Screen Time was one of the key features in iOS 12, and it does seem like something Apple is committed to as a focus of iOS going forward. Kids love their iOS devices, so it makes sense for Apple to continue to enhance ways to help parents going forward.
We recently learned that Apple has been cracking down on third-party apps that provide parental controls, so it got me thinking about how Screen Time could be enhanced to give parents greater control with iOS. Here are some ideas I came up with for Screen Time upgrades in iOS 13. If you have any more, please leave them in the comments.
Enhanced Safari Filtering
Apple seems to have a cozy relationship with Linksys and their Velop routers, so one idea I had was to allow iOS to connect via a VPN back to Velop to have a single unified window into web limits. While that was a neat idea, I realized that using VPNs on public networks can often cause troubleshooting nightmares (especially at Apple’s scale), so I abandoned it quickly. It also would limit the feature to a small subset of users. This feature would only make sense if Apple still made their own Wi-Fi gear for the home.
Apple’s Safari section of Screen Time hasn’t changed its limitations in years (it came over from the Restrictions section). The section allows for unrestricted access, limit adult websites, or allows you to build a whitelist section. The web has become way more diverse than these three features support. What I’d like to see is a robust filter of categories, and for Apple to develop rating guidelines. If a site were appropriate for age 7, then it would work with kids who are older than 7 (Apple has the birthdays for kids’ accounts).
I’d also like to be able to see my child’s browser history at any given time and see which rating limit websites were assigned (and immediately block in the future). While you can see website data now, I’d love it to be enhanced with the ability to see a preview of the page, block it family wide, and recommend a new rating, etc.
There are plenty of enterprise companies who have built category and rating systems for the web, so it’s nothing Apple couldn’t accomplish. They could even partner with someone like OpenDNS for their ratings system.
This section will undoubtedly be controversial, but when my kids are old enough to use iMessage with their friends, I want to be able to check in on those conversations without having to pick up their devices. I’d also like a keyword alert if my kid types certain words. While the technical aspects of this remains to be seen, I think parents would jump for joy with the ability to see iMessages (even if it was just allowing them to sign into their kids iMessage from Screen Time to get a copy of them).
Earn Rewards for Chores
Another idea I’ve had is to tie the Family reminders list to earn additional device time or App Store credit. I’d love to create a task called “make the bed,” assign it to a certain kid, and then assign a “reward” of additional time to it. Once the chore is completed (maybe the child has to add a picture of the bed after it was made), it would send me an alert that I can approve (and trigger the rewards).
I’d also like to be able to tie this to recurring and more extended range goals (earn X in the App Store for a making your bed every day of the week, etc.). This feature would help parents encourage good behavior by incentivizing tasks with benefits.
Additional Time Increments
The process of children being able to request more time for their devices works flawlessly. One suggestion I have is to allow additional time increments. Right now, when you get a request, the options are fifteen minutes, an hour, or all day. I want to be able to choose how much time I want to allow instead of just relying on Apple’s preset times.
Pausing Screen Time and Siri Integration
We’ve got a custom time set up for our kids with a certain amount of time each day. There are occasions when we want to disable it for the day (if they are at their grandparents, we are traveling for a trip, etc.). Right now, you’ve have to approve each App individually for additional time, but I’d like the ability to just pause Screen Time entirely for a set amount of time. What I’ve gotten in the habit of doing is just going into that particular day and bumping it up on time. The downside is that I have to remember to change the time back to the original.
Screen Time is a perfect feature to be tightly integrated with HomePod and Siri. “Hey Siri, pause all kid devices” would be a welcome feature. I’d also love to be able to approve additional time right from the HomePod as well.
I’ve enjoyed using Screen Time in iOS 12. It has made my wife and I more aware of how much time our kid’s want to play their iPads, and kept us all accountable for the amount of time they are on them. I hope going forward Apple continues to tinker with how it works and what it can do. Are there any Screen Time upgrades in iOS 13 that would make life easier for you? Let me know in the comments!