I Used Apple’s New Controls to Limit a Teenager’s iPhone Time (and It Worked!)

Apple’s new parental controls cut a teenager’s iPhone use in half. It wasn’t as effective on our personal tech columnist.

Comments: 30

  1. I am reading this on my iPhone...

    This will be a very useful feature to help us all reduce our screen time.

  2. And, we're all wasting our time commenting on each other’s comments after reading the story!

    Work before play; tasks that need doing before screen time recreation. Simple solution — in theory!

    But accomplishing real world tasks — rather than wasting time on line — is addicting.

  3. I can relate to just having a pattern of opening up my phone and opening the same apps or checking the same sites. Nothing's changed. It's just a habit. Good to have this feature to help people develop better habits.

  4. Yes, the bit about loading the same news sites over and over resonated with me....

  5. Rather than being grateful for this feature, I'm simply annoyed that it took Apple so long to produce something so basic. This hugely useful feature has been available on the Amazon Kindle for several years. I just hope the media resists its usual urge to cast Apple as somehow being innovative, when all they have really done is belatedly caught up with the competition.

  6. The NYT has already proved that this works. Ten years ago there was scarcely an article I didn't slavishly read. But after you implemented a paywall with (originally) 20 free articles per month, I stared at the headlines instead, being more thoughtful about which articles were worth spending that allowance on. And, when an article didn't live up to expectations, I felt triggered. Ripped off to be more precise.

    Gradually, in parallel with the steady reduction from twenty to ten to (now) a mere five, I learned to live with less and less NYT, until I hardly read it at all anymore, and get my news from youtube. :-D

    Thanks NYT! You can cut us freeloaders off completely now, we're cured!

  7. I quit the local paper, and was delighted to find I had way more time in the morning. Unfortunately, I gave in and subscribed to NYT a bit later. Back to how it was before. But better articles.

  8. Your observation is pretty good. It is applicable to any situation where your discriminate choices. When you spend a dollar on A it reduces your spending capacity on B. You are simply saying that YouTube is so great that 20 dollars of monthly online subscription is not worth it and that you prefer the opinions and editorial selections of YouTube to the extent of $20. Of course you should be aware of the cost; advertising time and perhaps misinformation.

  9. What I have done, and works for me:

    1. Delete and disable what can be time-wasting and/or low-utility apps, including email and web browsing apps.
    2. Only install non-iOS apps that have high utility.

    My current iPhone has the following stock apps: Calendar, Clock, Notes, Camera, Maps, Settings, Weather, Calculator, Wallet, Compass, Voice Memos, FInd iPhone, Photos, Health (can't delete/disable but otherwise would).

    Non-iOS apps I have installed include: Adobe Acrobat (for any PDF manuals, driver's insurance card, and books), Librivox (free audiobooks), Simple Radio, Neutron (audio player), Lyft.

    No social media, no web browsing, no email, no games, my phone has been largely relegated to a phone, PDA, GPS, and radio/audio player. If I need to type an email or web browse, I use my laptop, which is better-suited for the tasks. If I need to send or receive files I can do so via text messages or iTunes. It's maybe a slight inconvenience sometimes to not have a web browser, but if you plan ahead it's usually not a problem, and there's always someone nearby with a smartphone who can web browse for you in a pinch.

    Keep what's good about the smartphone and ditch what's not. I highly recommend everyone try something similar for at least a few weeks to see how they like it.

  10. So, you are proud of how you don't use apps on YOUR phone, but have no problem having others use theirs for you! Just because you are so brazen as to demand others web browse for you doesn't mean you aren't having a phone use problem. That reflects denial and social interaction issues. I cannot imagine your "suggestion" of having others use their time just for little old me, because I want to show how special I am for not using my phone.

  11. As a parent of two post teenagers and one 15-year-old, I too am frustrated (triggered!) and disappointed that Apple is so late to the party in helping families get a little control on these devices that so often bedevil our self control.

    My daughter’s high school gives every student an iPad to use 24/7 for school work, but what I see is that it is mostly used for social apps and streaming video and music. I have spoken to the high school and they admit they have little control over managing the devices or allowing parents to manage their children’s use of the school iPads.

    We are all going to need to face our various device addictions and help our children to manage these devices. Apple and other phone makers really need to step up to the plate and acknowledge their products are changing our habits in sometimes destructive and somewhat out of control ways and create more useful tools to mitigate these increasing problems.

  12. Did you not read the article?!

    That's exactly what Apple is providing in iOS 12.

    But, Apple shouldn't be the parent! You need to have a sit down and go over screen addiction and figure out sensible, self-developed limits.

  13. As the parent of a 19 year old boy and 18 year old girl....and having spent most of my career in tech....this feels like a poor substitute for good parenting

    A parent needs to set the boundaries, early and often. And enforce them with love, humor and discipline

    That’s not Apple’s role

  14. I also have a 6 year old son and I share with you that concerns. But I have to warn you that it's not Apple's fault. I took out my son's smartphone, but he still continues to waste much of his day time on the tablet. I took the tablet and it now he stays on the smartv for hours on end. SO WE CAN'T BLAME THE REFRIGERATOR FOR OPENING ITS DOOR TO EAT CANDIES OFTEN.

  15. I feel lucky to have raised my children before there were smartphones and other devices. Setting tech limits on children seems like such a huge challenge. I would be interested in Paul's specific ways of setting limits for his children.

  16. The app may or not be useful for me, but the self-deprecating wit and smart writing throughout this article certainly made the screen time I spent reading it worthwhile. Thank you to you, your editor and Sophie for bringing a smile to my day.

  17. I really was also very addicted to smartphones. I still use it a lot, but not like before. I achieved to decrease the usage time with discipline. From now on whenever I have fun with my friends, I usually turn"not disturb" mode on. I follow a basic rule: flesh and blood people has priority over ones are online on my mobile. Furthermore, I made a series of changes that helped me control the addictions. For example, on my phone, there is not even an app for reading text, news or social networking. To be updated with news or read books, I use my tablet or chromebook. I just started buying low end budget phones because the more powerful and faster the cell phone is, the more I greatful is to use it.

  18. I have two teenage boys. I take their electronic devices from them on Sunday night and give it back to them on Friday night. If they do all their chores and do well in school, I continue to reward them. If they don’t help around the house or do well in school, they have no electronic privileges. Once the boys realized I meant business, we never had a problem. I don’t pretend to be the best dad in the world but my kids understand when no means no! Why don’t parents start acting like parents? Take those electronic devices away and replace them with comics, graphic novels and yes, good old fashioned books. Parents need to stop this, not apple!

  19. Ah, yes! Treat them like experimental rats, with rewards and punishments, rather than like growing teens, with human interaction and conversations about reasonable limits.

  20. We need more parents like Mickey, the ones with a backbone. Electronic devices are a privilege, not a right. Parents, always be fair, loving, firm and above all consistent. Steer away from deal making, that truly never pays off in the end.
    Good article for discussion Thank you Brian X-Chen.

  21. For what it’s worth, I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all the rest. Email works just fine, and the NY Times, Financial Times, Economist and the New Yorker, as well as MSNBC, keep me up on current events. And I have a very full life. I highly recommend it.

  22. Haha, this only works with a compliant teenager! Our teen isn't compliant, removes the parental controls, refuses to let us know his password, etc. Even taking his phone away just means another friend will give him a used one. Therefore all we can do is shut off the WiFi and his service but, hey there's always Starbucks!

  23. There appear to be bigger problems than screentime here.

  24. You should've known what "triggered" was five years ago. Try spending sometime around people under 30.

  25. As a Luddite (with only a primitive flip-phone to my name) would someone please explain how looking at your phone’s display screen to check on how much time you spend looking at your phone’s display screen will help you avoid spending too much time looking at your phone’s display?

  26. Since you sent her the iphone, and she clearly had another one, how do you know she wasn't just using yours until the limit was up and then switching back to her own phone?

  27. The key is to use the app with the teenager's participation and the parent's acknowledgement that limiting time on phones for both parents and adults may be necessary and beneficial.

    It's a tool that could be misused in draconian or punitive ways or as a means to solve a problem and improve communication between parents and kids. How that tool is used is called parenting.

  28. These days people of all ages are becoming addicted to their smartphones and devices. I find that this app would help limit screen time. It allows for how much time that is spent on an app to be tracked and timers to be set. It prevents a person from spending to much time being distracted by their phone when their sleeping, studying or even talking to someone. This improves sleeping habits, grades and social skills. An example of this is when Sophie said after using the app she was more focused on homework and slept with fewer interruptions. But, I also see how this app could be possibly frustrating. If you are trying to do work on your phone, but you have a timer on the app and it exits you out, you will not be able to finish your work. Another way this app could be frustrating is not being able to look at your messages all the time. Altogether, the app has its positives and negatives but, will benefit you in limiting how much time is spent looking at a screen.

  29. It's incredible how much technology has evolved. It's concerning how much it effects those that use it.Many people use technology to check social media, check websites, and to do many other things. Many people use technology for very long periods of time. I think this new feature for phones will be very beneficial. Its will slowly help "screenagers" reduce the time they are on their phones. When people aren't focused on their social media, they could socialize more. They could do so much more without their phones.

  30. Is this available for Android phones? Please say yes!!!!