23 Apr Kid Hacks iPhone Parental Controls! 3 Steps to Prevent It
iPhone Parental Controls (Restrictions) are a Parent’s Best Friend!
In February 2017, an article was written for the iPhone Life Magazine that explained how to hack into the Restricions on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. This article was brought to my attention by a devastated father who found out that his son, using this hack, was able to toggle on the Apple App Store, and download Snapchat, which had been specifically outlawed in the home. The father was crushed.
In summary, the hack includes downloading software to a Mac or PC that digs into the preferences of the iPhone if the device has been backed up to the Mac or PC. It’s a backdoor that I’m hoping Apple will soon shut.
The ability to circumvent the iOS restrictions is a huge blow to parents’ ability to create a safer Apple experience through use of its parental controls. Restrictions come on every iOS device. For parents who are training their naturally curious kids how to use the Internet, these Restrictions are a necessary part of any family’s internet training/safety plan.
[BTW, Mobicip is one of the best filters for online activity for young kids that we’ve ever tested]
Three Steps for Beating the iPhone Restrictions Hack
The hack is rather complex because it requires using multiple devices. But, a 12-year old figured it out! I’m impressed. That means (and you probably already know this) that other kids have also figured it out. Here are three steps for parents that can help prevent the iPhone Restrictions hack:
1. Assign individual, non-administrative roles for each child on your home’s desktop and laptops computers.
The only way to be successful with this hack is to use a Mac or PC (desktop or laptop). For the devices that kids are using, each child should have his or her own user profile and the profile should be set up to disallow downloading new programs like iBackupBot. In the case of a Mac, this can be achieved by using its parental controls to prevent additional apps from being loaded onto the device. Then, when a child wants to download a new program on the computer, the parent with administrative rights becomes the only person who can approve the addition of new programs or executable files through the use of a password. You can read more about how to set up these laptop-specific parental controls on both MacBooks, PC’s under “Devices” at Protect Young Eyes.
2. Use Apple’s Family Sharing on all devices used by children (and/or teens – this depends on the parent).
Family Sharing allows the “organizer”, ideally a parent, to approve or block app downloads remotely. You can read more about how to set up Family Sharing in this blog post from Protect Young Eyes.
3. Have “look them in the eye” conversations about appropriate smartphone use.
This includes calling out the fact that there are probably hacks that would allow access around the Restrictions. But, let kids know that use of any hack constitutes a death-blow to future smartphone usage. We all know that even if the home’s desk or laptop is configured appropriately, a kid could gain access to a machine that doesn’t have parental controls enabled. Parents need to call this out. “Son/daughter, I know you can find access to a computer that doesn’t have the same level of control as ours. So, I’m going to look you in the eye often and ask you about what kinds of things you’re doing on machines that our family doesn’t control. It’s not that I don’t trust you – I don’t trust the internet and the temptations it throws at us can be super strong. None of us is strong enough to handle the dark side of the internet alone.”
FAQ: What about a Factory Reset? Doesn’t that also bypass the Parental Controls/Restrictions on an iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone?
Answer: yes. But, there aren’t many kids who are willing to destroy critical data on the phone just to evade the Restrictions. A factory reset erases contacts, photos, apps, and any data within those apps. It’s a high price to pay and therefore many kids just aren’t willing to pay it.
If your child has used the factory reset as a circumvention technique in the past, then I would aruge that kid isn’t mature enough for a smart device. It’s time for a dumbphone for a while.
But, if that’s not an option, then there is a second choice for that ‘hard-to-control” and “tech-savvy” kid. With the release of iOS 7, Apple included certain anti-theft features that can also prove beneficial to parents. These improvements included adding Activation Lock to its Find my iPhone app.
Activation Lock is designed to prevent anyone from using or selling your device. The moment you turn on Find My iPhone, your Apple ID and password will be required before anyone can turn off Find My iPhone, erase your device, or reactivate it. This means that even if a kid performs a factory reset, they won’t be able to use the device again until the Find My iPhone Apple ID and password are typed in.
Find My iPhone is a very effective parental controls feature for families.
We love helping families “win” at raising up a generation of Internet-ready kids. If the information in this blog post is helpful, have you considered sponsoring one of our Internet Safey Days at your school or as a community outreach for your church? With over 100 presentations completed in the past six months and combined over 40 years working with families on the Protect Young Eyes team, we keenly understand the digital culture of kids today. How can we help you protect the young eyes you care for? Please let us know.