Help­ing tools

Ap­ple and Google want to help you spend less time on their phones, with new tools for manag­ing screen time

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - TRAVEL -

Ap­ple and Google want to help you spend less time on their phones — re­ally. Like that time you checked Face­book at 3am Stats don’t lie.

Their new tools for manag­ing screen time will let you see how of­ten you picked up the phone af­ter bed­time or how long you’re on In­sta­gram at work. Ap­ple’s tools also let you con­trol how long your kids spend on their de­vices, if you’re con­cerned that screens are tak­ing time away from sleep, home­work or ex­er­cise.

Ap­ple’s tools launch re­cently as part of the free iOS 12 soft­ware up­date for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch. Google’s con­trols are be­ing tested on its Pixel-branded An­droid phones.

Here’s how the con­trols work.

FOR THE KIDS

Ap­ple’s new con­trols for kids let you man­age their time on their own de­vices, such as an iPad or a hand-me-down iPhone. Once you’ve got them set up, you can use your iPhone to check when your chil­dren are on their de­vices and what apps or web­sites they’re us­ing. You can re­strict par­tic­u­lar classes of apps and even es­tab­lish a quiet pe­riod when most apps shut down.

That lat­ter “Down­time” fea­ture is promis­ing, though it has a few short­com­ings. For one thing, it only lets you choose a sin­gle block of time dur­ing the day, so if you’re block­ing late-night hours, you can’t set a sep­a­rate down­time for school hours. Plus, your se­lec­tion ap­plies seven days a week; you can’t set different hours for week­ends un­less you want to man­u­ally change the set­tings ev­ery Fri­day and Mon­day.

A new “Screen Time” fea­ture lets you es­tab­lish time lim­its for cat­e­gories of apps, such as en­ter­tain­ment or games. In this case, lim­its can be different on week­ends. You can also set lim­its app by app, or for spe­cific web­sites, but it’s tricky. From the Screen Time set­tings, tap the chart at the top to get a list of apps and web­sites. Tap on an app or site, and look for “Add Limit” at the bot­tom.

Songs or pod­casts play­ing in the back­ground don’t count to­ward lim­its. If your kid has both an iPhone and an iPad, Screen Time can track time spent on both de­vices against your lim­its.

When apps run out of time, their icons go dark and the apps won’t send no­ti­fi­ca­tions. You can ex­empt use­ful apps, such as e-books or home­work sites — or mes­sag­ing and phone ser­vice for emer­gen­cies — from the down­time lim­its.

It’s best to con­fig­ure all this from your own de­vice us­ing Ap­ple’s “Fam­ily Shar­ing” fea­ture, al­though Ap­ple will also let you set up lim­its di­rectly on your chil­dren’s de­vices. Ei­ther way, you’ll need a pass­code specif­i­cally for Screen Time. Be sure to pick one that’s different from your phone’s pass­code, which your kids prob­a­bly al­ready know.

Kids can ask for more time with a few taps. If you ig­nore or de­cline the re­quest, Screen Time isn’t sup­posed to let them keep ask­ing. But for the mo­ment, kids can just re­open the app to bug you with an­other re­quest. Get ready for a dig­i­tal ver­sion of “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

Ap­ple al­ready had parental con­trols for block­ing R-rated movies, adult web­sites and pod­casts with ex­plicit lan­guage, but the set­tings were buried. In iOS 12, they’re part of Screen Time. You’ll need to them on man­u­ally, or your kid can still watch R and NC-17 movies.

What you won’t get from Ap­ple is any help in de­ter­min­ing what kinds of lim­its to set. In fact, the clock is ini­tially set to zero, forc­ing par­ents to make choices right off the bat in­stead of work­ing from de­fault lim­its. Ap­ple says rec­om­men­da­tions among ex­perts vary.

Ul­ti­mately, it’s best to have a con­ver­sa­tion with your kids about screen time. But hav­ing soft­ware block an app can be eas­ier than pulling a de­vice out of a child’s hands.

FOR THE ADULTS

You can set the same lim­its for your own de­vice, but it re­quires self dis­ci­pline. Want more Ins tag ram? No prob­lem —just tap for ex­tra time. If you re­ally need help, ask a friend or fam­ily mem­ber to set that Screen Time pass­code and keep it se­cret.

Google has sim­i­lar con­trols, called Dig­i­tal Well­be­ing, but they’re in­tended for adults (among other things, there’s no pass­code, which lim­its their use­ful­ness for set­ting lim­its on kids). This fea­ture is cur­rently only avail­able on the com­pany’ s own Pixel phones, al­though Google plans to make it more broadly avail­able in a forth­com­ing An­droid up­date called Pie.

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