iOS 13.3 finally lets parents set limits on texting, FaceTime and more

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Screen Time Communication Limits
Screen Time Communication Limits is a boon to digital parenting.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Parents will soon be able to limit when their children use an iPhone or iPad to talk to their friends, thanks to a long-awaited new Screen Time feature. Communication Limits were supposed to come earlier, they debuted in the first iOS 13.3 beta that launched today.

Blocking midnight calls with Screen Time Communication Limits

Apple created Screen Time to help parents control how much time their children spend on their devices. Baked into last year’s iOS 12 update, the new Screen Time parental controls built on work Apple started in 2008.

These new Screen Time Communication Limits add an extra level of oversight. As Apple says: “Communication Limits let you control who your children can communicate with and who can communicate with them throughout the day and during downtime.”

During regular use, parents can limit a child to communicating only with people in the Contacts app. During what Apple calls “Downtime,” parents can limit their child to talking with people on a preset list. The feature will block everyone else. The Screen Time Communication Limits settings apply to the Phone app, FaceTime and Messages.

Calling an emergency number is always allowed, and turns off these limits for 24 hours.

Previously, Screen Time could block access to these communication applications, but not specific contacts. This meant that if a parent wanted the capability to text their child, they couldn’t prevent friends from doing the same.

Coming soon-ish

Currently, Screen Time Communication Limits remain in beta testing. They apparently will become available to the public when iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 debut. When that will happen is unknown, as testing just began today.

Screen Time made the jump from mobile to desktop with this fall’s macOS Catalina, but without Communication Limits. Presumably, this feature also will come to Macs in the relatively near future.