Here’s how to manage your kids’ Mac usage with Screen Time

apple refreshes imacs new graphics intel processors imac gets 2x more performance father and child on 03192019

When Apple first introduced Screen Time on iOS, it was pitched as a way to help you overcome your smartphone addiction and manage the time you spent on your device. In MacOS Catalina, Screen Time has come to the Mac, and gives you just as much power as you get on iOS.

But it also has another excellent use on the Mac: managing your kids’ Mac usage. With a few quick clicks you can set limits on apps, curtail time spent on the Mac, and much more. Screen Time is most useful when you have a shared Mac for your family, but it also lets you manage restrictions across other devices linked via iCloud. Our guide aims to show you how you do all this and make sure your children aren’t spending too much time on the computer.

Step 1: Set up Screen Time

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

To launch Screen Time, click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen, click System Preferences, then click Screen Time. In the bottom-left corner of the Screen Time window, click Options. This lets you configure a couple of settings.

Click the checkbox next to “Share across devices” if you want to see reports on your device usage across all your devices. This comes in handy if you want one place to check all your kids’ device usage stats. Each device will need to be signed in to iCloud and have this checkbox ticked in order to share usage reports.

The second checkbox enables you to set a passcode for Screen Time. This is useful if you share a Mac with your children and want to make sure they can’t easily disable limits you put on their device usage.

It’s a good idea to set up Family Sharing on your Mac and add your children’s accounts to it. The Family Sharing menu in System Preferences will then show you reports on other family members’ Screen Time stats, as well as allowing you to change Screen Time settings from within the Family Sharing menu.

Step 2: Schedule some Downtime

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

In the left-hand column, click Downtime. Here, you can set a time period where only phone calls and specified apps are permitted. This is helpful if you want to enforce a “curfew” of sorts at bedtime or during a family visit, for example. Downtime affects all devices that use iCloud for Screen Time, and each device is given a reminder five minutes before Downtime takes effect.

Click “Turn On…” to enable Downtime. You can then choose to set a schedule that comes into effect every day, or set a custom schedule that can vary with the days of the week.

Step 3: Set App Limits

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

If you find your kids are spending too much time using certain apps or websites, you can control that using App Limits. Click App Limits in the left-hand column, then click “Turn On…” to enable it.

From here, you can decide which apps to limit, either on an individual basis or by entire categories. Click the + button to add an entry. A window appears showing you app categories like Games, Social Networking and Entertainment, with details on your daily average usage of each category. Clicking the arrow next to a category expands it, allowing you to choose individual apps.

Choose an app or category by clicking the checkbox next to its name. Below that, you can choose to limit its usage to a certain amount of time per day, or create a custom schedule with different limits on different days. When you’re finished, click Done.

Step 4: Choose which apps are always permitted

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

You may find that the blanket restrictions imposed by Downtime are a bit, well, restrictive. If you want to make some exceptions, use the Always Allowed section in the sidebar.

By default, Always Allowed permits you to contact anyone during Downtime limits. However, you can change this to only allow Contacts to be called or messaged. If that’s not enough, click “Specific Contacts,” then “Edit List…” to define which contacts are allowed through. These limits apply to the Phone, FaceTime and Messages apps, as well as AirDrop.

In addition to that, Always Allowed lets you specify which apps will always be available to be used, regardless of any restrictions imposed by Downtime. Just click the checkbox next to an app’s name to allow it through.

Step 5: Manage Communications

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

The Communication section is, unsurprisingly, where you manage your communication options. That means there’s a bit of overlap with Always Allowed, as both have a section titled “Allowed Communication During Downtime.”

The Communication section also lets you set blanket limits on who can be contacted on the device, even when Downtime is not being enforced. You can choose to allow communication with anyone, or only people listed in the Contacts app.

If you select Contacts Only, you get a further option to “Allow people to be added to group conversations when one of your contacts or a family member is in the group,” which is useful if you have a family group chat.

Step 6: Control Content and Privacy

How to use Screen Time on a Mac

All the parental controls relating to adult or restricted content (plus a lot more settings) live in the Control & Privacy section. This is the most wide-ranging section in Screen Time.

Let’s start with the Apps tab. Here, you can cut off access to any of Apple’s own apps, as well as things like AirDrop and Screen Recording.

The next tab is Stores. You can choose whether to allow the installation and deletion of apps, as well as in-app purchases. You can also require a password to be entered every time someone attempts to make a purchase from the iTunes, Book or App Store, or just once every 15 minutes.

Next, click Content. Here you can decide what age restrictions to impose on apps, movies and TV shows, and whether users can access explicit books, music, podcasts and news, as well as music profiles and posts. Further down there are options for permitting Siri to conduct web searches and parse explicit language, and whether adult web content should be prohibited.

The final tab is Other. This contains options for allowing users to make changes to passcodes and accounts, and smaller things like adjusting the volume or permitting apps to conduct activities in the background.


Tired of your Mac freezing? Try these tips to fix your Mac

A Mac that keeps freezing can be an incredibly annoying thing to deal with, but fixing it doesn’t have to be a pain. There are six main things you should try, which we got through in this guide to help you fix the issue once and for all.

Lost without Print Screen? Here's how to take a screenshot on your Mac

Whether you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts or applications such as Grab and Preview, this guide will teach you how to take a screenshot on a Mac. Once you know how, you'll be able to capture images within seconds.

These are the 6 best -- and free -- antivirus apps to help protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as choosing from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.

The 2018 Apple MacBook Air is at its best price of $1,000 on Amazon today

If you are buying a Mac notebook for the first time, the 2018 Apple MacBook Air is a great option. It is now at its best price of $1,000 on Amazon. Grab this rare deal on a brand-new Apple MacBook.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

1.5% of Chrome users’ passwords are known to be compromised, according to Google

In February, a new feature was introduced to the Google Chrome browser which checks whether users' passwords are secure. Now, Google has released eye-opening stats gathered from Password Checkup.

Now’s your chance to get the latest iPad Pro for $100 less on Amazon

The latest iPad Pro has always been our favorite since its release last year, and we even tagged it as the best tablet ever. Don’t miss out on Amazon’s discount on the 12-inch 256GB Wi-Fi model and get yours today for $1,049.

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for August 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work, we have you covered. We've put together a list of the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

Amazon cuts $52 off this Samsung Galaxy 10.1-inch tablet for the whole family

Normally priced at $330, you can grab the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1-inch 128GB Wi-Fi tablet now for only $278 and enjoy $52 savings. On top of that, Amazon is offering an extra $28 discount when you apply for a coupon during checkout.

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

Latest Windows 10 update is causing random reboots and can break Visual Basic

The latest update for Windows 10, made available on Tuesday this week, includes patches against two critical vulnerabilities. But it is causing a string of issues including random reboots and failure to install.

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.