Screen Time Device Management for iPhone: How It Works

by Screen Time Team on 31/07/2019

When you set rules for kids and their phones, it’s good to back it up with parental control apps. Device management for iPhones allows families to better enforce the rules, and gives you more flexibility than Apple’s parental controls. Here’s what you need to know about keeping iPhone usage to a healthy level, while teaching your children better online safety.

Apple’s Parental Controls

Apple does let parents set a passcode and control certain aspects of the device, such as installing or removing apps, in-app purchases, and access to specific apps such as AirDrop. This can be useful, but there are things it won’t do, such as enforce a specific schedule.

Furthermore, Apple has made it a separate app you have to enable and enter a passcode for, instead of it being integrated into the operating system where it would be most effective. This makes it vulnerable to deletion and, of course, somebody could figure out your passcode. 

It’s also an “all or nothing” proposition: If you want to allow your children to play games after they’ve done chores and homework, you have to go in and personally enable it, then follow the same process to disable it afterwards. Finally, it lacks remote management options. You’re not able to control your children’s iPhone via a laptop or another phone.

Child sitting on a concrete bench outside looking at her phone.

Device Management for the iPhone

Installing your own device management, such as the tools of Screen Time Labs, gives you some distinct advantages:

  • It offers a second layer of security, so if Apple’s app stops working or is removed, you still have control of the device.
  • Remote access allows you to lock and unlock the iPhone as needed, such as in emergencies, or to enforce a strict time limit.
  • Schedules can be created, updated, and enforced, so that if a child needs a phone for practical reasons at school, they’re limited to certain apps and contacts.
  • It isn’t subject to the whims of the platform provider. Apple makes far more money on the App Store and through subscription services than it does selling iPhones; it simply doesn’t have a strong incentive to let their customers cut these services off. Apple is unlikely to do anything unethical or illegal, but it also may only offer the bare minimum of what parents need.

Most importantly, remember to talk through the rules with your family and why they’re in place. We all are more likely to pay attention to rules when we understand the reasoning behind them, and children are no different. Often with online safety it’s a question of what kids do when Mom and Dad aren’t in the room, and they may need to act quickly or handle some difficult emotions. Having a conversation about what you expect, and leaving the door open to change it as needed, can be an effective safety tool.

Device management is a fundamental part of online safety for kids, but it’s also not a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of phenomenon. You need tools that will change as your family grows, grows up, and goes out in the world. To learn how Screen Time can fit your family’s needs, whether you’ve got teenagers or toddlers, try it for free!

Join the conversation