Screen Time is a feature—in iOS 12 or later, iPadOS, and macOS 10.15 or later, and some features of watchOS—that lets a user understand and control their own app and web usage, or that of their children. While Screen Time is not a new system security feature, it’s important to understand how Screen Time protects the security and privacy of the data gathered and shared between devices.
In Screen Time, there are two types of users: adults and children.
View usage data
Enforce additional restrictions
Set web usage limits
Set app limits
For a user managing their own device usage, Screen Time controls and usage data can be synced across devices associated to the same iCloud account using CloudKit end-to-end encryption. This requires that the user’s account has two-factor authentication enabled (synchronization is off by default). Screen Time replaces the Restrictions feature found in previous versions of iOS.
In iOS 13, iPadOS 13.1, and macOS 10.15, Screen Time users and managed children automatically share their usage across devices if their iCloud account has two-factor authentication enabled. When a user clears Safari history or deletes an app, the corresponding usage data is removed from the device and all synchronized devices.
Parents and Screen Time
Parents can also use Screen Time in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices to understand and control their children’s usage. If the parent is a family organizer (in iCloud Family Sharing), they can view usage data and manage Screen Time settings for their children. Children are informed when their parents turn on Screen Time, and can monitor their own usage as well. When parents turn on Screen Time for their children, the parents set a passcode so their children can’t make changes. Once they are 18 years old (depending on country or region), children can turn this monitoring off.
Usage data and configuration settings are transferred between the parentʼs and childʼs devices using the end-to-end encrypted Apple Identity Service (IDS) protocol. Encrypted data may be briefly stored on IDS servers until it’s read by the receiving device (for example, as soon as the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is turned on, if it was off). This data isn’t readable by Apple.
Screen Time analytics
If the user turns on Share iPhone & Watch Analytics, only the following anonymized data is collected so that Apple can better understand how Screen Time is being used:
Was Screen Time turned on during Setup Assistant or later in Settings
Change in Category usage after creating a limit for it (within 90 days)
Is Screen Time turned on
Is Downtime enabled
Number of times the “Ask for more” query was used
Number of app limits
Number of times users viewed usage in the Screen Time settings, per user type and per view type (local, remote, widget)
How many times do users ignore a limit, per user type
How many times users delete a limit, per user type
No specific app or web usage data is gathered by Apple. When a user sees a list of apps in Screen Time usage information, the app icons are pulled directly from the App Store, which doesn’t retain any data from these requests.