• Tech-Savvy Kids Defeat Apple’s and Others’ Parental-Control Features

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    Parents say managing their children’s online workarounds is ‘another full-time job’

    For the past three years, Lance Walker has been locked in a cat-and-mouse game with his 11-year-old daughter for control over her iPhone and iPad.

    Initially he considered TikTok a harmless distraction, which Peyton used for watching dance videos. When he discovered she was receiving messages from adult men she didn’t know after posting public videos of herself doing silly poses, he quickly went into Apple Inc.’s parental-control settings to block access to the app. Peyton countered by using a different Apple ID to download new apps including TikTok.

    When he tried to delete the Apple ID, she changed the password to block his access to the account. It continued like that for months—his daughter thwarted every attempt by Mr. Walker, a 43-year-old real-estate broker in Johnstown, Colo., to block certain apps through Apple’s Screen Time controls.

    “It was a nightmare,” Mr. Walker said. He said he and his wife are still working on a reliable way to keep Peyton off TikTok.

    Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the two main software providers for smartphones, have touted parental controls as a way for parents to keep tabs on their children’s technology use. But tech-savvy children, whose online time skyrocketed during the pandemic, are finding ways to circumvent the controls meant to protect them…

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    • #2407560

      What ever happened to parental authority? When I was 11 years old, I would have had no choice but to obey. The parents need to make it clear that the daughter is to accept the parents’ judgement and decisions.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2407572

      He said he and his wife are still working on a reliable way to keep Peyton off TikTok.

      How about not letting her use her devices until she does what they say? Seems simple enough.

      • #2407601

        Once home from school, remove device from child, first homework, feed child, device returned for a limited time then bedtime WITHOUT device. oldskool rulez

        Keeping IT Lean, Clean and Mean!
    • #2407938

      Education…..and filtering at device level (and network level when at home) is the answer, while we wait for parental controls to improve.

      I don’t know the apple Eco system well, but I have had to support enough devices to be frustrated by the lack of control I have personally over them. Want to access the shell to make a permanent exception? Tweak that menu? Not easy. I’m frustrated even supporting others devices. Not apple bashing – I’m sure they are useful for people who don’t like to mess with their system.

      We tried a few things with some of the content filtering apps – this was fine until they were a bit older then they found a way to crash the third party app – the app was also clunky and I figured that there must be a better way. There is:

      For kids who are amazing with computers (i.e they can write their own bootloader and/or script up some workarounds) – then you just need to fight this war – and also get them to have some respect for your rules – that is the only way.

      For everyone else:

      First you don’t give your kids any kind of administrative control of device or account, they shouldn’t even be able to wipe it or set up a new account without permission.

      Devices should be locked down – UEFI/BIOS – no alternate booting USB/SD etc – another reason not to buy them a 1k laptop and just get them something that does the basics – if you lock yourself out somehow then its much less of an issue financially.

      Yes they can set up a new account online – but only if you give them access to the pages.If they set one up at another person’s house or school using their computer – its not going to matter at home or on their device. If they can wipe a device and re-add a new account – then you either need a device that doesn’t let you do that – or you should receive the notifications that that has happened.

      I deployed an Android device for my kid the other day, as I’ve already got them in “Family-Link” and had been using it on a tablet prior this was the first device I had set up from scratch since then. Once i signed their name in, I was presented with a bunch of options.

      Not only was I presented with a bunch of options for their device – I was presented with more options than I get for my own! All that preloaded bloatware Facebook, Call of Duty etc with a Sony Phone – can’t uninstall them from a standard “Owner” account only disable and clear storage. You can when deploying a device as your kids account! It doesn’t pre-install it – oh i’m sure the binaries are still there – but its just cleaner.

      It was easy and let me filter out all the apps I didn’t want. Yes you have to manage it, like the kids microsoft account as well, not with blacklisting, but with whitelisting which is easily the best way. Until you eventually have a curated list of things that you approve of. You also have to cope with any whining about it and show some authority. You can adjust PEGI rating as they get older. Youtube is totally off the table for a young kid.

      Lastly some times you have to break the rules – sign them up with their own email account – give them the pin to it, not the password. You need to actively manage their ability to add friends on Xbox account (again no password given out), MS/Google – no password given out – all linked to family control apps, Discord (can’t have an account until a certain age) – everyone i know makes their kids one. You need to approve every friend and every server  (or host your own) and if those rules or the content isnt kid friendly – then you need to put your foot down – every friend needs to be pre-approved. If rules are being disobeyed then discord is gone -> go old school. Host your own Mumble/Ventrilo/TS server or allow them access to certain apps where they can only voicecall their contacts and not video/voicecall anyone who isn’t approved or on the list…

      If you add an incorrect gamertag by accident in a friend request on any platform – don’t leave it – go remove it. Restrict the addition of friends.

      When they are ready for more adult themed things then that is the difficult bit, but you should know your child and try to make the best decision.

      Spotify – at a certain age – the kids app just doesn’t cut it – they want full blown access – spotify family is the best option with a full account – also a good time to talk to your kids about swearing….etc.

      More technically – I block ads at a network level, content is filtered to some extent at a network level. DNS blocklists etc. This can be tweaked, but will affect everyone not just your child but is a reasonable place to start with protecting not just them, but yourself. Their browser should be adblocked and secured as best you can.

      Social media – well that is a difficult one – thankfully my kid isnt into it but it will come and then there will be a whole new ball game. First thoughts are device and network level blocks – and curation of all uploaded content. TikTok wouldn’t even be allowed in my household – pure spyware – yes I might miss out on my child being a future tik tok billionaire with 90million followers (who cares?!?) but i’ll take my chances.

      I get it for non-IT people this is much more difficult, especially if you don’t have an interest in computing in general – but its trying to do what you can.

      You need to balance authority with the needs of the child…. and their safety.

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      • #2532937


        My kid (12yo) is quite tech savvy and I implemented a lot of what your are describing (ads blocker, whitelist, ability to disable internet at local network level for a given device (even so the device is on wifi). What is key to me is to have the ability to lock but also unlock remotely as kids will have legitimate request (once in a while) that you need to activate.

        But it turns out that parental control are not at the level :

        – many 3rd party app rely on tunneling the traffic via VPN to their server to analyse it. But where I live VPN aren’t stable or slow => not a solution.

        – some solution from the OS vendors can be bypass by feature of the OS themselves… it took my kids a few days to find some.

        – many learning platform are using some form of gamification or even game coding, and therefore enabling these also enable games.

        – and kids do not necessary need the newest best games, they can spend hours playing on a 1990 look and feel game.

        not an easy task, but funny thing is that my son is proud of finding some ways to bypass that he usually do not resist to telling me how he beat me.

        lot of time for parents to spend on this, and I agree that in person monitoring and education is key. Not always easy for busy parents.

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