breaks between app usage. Below is their recommended structure for app usage category-wise.
For example, a 10-minute break after playing games or surfing social media for 30 minutes straight. Like Screen Time, ZenScreen will track apps usage and create detailed reports so you know which apps are hot favorites and how much time was spent on it.
The free version will only let you control productive and entertainment time. Advanced features are locked under the premium plan that will cost you $4.99 monthly.
- Choose apps individually
- Create schedules
- Set breaks
unGlue is a unique app in the sense that not only does it allow you to control and monitor screen on any iOS device, but also doubles as an activity counter. Yup. You can count the total number of daily steps using unGlue which comes with a pedometer.
Not only can you set limits on apps and create useful schedules, but you can also set rules for Internet and when it is available. This will force kids to use apps offline which can be a good thing. Like for reading education ebooks? Another useful feature is the ability to rollover unused minutes to the next day. Kids can manage their own time in Time Bank. In fact, they can earn more screen time during household chores set up by you. Like taking out trash or cleaning utensils.
Monthly subscription begins at $4.99 and the free version is pretty limited.
- Rollover unused time
- Set Internet on/off
- Create schedules
- Restrict apps
- Step counter
Also Read: Best Math Learning Apps for Android and iOS
What about text message? Arguably, I don’t see a lot of teens using text messages in the age of WhatsApp, Telegram, and Discord, however, it is nice to see that SaferKid is trying to address the problem of ‘sexting’ and ‘bullying’ by offering a way to monitor text messages. You can view messages sent and received, calls made and received, and check web browsing history.
Another feature I like is their personal reviews on over 200,000 apps that are available on the App Store. While there are n number of apps to download, SaferKid has reviewed the most popular ones from each category to help parents determine which ones should be allowed. Other than that, you can monitor screen time, block apps, and adult content from within the app.
Plans begin at $14.99/month.
- Restrict apps, content
- Set schedule downtime
- Apps reviewed by team
- Track calls, text messages, web history
Knowing what to do is important, however, sometimes, that’s not enough. Knowing how to do it is actually more important. You want to curb your screen time but setting locks is not a permanent solution. With this thought in mind, Space has created a companion 8 day course that aims to help you break the screen addiction for good. The course is good however only as long as you follow it.
You will begin with setting goals which will further unlock achievements. There is a progress tab where you can view reports. Space is actually a self-help app for kids who are capable of introspecting their own behavioral patterns.
- 8 day course
- Set goals
- No way to lock apps
- No way to restrict content
7. Google Family Link
Google’s Family Link is the perfect answer to Apple’s Screen Time, or is it the other way around? Like Screen Time, you can lock apps, set schedules during which certain apps will be accessible, and block content that you think is inappropriate for your kiddo.
Family Link has a helpful list of apps, compiled and recommended by teachers, that you can allow access to without further ado. There are Play Store restrictions which prevent kids from downloading apps or making in-app purchases. One nifty feature is the ability to track your kids, by tracking their phone’s location on your own device. Gives you peace of mind.
- Track apps and content
- Set restrictions on app and content
- Limit Play Store activity
- Create schedules
- Track your kids
Moment is one of the most feature-rich apps to limit screen time on iOS devices. Not only can you set timers and schedules to restrict app and content activity, but you can also learn how to break the habits by following the Coach feature. You can use Moment as a self-control app or install it on your kid’s phone to track his/her usage.
There are some caveats, for better or worse, that I will let you decide. Your kid can start Dinner Time which will then lock your own smartphone and you can’t control it. Only they can unlock it. Because Moment is a family-oriented app, everyone can view each other’s screen time on their phone. Plans begin at $4.99.
- Set app restrictions
- Set content restrictions
- In-depth coach
- View reports
- Set timers and schedules
- Screen-free time for everyone
- Kids can lock too
Limit Screen Time on iOS
There are a number of apps that you can use to track, restrict, and improve screen time usage for your family and kids in the App Store.
For most users, Screen Time that comes pre-installed is good enough. If you have Android devices too in the house, better go with Google Family Link because Apple’s ecosystem is restrictive that way.
If you are looking for coaching and some motivation, Moments is a great app to set screen time limits for the entire family instead of just for your kids.
unGlue also doubles as an activity monitor which is why you are restricting screen time, so your kids will spend more time outside playing.
Alternatively, you can also try changing your passcode. It’ll help break the habit of unlocking your iPhone and give you a moment to think, whether you really want to unlock your phone or not. You can also try and delete apps like Instagram or YouTube which are talking too much of your time.