What is the best app to limit screen time?

Excessive screen time has become an increasingly common issue around the world. Studies show that screen addiction is on the rise, with 36.7% of the general population exhibiting internet addiction (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8251395/). Smartphone addiction stats are particularly concerning – 47% of Americans admit they’re addicted to their phones, with the average person checking their phone 352 times per day (https://explodingtopics.com/blog/smartphone-addiction-stats). This excessive screen time can have negative impacts, especially on kids and teens who are still developing. Limiting screen time is crucial for maintaining healthy sleep patterns, social skills, exercise habits, and more. That’s why tools to restrict and monitor screen time usage have become increasingly important for both kids and adults.

Criteria for Evaluating Screen Limiting Apps

When looking for an effective app to limit screen time, there are several key criteria to consider:

  • Ability to set time limits per app/category – Being able to set daily or weekly limits for individual apps or app categories (social media, games, etc.) allows granular control over usage.
  • Ability to schedule specific app access times – Scheduling when certain apps can or can’t be used, such as no social media during school or work hours, is an important feature.
  • Ability to track usage – Apps should provide easy-to-understand tracking of time spent on devices and in apps to identify problem areas.
  • Ability to remotely lock device – Remote locking allows parents to instantly restrict a child’s access to their device.
  • Ease of use – The app should have an intuitive interface for setting limits, scheduling, locking, etc. Complicated apps with poor usability will be abandoned.

Selecting an app that excels in these areas will provide the control and insight needed to effectively reduce screen time.

Top Screen Time Limiting Apps

There are several excellent apps available to help limit screen time across iOS and Android devices. Two of the most robust options integrated directly into the operating systems are iOS Screen Time and Android Digital Wellbeing.

iOS Screen Time allows users to set daily limits for app categories, add downtime to lock the phone, and view usage statistics. It provides parental controls and pairs well with Family Sharing. Android’s Digital Wellbeing offers similar capabilities like app timers, focus mode to pause distracting apps, and usage dashboards.

Apps like Forest and Moment take a different approach by encouraging more mindful use. Forest uses gamification to help stay focused while Moment tracks usage and establishes daily limits across all devices. Lastly, Freedom is a website and app blocker that can completely lock you out of apps or websites to eliminate distractions.

iOS Screen Time

iOS Screen Time is built directly into iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, allowing users to monitor and limit screen time right from their device settings (Apple support, 2022). Some key features of iOS Screen Time include:

  • Set time limits per app or app category – restrict your time in distracting apps
  • Schedule specific access times – set “downtime” with limited app access
  • Track usage – see daily and weekly reports on how much time you spend in each app
  • Remote lock – temporarily lock a distracting device from another device

iOS Screen Time offers robust parental controls and screen limiting options, though it is limited to Apple devices and requires setup on each individual device. It’s a free solution that integrates directly into the iPhone and iPad operating systems (Apple support, 2022).

Android Digital Wellbeing

Android Digital Wellbeing is an app built directly into Android devices that allows users to limit screen time and track app usage (source). Key features of Digital Wellbeing include:

  • Set app time limits – Set daily time limits for individual apps to control how much time is spent in each one.
  • Schedule times – Customize schedules for when apps should be available or paused.
  • Usage tracking – View detailed reports on how much time is spent in apps and how often they are picked up.
  • Wind down mode – Enable a mode to grayscale the screen and mute notifications at bedtime.

Digital Wellbeing comes pre-installed on Pixel and Android One devices and can be downloaded for free on other Android devices, though availability varies by manufacturer. The main downside is that it is only available on Android, so iOS users cannot utilize this screen limiting application.


The Forest app aims to help users stay focused by allowing them to ‘plant a tree’ when working on a task. Focusing on the app plants a virtual tree, and leaving the app too early kills the tree. Over time, users grow a virtual forest that provides a visual representation of their focus time. According to the Forest App website, this gamification mechanism motivates users to stay on task.

The key features of Forest include:

  • Plant trees to stay focused – Users plant trees that grow over time the longer the user stays in the app. Leaving the app early kills the tree.
  • Lock phone if leave app early – Users can enable this option to temporarily block phone usage if they leave the app before their tree is fully grown.
  • Syncs across devices – Trees and forest status is synced between the mobile app and Chrome/Firefox extensions.
  • $2 fee – The core app features are available for free, but a $2 monthly subscription unlocks advanced options.
  • Available on iOS and Android.

By gamifying productivity, Forest aims to help people avoid phone distractions and procrastination by incentivizing them to stay focused on tasks.


One of the most popular screen time tracking apps is Moment (https://wezift.com/parent-portal/apps/moment-screen-time-tracker/). Moment allows users to track their daily screen time usage across multiple devices. The app provides detailed insights into how much time is spent on each app, website, and device.

A key feature of Moment is the ability to set daily limits for app and device usage. Users can configure the app to alert them when they are close to reaching their limit or have exceeded their allotted time. Parents can also set limits for their children’s devices.

Moment syncs usage data across iOS and Android devices through a linked account. This allows users to monitor their overall screen time usage even when switching between an iPhone and Android phone. The app also integrates with IFTTT for expanded functionality.

While Moment can be downloaded for free on the App Store and Google Play Store, full functionality requires a $4 monthly or $30 yearly subscription fee. The premium features include unlimited devices, customized reports, accountability partners, and more parental controls.


Freedom is an app designed to help limit distractions by blocking apps and websites during designated time periods. Some key features of Freedom include:

Blocks apps and websites – Freedom allows users to create a customizable block list of distracting apps and websites. Once added to the block list, these apps/sites cannot be accessed during a Freedom session.

Schedule access times – Users can schedule focused, distraction-free sessions in advance. Freedom will automatically block apps and sites during the scheduled times.

Available on all devices – Freedom offers apps for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Chrome. Settings sync across devices.

$2.50/month fee – Freedom is free to try but costs $2.50/month after the trial. Families can get access for $7.99/month.


Based on the top screen time limiting apps compared, the best option for most people is Qustodio. Qustodio stands out for its combination of robust features, easy multi-device management, and affordable pricing.

While iOS Screen Time offers very solid capabilities for free, it is limited to Apple devices. Qustodio provides equivalent functionality across iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows while also adding location tracking, call/text monitoring, and advanced time insights.

Compared to other top cross-platform options like Google Family Link and Norton Family, Qustodio includes unique strengths like its distraction-free Focus Mode and detailed time usage reports. At $54.95 per year for up to 10 devices, Qustodio delivers excellent value at less than half the price of competitors.

For most individuals and families seeking to monitor and moderate screen time across multiple device types, Qustodio represents the best overall package of platform support, tools, and pricing.


There are a variety of apps available to help limit screen time across iOS and Android devices. The top options provide customizable limits, insights into usage, focus modes, distraction blocking and more to assist with monitored usage. With the amount of time we spend staring at screens each day from smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs, it’s crucial for our health and productivity to be intentional about limiting screen time.

Monitoring and restricting screen usage can improve sleep habits, increase focus and concentration, strengthen interpersonal relationships and promote overall wellbeing. While self-regulation is ideal, screen limiting apps provide the structure and motivation necessary for positive change. Be diligent in setting usage limits and choosing dedicated distraction-free time to get the most benefit. Your physical and mental health will thank you.

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