Apple to patch Screen Time flaw, but trust remains shaky for parents

Screen Time, Apple’s parental control feature, was introduced with iOS 12 to help parents manage and limit their children’s screen usage

Since its launch, Screen Time has faced numerous challenges. Parents and security researchers have repeatedly reported bugs that allow children to bypass restrictions. One significant issue involved a workaround where children could access blocked websites by entering a specific sequence of characters in Safari’s address bar. This bug, discovered in 2020, remained unaddressed by Apple until recently.

Screen Time

Apple’s response to these reports has been inconsistent. Security researchers Andreas J├Ągersberger and Ro Achterberg reported the Safari bug to Apple in 2021. Initially, Apple dismissed their reports, stating that the issue did not pose any security implications. It wasn’t until Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal highlighted the bug that Apple committed to fixing it in the iOS 17.5.1 update.

Despite multiple updates, Screen Time continues to exhibit significant flaws. Parents have reported that app limits often don’t work. For example, an hour limit on Instagram might expire, but the app remains accessible. The screen usage charts, which are supposed to provide insights into device usage, are frequently inaccurate or blank. Additionally, parents often do not receive notifications for app download requests or extensions for screen time, making it challenging to monitor and control their children’s device usage effectively.

Apple acknowledges these issues and claims to be making continuous improvements. In a statement, an Apple spokeswoman said, “We take reports of issues regarding Screen Time very seriously and have been consistently making improvements to ensure users have the best experience.” However, the persistent nature of these problems has led many parents to lose faith in the feature’s reliability.

The introduction of Screen Time aimed to address growing concerns about smartphone addiction and provide parents with tools to manage their children’s digital habits. However, the ongoing bugs and workarounds have undermined its effectiveness. Parents looking to use Screen Time need to stay vigilant and regularly check that the settings are functioning as intended. While Apple promises to continue improving Screen Time, parents may need to explore alternative parental control solutions to ensure their children’s online safety.

The upcoming WWDC 2024 could provide further insights into what the future holds for Screen Time, especially with the anticipated release of iOS 18. For now, parents should keep their devices updated and regularly review the Screen Time settings to safeguard their children’s digital experiences.

(via The Wall Street Journal)

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.