Screen Time is Buggy

Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal:

Porn, violent images, illicit drugs. I could see it all by typing a special string of characters into the Safari browser’s address bar. The parental controls I had set via Apple’s Screen Time? Useless.

Security researchers reported this particular software bug to Apple multiple times over the past three years with no luck. After I contacted Apple about the problem, the company said it would release a fix in the next software update. The bug is a bad one, allowing users to easily circumvent web restrictions, although it doesn’t appear to have been well-known or widely exploited.

It seems lots of parents are frustrated by Screen Time. It is not reliable software but, for privacy reasons, it is hard for third-parties to differentiate themselves as they rely on the same framework.


  • Screen usage chart. Want to see your child’s screen usage for the day? The chart is often inaccurate or just blank.

I find this chart is always wildly disconnected from actual usage figures for my own devices. My iMac recently reported a week straight of 24-hour screen-on time per day, including through a weekend when I was out of town, because of a web browser tab I left open in the background.

One could reasonably argue nobody should entirely depend on software to determine how devices are used by themselves or their children, but I do not think many people realistically do. It is part of a combination of factors. Screen Time should perform the baseline functions it promises. It sucks how common problems are basically ignored until Stern writes about them.