When we got all excited about Apple’s new Communication Limits that allow you to restrict who your kid can talk to (and when), we didn’t realise Apple left a big loophole that makes it very easy for your crafty child to bypass these restrictions.
The Communication Limits allow parents to limit who their kids can talk to at any point (everyone, or just people on their kid’s contact list), and when the kid has run out of allotted screen time for the day (everyone, or only specific people on the kid’s contact list).
But as CNBC discovered, getting around these restrictions is pretty easy. For example, if an unknown number texts your kid—their friend from school who keeps distracting them from their homework, for example—the kid can simply use a provided link to add that number to their contacts. And once they’ve done that, they can chat with that person as much as they want. (A parental PIN is supposed to prevent this from happening, but seems to be buggy.)
Better yet, if your baller child also has an Apple Watch, they can simply ask Siri—on the watch—to call or text a number. Whether bugged or intentional, any Communication Limits you’ve set up don’t seem to restrict that clever workaround.
Outsmart your kid with these workarounds to their workarounds
Here’s the good news: Apple’s working on a fix for some of your kids’ tricks. If you don’t want to wait, you can also employ a few of your own measures to thwart their creative circumventing.
First, try enabling Downtime on your kid’s device via Settings > Screen Time. I’m not sure if you have to play with any more settings (via the “Always Allowed”) section, like pulling Messages and FaceTime from the list of allowed apps, but CNBC notes that simply enabling Downtime should be enough to remove that link that allows your kid to add unknown numbers to their contacts—at least, during downtime. The link will likely persist when your kid has Screen Time available.
To address that, you can also force your kid’s iPhone to sync their contacts with iCloud, rather than another service like Google, which should prevent the clever workaround. To do this, pull up Settings > Contacts, tap on “Default Account,” and make sure it is set to “iCloud.”