Apple: New parental control features are coming

Child with iPod touch
Child with iPod touch (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

Earlier this week Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, two Apple shareholder groups, posted an open letter to Apple asking for more and better parental controls for iPhone.

From Think Differently About Kids

More than 10 years after the iPhone's release, it is a cliché to point out the ubiquity of Apple's devices among children and teenagers, as well as the attendant growth in social media use by this group. What is less well known is that there is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences:

In regards to parental controls in general, Apple provided me with the following statement:

Apple has always looked out for kids," an Apple spokesperson told iMore, "and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.With today's iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.We began delivering these controls for iPhone in 2008 with the introduction of the App Store, building on what we'd learned from offering similar features for the Mac a few years before iPhone was introduced. We also have a long history of curating our content platforms to make sure they are free of offensive material, such as pornography, and clearly labeled so parents can determine if an app, movie or song is age-appropriate. Of course, we are constantly looking for ways to make our experiences better. We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids."

Apple has offered parental controls since shortly after iPhone launched and has augmented them several times over the years, including offering Guided Access, which locks users into a single app.

Parental Controls: The Ultimate Guide

I love that Apple will be providing more and better parental controls for iPhone and other devices. What the company has done for mobile device management (MDM) and education management shows just how granular and powerful those types of tools can be. Hopefully, Apple can also make them easier and more accessible to parents who aren't also IT administrators as well.

But Apple can only ever provide part of the solution to technology-based problems. Parents have to provide the other. My godkids, for example, have to earn screen time by doing homework, helping out around the house, and working on social and other skills. They have to do a lot of work to get even a short time on an iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, or TV set.

And they're not alone.

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Apple can help with what kids can do on Apple devices. Only humans can help with kids not being at those devices to begin with.

Overcoming video game addiction in children

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Whilst Apple have made great strides with their ask to buy and allowing child accounts to be made, they are really lacking in two areas: 1 - The 4-digit PIN to control access to the restrictions app was declared insecure by Apple years ago, is it too much to at least ask for this to at least be able to be configured to 6-digits or alphanumeric? I'd prefer linking into the ask to buy function but there are simple solutions to this. 2 - iOS scrambles the folders in any parental control software that governs access to screen time or apps, which means that you have a running battle just to get these things installed on the phone. To be clear, I have a fair amount of experience in this area, and I use conversation and the Circle by Disney box to control access - I can assure you that no tech is a substitute for engagement. However, Apple is lagging behind Microsoft family and even Google family. The press really need to ask the same questions I have been asking of the leadership team in apple, as this is Apple's blind spot. The devices are supported for at least 4 years, so let's make them child-friendly too.
  • I second the thought that Apple is lacking in this area. I hope they do make better strides in the future. As a parent of 4 kids - 3,4,6,8 - in an 'all-in' Apple ecosystem, I've been disappointed with a couple of things. I recently signed up for Our Pact and that has been working well to manage the kids' device profiles and the interface for parents is very straightforward. The other thing, though, maybe only marginally related, is iTunes content. I also recently migrated our digital content to Plex because I can create specific folders of content that align with specific children's accounts to manage what they watch - the parental restrictions baked into iTunes are a joke. Heck, I can't even publish iBooks because I'm afraid they'll start finding covers that are inappropriate.
  • > However, Apple is lagging behind Microsoft family and even Google family. In what respect? Microsoft's parental controls in Windows Phone are more limited than the controls in iOS (not to mention that Windows Phone has negligible market share now), and Google doesn't include any parental controls at all in Android other than a separate user that doesn't have access to calls and texts.
  • I’m assuming that you’ve looked at both before making that comment as both views are so very wrong. Microsoft family works very well with Windows 10 (on any platform) and extends into screen time. Google family is becoming more powerful as well, although not available in the U.K. yet. Try using Outpact or any other parental control app that controls screen time on iOS and it will scramble the apps that were in folders outside of them every time a block happens. It’s only through open debate and reflection that iOS will evolve.....