Despite getting “fixed” with two iOS updates, Screen Time still has bugs

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The Screen Time app for the iPhone was announced during WWDC in 2018 and measures how much time you spend each day using apps, websites, and more. It was created by the crew in Cupertino in response to headlines at the time that got the public worried about smartphone addiction. The app also allows a parent to limit the usage of a child’s iPhone and iPad by time while also allowing a parent to restrict a child from opening certain apps and visiting specific websites.

What is going on with Screen Time that parents should be worried about?

Last July, Apple acknowledged that a Screen Time bug was allowing children to bypass the daily time limit that a parent had set for the child’s handset and tablet. As a result, these kids were able to play games, open social media apps, and do just about anything they were allowed to do with their iPhone and iPad for more hours each day than thought to be healthy by the parents. To put it simply, for some reason, the Screen Time app was not picking up the time restrictions being set by parents for their kids’ mobile Apple devices.
Apple thought that it had fixed the Screen Time bug with iOS 16.6.1 saying at the time that, “We are aware that some users may be experiencing an issue where Screen Time settings are unexpectedly reset. We take these reports very seriously, and we have been, and will continue, making updates to improve the situation.” However, it appears that The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern wrote an article today (via BGR) stating that the aforementioned bug fix did not take for every user.

According to Stern, two security researchers have been complaining to Apple since 2021 about a Screen Time bug that was allowing children to access blocked websites. Stern also had this issue as she was able to use her son’s iPad to visit what she called “the most X-rated parts of the internet” even though she used Screen Time to restrict her son from visiting most websites.

The Journal scribe spoke with Apple and was told that Screen Time issues were fixed with the latest iOS update to version 17.5.1. Still, problems persist. Stern says that app limits don’t work. For example, when a one-hour time limit to use Instagram expires, the app can still be opened and accessed. The screen usage chart appears blank or is inaccurate, Stern says, and she also doesn’t receive time and app requests.

An Apple spokeswoman told Stern, “We take reports of issues regarding Screen Time very seriously and have been consistently making improvements to ensure users have the best experience. Our work is not done, and we will continue to make updates in upcoming software releases.” Perhaps Apple will include a fix for Screen Time in an upcoming 17.5.2 update, or put the fix in iOS 18.

We could hear some news next Monday during WWDC 2024 about plans Apple might have to improve Screen Time with iOS 18. The eagerly-awaited Keynote will start at 10 am PDT/1 pm EDT on June 10th. It does seems unlikely that Screen Time would get an AI makeover like some other apps will receive (Siri, Notes, Messages, Safari, and Voice Memos to name a few).

How to set up Screen Time for your child on your own iPhone or iPad

If you do restrict your child’s access to the internet using Screen Time, you should follow Stern’s example. When you have an opportunity to do so, make sure that your kid’s iPhone and iPad cannot access the sites and apps that you have blocked.

To activate Screen Time on your Apple device, go to Settings > Screen Time. Then tap on App & Website Activity, and then tap on Turn On App & Website Activity. You can configure your child’s Screen Time settings by tapping on Set Up Screen Time for Family to set up Family sharing. Once you have done this, you can use Family Sharing to view reports and change settings. Screen Time child accounts can be created by a parent or a legal guardian for children 12 or under.


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