Screen Time age-specific behavior: “Ignore Limit” vs. “Ask For More Time” – a plea for a new accessibility setting

Apple introduced “Screen Time” with iOS 12. It includes a feature called “Downtime” with the ability to block sets of apps for specified times. Another similar feature sets time limits on apps. 

This would obviously be helpful for managing screen distraction for special needs children and adults.

Sadly the behavior of Downtime is age specific. If a user’s Apple ID is a member of Family Sharing, and the Apple ID age is under 18, when a user taps on a blocked app Screen Time provides a link to “Ask For More Time”. If the Apple ID age is over 18 (in the US anyway) there’s an option to simply “Ignore Limit”.

So Screen Time is not very useful for vulnerable adults. I would like Apple to add an option to Accessibility called “Supported use” and a companion restriction to block changes to the Supported Use setting.

There is a silver lining though. Apple makes it easy for a user to change their birthday. Tap on Settings [your name] then Name, Phone Numbers, Email then change birthday. I did this on a test device then added the test device Apple ID to my own device Family Sharing account. After doing this blocked apps show the “Ask for More Time” link.  (I expected this to work like “ask to buy” and show up on the Family Sharing administrator’s iPhone, but when I tested it only appeared on the test iPhone’s screen. So it requires physical access.)

You may now be thinking “what’s to stop a supported user from changing their birthday back to adult”? Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Account Changes [Don’t Allow] prevents access to the Settings > [your name] control.

Google has taken a different approach with their Family Link solution. They make changing age more difficult, but they enable a pragmatic set of restrictions for anyone over 13 (“age of consent” for Google). 

I hope Apple will one day add a “Supported user” Accessibility option. I also hope they will add remote management of mobile device restrictions to iCloud. In the meantime the age change option may be a good workaround. I’d suggest choosing age 14; that will give Apple 4 more years to add an Accessibility option for cognitive disadvantages. If I find a problem with this I’ll update this post.

PS. There are some bugs with iOS 12 Screen Time — check it’s still working as expected after an iOS update for example. The permitted app UI also displays Home Screen “bookmarks” as GUIDs — long strings of letters and numbers.



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