Stop doomscrolling: How to set screen time limits on your iPhone

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I’ll be the first to admit that I use scrolling through socials as a crutch – a quick fix to alleviate boredom that turns into the ultimate procrastination tool. I, like many these days, have conditioned myself to look at life through a screen. 

I’ve tried to “unlearn” my scrolling habit by completely detoxing, only to binge-scroll when I return to the socials. But recently I turned to an in-between that encourages scrolling more intentionally: setting screen time limits on my iPhone.

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My goal is to develop enough discipline to know when it’s time to step away from content entirely. But for now I rely on my iPhone to set the boundaries for me. Here’s how you can, too.

How to set time limits on an iPhone

Your iPhone settings let you set a time limit for any app you have downloaded. While I set limits mostly for social media, you can also set them for any app you want some space from.

First, head to the hub of any phone, the Settings app, which is signaled by a gear icon. Then, click on the Screen Time option from the menu. 

After you’ve selected the Screen Time button, you’ll be faced with your daily average stats, which — warning — might be a little startling.

iPhone Screen Time settings. A red box encases the daily average time and a red arrow points to the App Limits option.

Looking at my average screen time in my iPhone settings definitely served as a wake-up call. I took to the App Limits menu to limit my time on the apps.

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

After you’ve come to terms with the fact that passive scrolling adds up way more than you thought, select the App Limits option from the menu. From there, select the Add Limit button. 

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You’ll then see a list of apps organized by category. Select which category you want to limit screen time in, and from there a drop-down menu with specific apps will appear. 

Once you’ve selected the apps, click Next.

Screenshot of app limiting selection on iPhone with blue checkmarks next to Instagram and TikTok

The two usual suspects that enable my doomscrolling are Instagram and TikTok. So, I elected to limit my time spent on them. 

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

You’ll now be invited to select how much time you want to spend using the apps you selected. 

I gave myself an hour limit on both TikTok and Instagram to be allocated throughout my day. 

Note that if you select the apps all at the same time before pressing Next, each will have the same time limit. So if you want your time limit to vary from app to app, select the apps in different batches.

Screenshot of setting a screen time limit for apps on iPhone

Since I selected Instagram and TikTok at the same time, I had to set them both to the same time limit, which I chose to be 1 hour. 

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

Once you’ve set your time limits, the screen interface will show that the App Limits button is toggled on (green) as well as the apps that you’ve selected to limit. 

You can press the Add Limit button and repeat the process if you want to place a different time limit on another app. 

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The most important part, however, is making sure that you don’t set the limits to just ignore them. When your time is up, try and put your phone down and pick up a book, or even the TV remote and watch without scrolling.

Screenshot of App limits toggled on in iPhone settings

Once you add limits to your apps, you’ll see the App Limits button is toggled on. To add more limits to your apps, select the Add Limit prompt. 

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

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