I Tracked My Screen Time In iOS 12 & Here’s What I Learned (2023)

One of the coolest features in Apple's iOS 12 was Screen Time — a feature that allows you to track how much you use your phone and what apps you open the most. Of course, it can also be one of the most horrifying new features, depending on what you discover. So obviously, I decided to track my Screen Time with iOS 12 for four days, long before iOS 13 was released in September 2019, to get a clear picture of my phone habits.

In order to get a truly accurate read of how I spend my digital time, I didn't change my phone behavior while I was tracking it, nor did I check my screen time usage until after the experiment was over. However, after seeing what I actually do on my phone all at once, I might make some tweaks in the future.

If you've downloaded iOS 12 or later to your iPhone, you already have Screen Time. In fact, it's tracking your phone's actions right now. If you're brave enough to take a look, simply go to Settings and click on Screen Time to see your daily usage, as well as your phone behavior for the past seven days. Screen Time works by tracking how much time you spend on each app and breaks the data down into different categories like social media, entertainment, creativity, and more.

It also tracks how often you pick up your phone, when you use your phone the most, and it creates helpful charts and graphs for each day of the week. For example, I got 421 notifications during my four-day experiment, and I also learned that I pick up my phone about 30 times a day.

If you have an iPhone, iPad, and Apple computer, iOS 12 and later can sync with all of your devices and aggregate your screen time across all your, well, screens. Unfortunately, the day I started my iOS 12 Screen Time tracking, I spilled an entire cup of coffee on my MacBook Air, and it's now in the computer graveyard. If I had tracked my computer screen time along with my iPhone's screen, it would likely reveal that I spend a lot of time in Google Docs, my email, and watching The Tunnel on Amazon.

On my iPhone, I learned that I spend most of my time on iMessage. My next-most-used app during my four-day tracking period was Waze. After that, I hung out a lot on Safari because I Google everything I don't know or can't remember, and I spent most of the last four days furiously Googling "what to do if you spill coffee on your laptop." (The answer? Hope for the best, expect the worst.) After iMessage, Waze, and Safari, the majority of my time was spent listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder.

On Thursday, the day of the coffee incident, I spent most of my time on social media and Safari trying to find out how to save a coffee-soaked laptop. I also spent little time on a category called other, which when I clicked the "show apps and websites" button I learned was my podcast and maps apps. Friday, my Safari use spiked because I was searching for an affordable laptop. I spent very little time on social Friday but a lot of time on Waze and on my podcast app, and I picked up my phone almost 60 times between 6 a.m. Friday morning and midnight, twice my daily average.

On Saturday, my use was pretty low. I had myself a little social media with my morning coffee, and I listened to podcasts when I was riding my bike, but I spent a good part of Saturday reading an actual book and not using my phone. Sunday is almost all social media. My next-most-used apps during my four-day experiment were Amazon — where I do all of my shopping — Apple Maps, Instagram, Spotify, and Facebook.

Overall, I spent 18 hours and four minutes with my phone over the course of four days. According to Hacker Noon, which aggregated data from multiple surveys and studies, my phone usage is pretty middle of the road as the average person spends at least four hours a day engaged with their phone. Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but consider this: if you're awake for 16 hours a day, and you fall into the average category, you spend one-fourth of your waking hours glued to your device.

I have actually cut way down on my phone usage since I moved to a neighborhood near the beach. Whereas before I was spending six to eight hours a day on my phone, I now opt to ride my bike or walk on the beach instead. My previous behavior was a little troubling because studies have suggested that too much screen time is bad for your mental health, which makes a good case for a scroll-free September. In fact, U.S. News & World Report cited a study that examined mental health in relation to technology use from 1991 to 2016, and found that reports of feelings of wellbeing began to decline after 2012 as smartphones and social media became more ubiquitous. On top of that, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found a strong link between heavy social media use and increased anxiety. Though the study established a correlation, the authors stressed that more research needs to be done to better understand it.

In a 2017 article I wrote about the high rate of anxiety and depression among millennial women, Los Angeles-based Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Michele Goldberg, LMFT, ESQ, told me that social media and tech overload both contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. "The constant distraction social media provides is more dangerous than its false connection," she said. Focusing on so much information and people outside of your own life, she explained, could cause you to lose touch with your own thoughts and feelings.

Personally, being constantly tethered to my phone makes me feel just like Goldberg said it would — bajiggity AF, hence why I made an effort to cut back. And, cutting back is now easier because Screen Time has something called App Limits. Once you've downloaded iOS 12 or iOS 13, simply go to Settings, then select Screen Time, then App Limits, which lets you set time limits for certain apps, choose apps you always want access to, and block certain content altogether. This means I can now set up times where I can't access my number one nemesis — my email, which is the greatest thing ever.

Even better, Apple introduced a few new Screen Time tools with iOS 13. If you've installed the latest operating system, you can set limits for entire collections of apps and websites, instead of doing it one at a time. In addition, you'll be able to see your Screen Time activity over a whole 30 days so you can compare separate weeks.

On both iOS 12 and 13, there's also a feature called Downtime to schedule time away from your phone — sort of like putting your phone in a time-out. I will admit that I haven't tried it yet because I don't want my phone telling me I've listened to too many true-crime podcasts and I need to stop. But checking my social media less frequently has helped reduce my anxiety. In fact, I've been off social so much that people have texted me to ask if I'm OK. I'm doing just fine, and I'm trying to live more in the real world versus through my phone. Guess what? It's not so bad out here.

Studies referenced:

Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Decreases in psychological well-being among American adolescents after 2012 and links to screen time during the rise of smartphone technology. Emotion, 18(6), 765–780. doi: 10.1037/emo0000403

Vannucci, A., Flannery, K. M., & Ohannessian, C. M. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 207, 163–166. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.040


Michele Goldberg, LMFT, ESQ

This article was originally published on


How do I see Screen Time history? ›

Manage your time in apps
  1. Open your device's Settings app.
  2. Tap Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.
  3. The chart shows your device use today. For more info, tap the chart. For example: Screen time: What apps you've had on screen and for how long. ...
  4. To get more info or change app settings, tap a listed app.

How is Screen Time tracked on iPhone? ›

Go to Settings > Screen Time. Tap See All Activity, then tap Week to see a summary of your weekly use, or tap Day to see a summary of your daily use.

Why can't i remove Screen Time iPhone? ›

There are 2 steps to uninstalling Screen Time on Apple devices: Remove the profile from the Apple Settings. In the Apple Settings General >> Profiles & Device Management >> Screen Time Profile >> Remove Management.

How do I stop my iPhone from tracking without notification? ›

How to Stop Sharing iPhone Location without Them Knowing
  1. Turn on Airplane Mode.
  2. Stop Location Sharing with One Person.
  3. Stop Location Sharing with Eveyone.
  4. Turn off Share My Location in Find My.
  5. Turn off Location Services in Settings.
  6. Never Allow Find My App Location Access.
  7. Use Another iPhone As Your Location.
Apr 21, 2023

Does screen time track private browsing? ›

Parents can set time limits for those websites but here's the thing a lot of parents might miss: Screen time limit doesn't count the time if their kid is using incognito or private mode to access them.

Does screen time show deleted history? ›

Part 1: Can You Delete Screen Time History on iPhone

The only way to delete screen time history on iPhone or iPad is to turn off Screen Time. After that, the history and records will not show up even you enable Screen Time again.

Can screen time see browsing history? ›

Screen Time gives you a report showing how your device is used, apps you've opened, and websites you've visited. To see the report, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap See All Activity under the graph.

Can Screen Time track messages? ›

Screen Time supports monitoring of incoming and outgoing SMS and MMS messages. Every message will be available to view in the order it was collected through the Android parent app or our web dashboard.

Can you get around iPhone Screen Time? ›

Send Messages via Use the Contacts App

Contacts is another excellent option for discovering how to bypass the screen time passcode 2022. Because the Contacts app offers a messaging option and may be used to circumvent Screen Time, your children can send messages using it.

Does Screen Time show location? ›

If your child's device has an internet connection, Screen Time can show you their current location at a tap of a button. If there is no internet connection, you'll see the last known location on a map.

How do I find my screen time password without knowing it? ›

On a Mac
  1. Make sure that your Mac is updated to macOS Catalina 10.15.4 or later.
  2. Choose Apple menu  > System Settings or System Preferences, then click Screen Time.
  3. Select a child's name from the pop-up menu.
  4. Click Change Passcode, then click Forgot Passcode.
5 days ago

How to turn off screen time without passcode or Apple ID or iCloud? ›

Factory Resetting Your iPhone

Factory reset is another short method to get around screen time limits without having a passcode or Apple ID credentials. This method will turn off screen time, but you will lose all the content and data of your iPhone.

Why can't I delete my Screen Time? ›

Q1: Can I delete Screen Time data? A: No, your Screen Time data is recorded and preserved on your iPhone, and it is not allowed to be deleted. Therefore, the only way to remove Screen Time data is to turn this feature off.

How can I block tracking on my iPhone? ›

Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Tracking. The list shows the apps that requested permission to track you. You can turn permission on or off for any app on the list. To stop all apps from asking permission to track you, turn off Allow Apps to Request to Track (at the top of the screen).

Can I disable iPhone tracking? ›

To stop sharing your location with all apps and services, for even a short period of time, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and turn off location sharing. This stops all apps on your device, such as Maps, from using your location.

How to turn off Screen Time without passcode without parents knowing? ›

How to Turn Off Screen Time via Apple ID Credentials
  1. On your iPhone, open iCloud settings, then click “Sign Out”.
  2. Enter your Apple credentials then, click “Turn Off”.
  3. Back up your data to iCloud then, click “Sign Out”.
  4. Once you've signed out, open Settings > Screen Time.
  5. Click “Turn off Screen Time”.

Can Screen Time be disabled? ›

Reset All Contents and Settings to Disable Screen Time. If you do not mind the data on your iPhone or iPad, what you can do in this method is to erase all the contents and reset your device. By doing so, you erase Screen Time passcode and disable Screen Time as well.

Can someone track your incognito activity? ›

Incognito mode doesn't stop web tracking. Your ISP, your employer, the websites you visit, search engines, the government, and other third-party snoopers can still track your browsing even if you use incognito mode.

Can a parent see incognito searches? ›

Yes, incognito mode does leave a data trail. It doesn't hide your browsing activity from your ISP, employer, or other websites. They can see your browsing history, location, and any personal data you may be sharing along the way.

Who sees your private browsing history? ›

When you browse privately, other people who use the device won't see your history. Chrome doesn't save your browsing history or information entered in forms. Cookies and site data are remembered while you're browsing, but deleted when you exit Incognito mode.

How to recover deleted history? ›

Enter your Google account and you'll see a list of everything that Google has recorded of your browsing history; Scroll down to Chrome Bookmarks; You'll see everything that your Android phone has accessed including Bookmarks & app used and you can re-save those browsing history as bookmarks again.

Does Apple remember your search history? ›

Safari uses iCloud to keep your browsing history the same on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac computers that have Safari turned on in iCloud settings. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud, then make sure Safari is turned on.

Can your parents see your search history through WIFI bills? ›

Can you see a person's internet activity on their Wi-Fi bill? No. Wi-Fi bills only show the devices that accessed the internet and how much data they used, not the websites that were visited. That said, if a Wi-Fi admin wanted to see the activity on their network, they could check the router logs at any time.

Can Life360 see your private search history? ›

Can Life360 see your Internet history? No, it cannot. You might have heard it secretly accesses this information, but that isn't true. The Life360 app has no access to your browsers or what you search in them.

Can text messages be tracked and read? ›

Yes, it's definitely possible for someone to spy on your text messages and it's certainly something you should be aware of – this is a potential way for a hacker to gain a lot of private information about you – including accessing PIN codes sent by websites used to verify your identity (such as online banking).

Can someone see text messages through phone records? ›

Text messaging is shown in call detail records. However, the content of text messages is not. To get the content of text messages, a request must be made to the phone company within days of the incident.

Are text messages time stamped? ›

But I too would like to see the exact time (and even date) next to each message like my old phone. But here's what I discovered: on Android messages, u can press and hold a RECEIVED message, go to the menu at top right, and press View Details to see the exact time it was sent and received.

What age does Screen Time stop on iPhone? ›

I understand that you want to know if parental controls with Screen Time automatically turn off after age 13, and I'm happy to help. The parental controls do not turn off until age 18.

How long does iPhone Screen Time last? ›

7 days is the limit.

How much iPhone Screen Time is too much? ›

Experts say adults should limit screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. Any time beyond that which you would typically spend on screens should instead be spent participating in physical activity.

Is Screen Time device specific? ›

Tip: Daily limits apply to each Android device or Chromebook your child uses. For example, if you set a daily limit of 2 hours, your child would get 2 hours of time on each device.

How do I reset my Screen Time password iOS 12.5 5? ›

On your iPhone or iPad
  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time.
  2. Tap Change Screen Time Passcode, then tap Change Screen Time Passcode again.
  3. Tap Forgot Passcode?
  4. Enter the Apple ID and password that you used to set up the Screen Time passcode. ...
  5. Enter a new Screen Time passcode, then enter it again to confirm.
5 days ago

Why can my child bypass Screen Time? ›

Time Zone and Device Time Changes

The problem: By moving the device date back from the current one or setting the device time zone to a region behind your own time, children can access additional screen time beyond what you have allowed.

What is the screen time passcode iOS 12 default? ›

If you have set the “Restrictions” passcode on an iPhone before updating the device to the iOS 12 version, the default screen time passcode comes from your previous Restrictions passcode. If you have never set or used the “Restrictions” function before, you may have to create a Screen Time passcode.

How do I unlock my screen time password? ›

How to reset Screen Time passcode
  1. Open the Settings app and tap Screen Time.
  2. Tap Change Screen Time Passcode and select Change Screen Time Passcode from the menu.
  3. Touch the Forgot Passcode button.
  4. Enter your Apple ID and tap OK. ...
  5. In a few seconds, you'll see the option to enter new Screen Time passcode.
Dec 16, 2022

How do I mirror my sons iPhone? ›

Creating a Child Account
  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and go to [Your Name] > Family Sharing.
  2. Tap Add Family Member and choose to Create a Child Account. ...
  3. After creating the account, use the email address and password you created to sign in to that account on your child's iPhone or iPad.
May 25, 2020

What age should parents stop Screen Time? ›

Therefore, it's all about finding the right balance. Experts recommend limiting screen time for children between the ages of two and five years old to one hour daily. That limit goes up for older kids. The key is consistency and finding what works best for your family.

How do I bypass parental controls? ›

23 Ways (and Counting) for Kids to Bypass Your Parental Controls
  1. Parents forgot to secure all the devices. ...
  2. Figure out parents' passwords. ...
  3. Sneak the phone or iPad when parents are asleep. ...
  4. Use tech in offline mode. ...
  5. Hack the family router. ...
  6. Factory-reset the device. ...
  7. Use VPN (Virtual Private Network) ...
  8. Use a proxy server.


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