Shocker! Clever kids find ways around Screen Time restrictions

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iOS 12's new Screen Time feature isn't a panacea for good parenting. Even small children can find workarounds.
iOS 12's new Screen Time feature isn't a panacea for good parenting. Even small children can find workarounds.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iOS 12’s Screen Time feature lets parents monitor and limit how much time their children spend on their iPhone and iPad. It should surprise no one that smart kids with lots of free time have found ways to circumvent the limits.

This is only the first version of Screen Time, and Apple will likely close these loopholes in future updates.

A thread on Reddit compiles stories from parents describing how their kids got around the restrictions. Most of these were written by people who seem to be bragging about their child’s ingenuity.

Reinstalling old games

A user calling himself PropellerGuy described the trick his 7-year-old son figured out: “When he runs out of screen time and his games get locked, he heads to App Store, downloads a previously installed (but later removed) game through the cloud icon, and it works without limitations!”

Screen Time lets parents set restrictions by category. For example, they can limit all games to an hour. But apparently this doesn’t include apps added after the limit was placed.

The App Store can be set to prevent the installation of new apps, but that doesn’t cover previously approved ones. And if the App Store is totally blocked then current applications won’t ever get new updates.

“I’m not even mad. That’s impressive,” wrote PropellerGuy.

YouTube via Messages

Another Redditor calling himself theinspiringdad gave another good example: “My son uses the YouTube iMessages App and sends himself videos and he watches them in iMessages.”

theinspiringdad said “I can’t be mad at him. I know we can block iMessages, but we want to have that available for communication, if need be.”

Other Screen Time limitations

A user who goes by the handle -rwsr-xr-x described some other limitations to Screen Time. “There’s no way to manage ScreenTime via an iCloud account on the web, nor from an Android device. You MUST own an iOS mobile device to manage it,” It would make sense for Apple to at least allow Mac users to monitor their children’s iPhone/iPad use.

The user also pointed it that if a child makes too many attempts to guess the Screen Time password, everyone is blocked from making changes on that device for up to 10 days. Modifications can still be made from another iOS device, however.

Screen Time no substitute for good parenting

As numerous responses to these stories point out, kids have been figuring out ways to game parental computer restrictions since the dawn of personal computing. Screen Time is a convenient tool, but parents are still going to need to actively watch how much and how often their children are using their devices, and take them away when necessary.

As user flownyc says “Trying to fence children in via external limitations is a losing battle. They’re crafty. You need to teach them to make the right choices for themselves.”

Any parent wanting to learn to use Screen Time should read our how-to guide.