Parenting gets easier with Apple’s announcement!

Hey everyone—I believe this could be a real game changer. Yesterday Apple announced that later this month it will release a new software update—operating system iOS 12— which will include several much-needed functions in a tool named “Screen Time.” This tool helps parents control aspects of kids’ time spent on phones and tablets. Google has similar controls for Android phones that can be managed through its Family Link app, but today I am writing about iPhones and iPads.

For years I’ve been speaking and writing about the need for technology manufacturers to add easy screentime parental controls to their devices. Until now, parents could put apps on kids’ phones to try to do things like this, but youth are able to bypass the apps by disabling the VPN, or by other means. So, Apple’s new functions are a really big deal.

Screen Time will have many features, including a program that records time spent on various apps. Currently, if someone wants to know the amount of time spent on apps, they have to download a third-party app. My son Chase did this recently with the app called Moment to track his time. He was surprised by how much time he was on his phone and how frequently he was checking it just out of habit throughout the day. Now, this function will automatically be installed with the iPhone update. Parents and youth will be able to get activity reports from their “Family Sharing” account in iCloud. Knowing use patterns of various apps can help direct conversations about what individual behaviors need modification.

Screen Time will enable parents to set time limits for usage for individual apps, through the tool, “App Limits.”  It will even notify children when their time is almost done. This warning can help youth more calmly transition off their devices.

Now parents will be able to control the apps they do not want their children using during school hours, such as Instagram and Snapchat, while keeping others on their phones during school, such as Quizlet (an app that mimics flashcards). This function will be helpful at home as well. As I always say, “Sleep is Supreme.” In iOS 12 it will be easy to set up bedtime parameters on kids’ phones and tablets.

Notifications are often a huge distraction (I personally do not allow any on my phone except for receiving phone calls and texts), but with the update you will be able to easily control when notifications can be displayed and delivered to you (or to your child).

In conclusion, I want to share my fantasy: that through large public and small private discussions, involving young and old, our society will establish norms around tech limits (what children have access to and time limits) and technology will seamlessly support these norms.

For Today’s Tech Talk Tuesday let’s talk to our kids—ages 2 to 20—about the potential power and pitfalls of the Apple tool, Screen Time.

  1. Does the idea of knowing how much time each day you are on various apps make you excited or terrified?
  2. Do you think it is better to have a device or a parent warn you that you’ve spent your allotted time on your game or social media?
  3. Sleep deprivation has shot up over the past five years—currently, over 50% of 15-year to 18-year-olds report getting less than 7 hours of sleep most nights (the recommended amount of sleep for this age range is 9 hours). Do you think the Screen Time tool can help reduce sleep deprivation?