Apple Screen Time is supposed to give you, the parent, control over your kids’ cell phones. It’s supposed to allow you to block any apps you don’t want your children to use. It’s supposed to help you limit your child’s screen time.
It’s supposed to. But it doesn’t. Not always.
It turns out that kids are smarter than Apple gives them credit for, and they have figured out how to bypass Apple Screen Time. According to The Washington Post, children are finding all sorts of loopholes. And Apple isn’t exactly sprinting to close those loopholes. So, parents are wondering — does Apple really care about safeguarding children?
“These are not rocket science, backdoor, dark Web sort of hacks,” said Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes, to The Washington Post. “It blows me away that Apple hasn’t thought through the fact that a persistent middle school boy or girl can bang around and find them.”
Do an internet search and you’ll find kids all over the country sharing their tricks for circumventing Screen Time, particularly on Reddit and YouTube. And like McKenna said, these kids are sharp, but it’s not like they’re using brilliantly complex methods. They’re doing things like changing the clock on their computer to get around Screen Time’s time restrictions, or they’re deleting and reinstalling apps until they can use them.
Kids whose parents have blocked YouTube videos have found that they can simply watch the videos in iMessage. Other kids have discovered they can watch videos in Safari just by expanding the video to full screen before Screen Time’s time limit expires.
“[Apple] is committed to providing our users with powerful tools to manage their iOS devices and are always working to make them even better,” said Apple spokeswoman Michele Wyman in a statement. But she didn’t say anything specifically about Screen Time’s bugs, so it’s unclear what Apple is doing, if anything, to solve the problem.
If you take a look at the forums on Apple’s website, you’ll see frustrated parents at their wit’s end, wondering why Apple isn’t responding to their questions and concerns about Screen Time.
“I have heavy restrictions on my teenager son’s iPhone 6s Plus,” wrote one parent. “I have his Screen Time turn on at 10pm and all he can do is text and listen to music, but tonight I found out that he found a loophole in it!”
“I set a time on my daughter’s phone for her screen time,” wrote another parent. “However she is still able to use all her favorite apps when she goes to suggested apps, it is very annoying, how do I fix this?”
Rebecca Shelp, a Colorado mom, told The Washington Post she set up Screen Time when she bought her teenage son an iPhone 7. The boy figured out how to bypass Screen Time by simply turning the phone off and on, off and on, over and over until Screen Time apparently had an aneurysm and the kid was able to get around it.
When Shelp tried to get help from Apple support, she was told her son had found a known bug, but they didn’t say whether they were going to fix it or not.
WaPo says parents can use other apps to restrict their children’s screen time; Parentology has a whole article covering that. However, third-party apps don’t work as well because they don’t have the same connection to Apple’s operating system, and Apple has taken steps to limit their functionality. For now, it still looks like Screen Time is the best option for parents, bugs and all.