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How to set up Screen Time on macOS

We spend too much time in front of screens. Some would argue that it’s a necessity given the nature of work for many people but that doesn’t mean all time spent in front of a screen is productive, or healthy. iOS 12 introduced a new feature called Screen Time which helps users control how much time they spend on their device, and also see how much they use their device every week. With Catalina, you can now set up Screen Time on macOS.

Catalina is the macOS version expected to arrive in Fall 2019. At the time of writing, Catalina is in beta.

Screen time on macOS

Open System Preferences and select the Screen Time preference. Click Continue on the first screen you see.

Click Options at the very bottom of the column on the left, and in the pane on the right, click ‘Turn On’.

Now that Screen Time is on, you can start configuring it. The one thing you need to configure is app limits i.e., how much time you’re allowed to spend on a particular app. You don’t have to configure it for every single app on your Mac. Instead, you only have to do it for apps that you want to control your use of. For example, if you Skype too much, you can set a time limit for how much time you can spend on the app.

To set app limits, go to the App Limits tab in the column on the right. Click the plus button at the bottom of the right-hand pane. The apps are divided into groups so, depending on the type of app you want to set a limit for, it will be in its respective group. You will have to look for it yourself. For apps that you cannot find, look under the ‘Others’ section.

After you select an app or apps under a particular section, you will have to set its time limit as well. You can set a hard daily limit or you can set a custom limit which allows you to define how much time you can spend using an app for every day of the week. For example, you may want to limit Skype usage from Monday to Friday, but use it much more on the weekends.

That is the basic Screen Time set up. On macOS, Screen Time has far more sophisticated features than it has on iOS. Check out the Always Allowed tab to whitelist essential apps.

If you choose to set up Screen Time on macOS, and you want to limit total screen time on all your Apple devices, you can share your screen time across them. This option is available on the Options page of the preference. The screen times will only be shared but app usage on one device will not cut into the time allocated for usage on another device.

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