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How Kids Bypass Apple’s Parental Controls

SUREN on November 13, 2019

black iphone being held up

Early last year, Apple came up with a new page on its website addressing families about how safe their product is for children. With an intriguing headline - ‘You want to do what’s best for your family. So do we.’ - Apple’s new page implored parents to utilize the various tools that ensured their children stayed safe in the online world. With a new Kids section, Apple’s tools appealed to parents who were truly worried about the kind of content their kids have access to and the horrors of screen addiction. 

Screen Time is one tool that a majority of parents use. Right from monitoring the device to tracking all the apps that were used and the amount of time spent on them, Screen Time as a core part of iOS gives parents a report on what their kids have been up to and if there’s any intervention required. 

If there’s one thing that new age parents have learned in the last few years, it’s to never underestimate a child’s capabilities in the face of restrictions, particularly when that child has limited screen time. Knowing their way around technology, it’s unsurprising that kids today manage to circumvent security blocks and bypass restrictions. Wondering how children bypass security on Screen Time? Here are a few hacks children employ, something that parents could look into:

  • Factory Reset: Once your children know the workings of an iPhone, it’s a challenge to outsmart them - especially given that one commonly used trick is to factory reset the phone. This erases all existing estrictions and allows the child to restart all over again without the parents’ knowledge. Keep an eye on the data given to you on Screen Time. If it wavers, or shows no usage tracking, then perhaps your child has reset his or her phone.

    • Here are some useful observations from Jared, a Mobicip subscriber: While the traditional factory reset option would result in a complete data loss, your child could potentially backup their personal data on the family iCloud account linked to their phone and retrieve the same data later (if they had access to the iCloud credentials). The preferred option would be to set up the child device using the parent Apple ID instead of the kid's own iCloud credentials.  

  • Passcode: Has your child ever seen your passcode? Maybe they were watching over your shoulders without you noticing, or you told them once to send a message when your hands were busy? All it takes is a glance and your child can bypass App Limits and Downtime. Be discreet while entering your passcodes and make it a tough one! Also, watch out for screen recording. It appears as a red dot on the top of the screen and records your every move, including passcode. If your kids are recording your screen activity, that’s a serious breach of your privacy and an indicator that they’re serious about seeking their own device privacy, for whatever reason. Disable it and simply have a chat with your child about why parental restrictions are so important. 
  • Siri for iMessage: This is a commonly used hack and can be difficult to spot, so you might want to watch over your child from time to time when they’re on their phones. If your child can text their friends using iMessage in spite of your turning it off during App Limits or Downtime, chances are they are getting Siri’s help. You can curb this by toggling ‘Siri & Dictation’ OFF under the Allowed Apps option. 

  • Changing time zones: Downtime is a useful tool that prevents children from using certain apps for a while. If the ‘Block at Downtime’ toggle is on, the child will have to request their parents for an extended time. However, right before Downtime begins, it is possible to change the phone’s time zone in order to evade it! Choose ‘Don’t Allow Changes’ on the Location Services screen to keep the time zone constant. 

When it comes to children of today, technology and restrictions don’t always go hand in hand. When you find your child devising ways to outsmart your iPhone's parental control tools, have a chat with them and explain why restrictions needn’t always be so bad. Walk them through the benefits of replacing screen time with free play and how they can learn more from unstructured time. It’s not about turning into sleuths to see what kids are up to; it’s more about knowing what it takes to protect your child from the downside of the online world. When utilized right, the internet can change a child’s life, hone their skills and expand their knowledge. 

Learn more about screen time and its impact on kids of today. 


Writing credit: Authored by Suren, the co-founder and CEO of Mobicip, and a passionate advocate for mobile learning and Internet safety. Suren speaks or hosts panels at conferences and seminars on these topics for parents and educators. He also serves as a consultant for educational technology projects in K-12 schools and school districts. 

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Early last year, Apple came up with a new page on its website addressing families about how safe their product is for children. With an intriguing headline - ‘You want to do what’s best for your family. So do we.’ - Apple’s new page implored parents to utilize the various tools that ensured their ch