Apple, Google, and other brands offer parental controls for devices and wireless networks. However, kids keep finding ways around parental control settings, which puts them at danger. As a parent and an informed electronics consumer, you need to know how children are getting around parental controls so you can put additional measures in place to keep your kids safe.
How Kids Bypass Screen Time on iOS
If your child has an iPad or iPhone, then chances are you use Screen Time, a part of the iOS interface, to monitor their app list and average time online. With the built-in Content and Privacy Restrictions, you can also block specific apps and features or restrict purchases, downloads, and privacy permissions on your child’s device. Family Sharing also lets you tap into your child’s device from your own, meaning you can make changes to permissions and apps at any time based on the reports about your child’s usage.
Unfortunately, many children are disabling or bypassing Screen Time through numerous hacks. However, if you know all same tricks, you can easily find the problem and set up additional protection measures.
1. Hacking The Passcode
The easiest way for a child to disable Screen Time is by learning the required passcode and changing the settings themselves. If your passcode is too easy or obvious, they may be able to hack it by watching you or guessing. Otherwise, they may use screen recording to get the information they need to hack Screen Time.
Luckily, you can protect against this hack by disabling screen recording on your child’s device and choosing a difficult passcode. Also, consider changing your passcodes periodically since this adds an extra layer of protection.
2. Factory Reset
Believe it or not, many kids are bypassing Screen Time by completing a factory reset on their device. A factory reset essentially erases all restrictions placed on a specific device, and reverts it to its factory original settings. Since you can reset an iOS device without even entering the Apple ID or password, kids are simply using the Recovery Mode reset then creating a new Apple ID and do whatever they’d like on their device without parental controls or tracking.
To protect against this hack, the best thing you can do is use your Apple ID, not your child’s, on their devices. Also, make sure you set up Find My app before you ever let your child have a device. Finally, you can check your child’s Screen Time data and look for major changes (like a lack of reporting starting on a certain date).
How Kids Bypass Google Family Link
Like Apple, Google offers its own options for parental controls on all Android devices. Google Family Link is the Android equivalent to Screen Time, and it mostly works the same way. With Google Family Link, parents can monitor their child’s device usage. They can also force permission requests for app downloads, set time limits, and remotely lock the device when it’s time to take a break.
Although there are far fewer tutorials on how to bypass Google Family Link, kids have still figured out some hacks. Parents need to know how children are disabling Google Family Link so they can keep their kids safe.
1. Configure the Accessibility Menu
Within Android settings, you can activate an Accessibility Menu (also called Dexterity and Interaction) that makes it easier to manage your device. While this menu is meant to help older users or those with disabilities, children and teens have discovered that they can use it to bypass parental controls for time limits.
All a child has to do is turn on the Accessibility Menu, then click the button from the home screen and press “Recent Apps” to access any apps they previously used even after the phone locks for the day.
2. Creating Secure Folders
Samsung is one of the largest manufacturers of Android devices. Unfortunately, this means that many children have access to the secure folder feature offered on Samsung devices — and this secure folder isn’t restricted by Google Family Link. Once a secure folder is set up, a child can simply add files or apps into the secure folder and use them with zero restrictions.
Even on non-Samsung devices, children can now set up a Safe Folder. While this folder will not allow apps to be stored there, children can use it to hide screenshots or images they don’t want parents to see.
3. Clear Google Store Data
Google Family Link cannot be uninstalled by dragging it to the trash can if parental controls are set in the Google Play Store. However, there’s a way to disable Google Play parental controls without even obtaining the required four-digit PIN. All someone has to do is clear the data for the Google Play Store — this even removes the parental control settings previously established. All a child has to do is delete the Google Family Link app or restrict its access to data.
Unfortunately, there’s no great work around for this short of installing additional third-party security apps.
How Kids Bypass Amazon Parental Controls
Over 50 million households now use Amazon Fire TV or the Amazon Fire Stick to stream from their television. With an Amazon Fire TV, users can stream movies and television shows directly from Amazon or download any number of free or subscription-based streaming apps to watch nearly anything under the sun.
These Amazon devices allow parents to easily set up parental controls and even lock down the device so that a PIN is required to access specific content or make any streaming purchases. These controls can be edited at any time, and parents can even access their parental controls from their Amazon account on another device.
Unfortunately, even Amazon’s parental controls aren’t foolproof, especially for smart children and teens. There are two main ways kids bypass the Amazon parental controls, and at least one of them is easy to fix.
1. Changing The PIN
The easiest way around parental controls is to simply remove them, which requires the PIN number the main user set up when installing the Amazon Fire TV Stick. However, you can actually change the PIN at any time by going to your Amazon account via the web or hopping on the Amazon app.
In other words, if your child’s phone or laptop is logged into your Amazon account, they can easily change the PIN within Prime Video settings. Similarly, they could also access this from your computer if you stay logged into your Amazon account or have your passwords stored in Google Chrome.
2. Performing a Factory Reset
As is the case with mobile devices, factory resets on the Amazon Fire TV Stick remove any pre-established parental controls. Amazon does prompt for the PIN to perform a factory reset, but you can skip through this by using the remote and pressing play + back or right + back. Once someone resets the Fire Stick, kids just need the password for the streaming platform they want to use, like Netflix or Hulu.
How Kids Bypass Network Parental Controls
As an added security feature, many modern routers include parental controls that parents can adjust through an app or their web browser. While these parental controls can help parents set time limits for specific devices or deny access to certain websites, children can break through them just like everything else.
Never underestimate the power of a tech-savvy teen who wants to play video games late at night, because the internet is full of tutorials on how to bypass wireless network parental controls by:
- Hacking the router with the factory-provided password
- Using a VPN service
- Accessing a different Wi-Fi network
- Changing the time zone on certain devices
- Using in-app browsing
- Pulling up proxy websites
To avoid these tactics, parents should never keep the default IP address and password settings the router comes with, and parents should lock down things like in-app browsing and proxy sites as much as possible. Furthermore, parents should never rely solely on their network’s parental controls and should also set up parental controls on each individual device a child uses.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will my child be able to tell that I have parental controls installed?
While there are some parental control apps that advertise “covert monitoring,” these apps aren’t always the best options out there. Furthermore, many parental controls restrict access to specific apps or websites, which kids will likely figure out anyway. Most experts recommend parents discuss parental controls with their kids and explain the importance of internet safety.
2. Can I set parental controls in specific apps?
Many social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok allow users to set time limits and disable specific features within the app. Parents can (and should) take advantage of these parental controls if they plan to allow their kids access to any social media applications.
3. What’s the best third-party parental control app?
As you can imagine, there are dozens of third-party parental control apps available to users. When comparing parental control apps, parents should look for an application that allows them to monitor their child’s browsing, email, and text message activity since any of these can become dangerous. Additionally, some apps even allow parents to track their child’s location, enable an instant remote time-out on a device, and approve any app deletions or downloads.
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