Getting Started with iOS 12 Family Sharing Screen Time

If you are a parent and have kids who have iOS devices, then you have been longing for the day to be able to control screen time on these addictive little devices. My wife and I wanted to make sure that our kids unplugged and got to bed at a decent time on school nights, so we came up with a policy that their devices had to be turned in to us by a certain time. Enforcing this was not always easy and sometimes our kids would push the limits. Thankfully, Apple has started to take note and have introduced the concept of Family Sharing Screen Time in iOS 12. Screen Time allows you to set Downtime, App Limits, Content & Privacy Restrictions and will also provide reporting on usage.

This guide is going to show you what you need to get started and show you how to set up Downtime (since that is our primary concern). There are other things you can do by setting up App Limits but those are not covered below. Also keep in mind that this is a first release and kids have found ways to get around App Limits. The first thing you will need to do is upgrade both your device(s) and your kid’s (or kids’) device(s) to iOS 12. Next, if you have not already set up Family Sharing you will need to do this.

Starting off in Settings, click on your Apple ID

Next, select Family Sharing:Under Family Members, make sure that your kids are listed. It is also important that their accounts are classified as child accounts. My kids have had accounts before Apple introduced child accounts so I had to update (fix) their birthdays to reflect their true age (see Update the birth date associated with your Apple ID on how to do this). It took a few days for this to show up correctly under Family Sharing, so if you have to do this, keep that in mind. Once this is set up, select Screen Time under Shared Features:Here you will be able to select and configure each of your kids’ accounts individually. Select one.When you first go to enable Screen Time, it will ask you for a passcode. It is important to use a passcode that your kid(s) do not know and also one that you will not forget! Next, go ahead and select Downtime:


Enter your passcode:

Enable Downtime and set the Start and End times. Unfortunately, you cannot set up a schedule yet, so if you only enforce Downtime during weekdays only then you will need to turn it off on Friday and re-enable it on Sunday. Also make sure Block At Downtime is enabled:

Next, go back to main Screen Time menu and select Always Allowed:

Here is where you select what Apps can be used during Downtime. If I recall correctly, iMessage and FaceTime were both allowed by default when I initially configured this for my kids (two apps that I do not want them using during Downtime). Add in the apps that you want them to be able to use (Phone cannot be removed). Here I have Maps, Calculator, Calendar and OneDrive as allowed apps:

As mentioned earlier, the other options you can set are App Limits to limit the amount of time on a particular app:

And you can also set other Content & Privacy Restrictions:

Once Screen Time has been enabled for a while, usage data will be returned:

Drilling into the usage data and you will be able to see how much time is being spent on various apps:

This will also report on all devices combined or you can select a report per device if your kid has multiple iOS devices:

And there is a 7 Day usage view as well:

One last tip – if you need to schedule Downtime right away because your kid is not listening (or behaving), just go into the above settings add set it to start a min or two in the future and it will process Downtime almost immediately. Once you are satisfied, you can go reset it back to the normal time and iOS functionality will resume. Hopefully you have found this to be useful and that it helps to get your kid(s) to unplug. And if all else fails, take away their chargers. Dead batteries equals automatic Downtime!

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4 thoughts on “Getting Started with iOS 12 Family Sharing Screen Time

  1. This is a great resource! Any ideas as to why the usage for an iPhone 5 will not show up in Family share even through appropriate updates have been made?

    • Thanks! My guess is that it is a bug. I get stats for one of my kids but not the other and they are both using an iPhone 7 and an iPad Air 2. Hopefully it gets fixed in an upcoming update and I bet Apple continues to develop this feature.

  2. Great guide, thank you.

    Trying this, I’m confused about whether I need to turn on screentime on the “main” screen — and ALSO set restrictions for each child. Or if I can use an umbrella policy for all? Can I set some restrictions universally (downtime for ex) and then override them with individual settings for kids of different ages (pg movies for ex)? That would be ideal.

    It also appears you can set a different screentime passcode for each child, is that the case? I would think w/ sharing on, you’d want one code to be imposed on all devices.

    • Thanks! It has been a while since I wrote this guide and I know they have made some changes to Screen Time since then. As far as I remember, you configure settings for each child – and yes, you can have a unique screen time passcode for each (but nothing is stopping you from using the same one). Also, make sure not to forget the passcode. As for a umbrella policy, I don’t recall this option (but it has been awhile since I looked at it).

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