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Here's How Kids Bypass Apple's Parental Control Tools

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

If there’s one thing parents have learned in the last few years, it’s to never underestimate a child’s capabilities in the face of restrictions, particularly if 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 Apple's Parental Control Tools? 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 restrictions and allows the child to restart all over again without the parents’ knowledge. Keep an eye on the data given to you on Apple's Screen Time. If it waivers, 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 and retrieve the same 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 and not share the iCloud credentials with your kids."


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 passcode 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 activities, 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 awhile. If the "Block at Downtime" toggle is on, the child will have to ask their parents for extended time. However, right before Downtime begins, it is possible to change the phone’s time zone in order to trick it! So choose "Don’t Allow Changes" on the "Location Services" screen to keep the time zone intact. 

When it comes to today's kids, 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 (and you!), 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. 

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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