When Apple Screen Time Isn’t Enough: Parental Monitoring Tips and Tricks

By Andrea Nelson
April 11, 2024
Boy using phone with Apple Screen Time

Monitoring your child’s screen time is a vital part of modern parenthood. From keeping tabs on how long they spend on their device to what apps they use, Apple Screen Time is a great tool to set limits and restrict certain activities. Is Apple Screen Time not working for your family? Apple parental controls aren’t foolproof, and they can fall short when it comes to monitoring what your child does online. We break down common complaints and new ways to keep your kiddo safe online.

How does Apple Screen Time work? 

Apple Screen Time is a free, built-in tool on iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. It’s helpful for managing several elements of your child’s screen time, including: 

  • Downtime, or the ability to block apps and notifications for certain periods of time
  • App limits
  • Communication limits and safety
  • Content and privacy restrictions

How do I manage my child’s screen time on my iPhone?

Apple’s Screen Time is simple and easy to use. You’ll need to set up Family Sharing first, which adds your child to your account. Go to Settings > Your name > Family Sharing, then follow the prompts to add your child as a family member. 

Accessing Screen Time on your child’s device

  • Once you’ve set up Family Sharing, go to Settings
  • Tap on Screen Time 
  • Go to Family, then tap your child’s name
  • Tap Turn on Screen Time and follow the prompts

You’ll want to set a Screen Time passcode so your child can’t easily get past their screen time limits. Under Screen Time, you’ll find settings to adjust your child’s downtime, app limits, and more. 

We recommend setting limits in conversation with your child, if appropriate. For example, explain why it’s important to limit screen time before bed. Using screens too close to bed negatively impacts sleep. Setting your child’s Downtime to start at least one hour prior to their bedtime helps them get the rest they need. 

Troubleshooting tips for Apple Screen Time 

Apple Screen Time not working? As great as this feature is, it has its fair share of bugs. Read on for troubleshooting tips. 

App limits aren’t working

If you notice the app limits you set for your child disappear after awhile, try these steps to get them to stick: 

  1. First, make sure all pictures and videos have synced with iCloud, or they’ll be lost in this process.
  2. Turn off Screen Time for your child’s device.
  3. Sign out of iCloud on both your device and your child’s. 
  4. Reset both devices by going to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset > Reset All Settings.
  5. Sign back in to iCloud on all devices.
  6. Turn Screen Time back on and reset limits.

My child found a way around Screen Time limits

Kids are smart. Where there’s a will, there’s often a way. Here are two ways parents have reported their child evading Screen Time limits and how to fix them: 

Clock set to 24-hour time

Screen Time doesn’t work when the phone is on a 24-hour clock. You can block your child from changing the clock format with these steps: 

  1. Make sure their device is updated to the latest iOS.
  2. Turn off Screen Time.
  3. Power the device off, then on.
  4. Set up Screen Time again.
  5. Go to Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  6. Click on Location Services.
  7. Scroll to the bottom and select System Services.
  8. Toggle off Setting Time Zone.

One More Minute  

When a device hits its Screen Time limit, kids can hit the One More Minute button three times, after which the limit is disabled for the day. This only happens when a user is over the age of 13, so if you have a younger child, make sure their age is set correctly on the device.

How do I stop my child from turning off Screen Time? 

In order to prevent your child from turning off Screen Time, you must set a Screen Time passcode. You’ll be prompted to do this when you first set up Family Sharing, but if you neglected to do it then, you can add one later.

Make sure to enter your Apple ID when prompted so you can use it to recover your password if you forget it. If you do forget your Screen Time password, simply click on Change Screen Time Passcode, then select Forgot Passcode and follow the prompts to reset it. 

The limitations of Apple Screen Time in content monitoring

While Apple Screen time is useful for setting limits, it falls short when it comes to providing parents with visibility into the content their child encounters online. For example, while Apple Screen Time allows you to limit how much time your child spends on Instagram, you won’t be able to supervise who they follow or what appears on their feed. 

Does Screen Time show me what my child does on social media?

Screen Time will only show you the amount of time your child spends on a particular social media app or website, but not the content they consume or the messages they send. For that level of monitoring, you’d need to look at their social feeds manually, or use a third-party child safety app like BrightCanary. 

Does Screen Time show text messages? 

Apple Screen Time shows you how much time your child spends on messages and the number of notifications they receive, but doesn’t provide any insight into the messages themselves. BrightCanary, on the other hand, can monitor the content of your child’s texts and show you what your child sends and receives.

BrightCanary: Comprehensive monitoring for Apple devices

BrightCanary is the perfect complement to Apple Screen Time and can help fill in critical gaps. This child safety app uses AI technology to monitor your child’s digital activity, such as their social media feeds, YouTube and Google searches, and text messages. In addition to regular reports, BrightCanary alerts you when your child encounters anything concerning, like inappropriate messages or explicit searches. 

The bottom line

To keep your child safe online, it’s important to combine the device usage limits of Apple’s Screen Time with content monitoring. BrightCanary is an essential tool for ensuring your child’s safety on Apple devices — download on the App Store to start your free trial. 

Be the most informed parent in the room.
Sign up for bimonthly digital parenting updates.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
@2024 Tacita, Inc. All Rights Reserved.