Skip to main content

Apple's new iPhone software is supposed to limit who your kid talks to, but a bug lets them get around it

  • Apple's iOS 13.3 launches this week and introduces a new feature called Communication Limits that adds new parental controls.
  • It's supposed to allow parents to limit their kids' communications only to people who are in their contacts list.
  • But a bug lets children talk to anyone who contacts them.

Apple rolled out iOS 13.3 on Tuesday with new controls that are supposed to give parents power over who their children talk to on an iPhone or iPad. It's a big new feature that Apple is advertising and has garnered lots of press.

But CNBC discovered it doesn't work properly. There are several bugs with the feature, but, most importantly, it doesn't protect your kids from talking to strangers on the phone, FaceTime or through text messages.

Here's what's going on:

The new software includes a new Communication Limits option that lets parents control who their kids can talk to. It's supposed to let parents block their children from contacting anyone who isn't in their address book. Children are also supposed to be prevented from adding new contacts unless a parent enters a PIN they set up ahead of time.

So, for example, if a parent doesn't want their kid talking to a bully at school, they can just remove the bully from their child's address book and they won't be able to do it.

But Communication Limits does not work as advertised if contacts are not stored to iCloud by default.

CNBC set up Communication Limits on an iPhone running iOS 13.3 so that a child can't communicate with a number that's not in their address book.

But we discovered that when an unknown number texts the child's phone, the child is given the option to add the number to their address book. After the kid adds the number to the address book, they can call, FaceTime or text that number.

A child should not be able to add the contact to the iPhone's address book without their parent entering their PIN first if the feature is working properly.

CNBC also noticed that the keyboard sometimes vanishes on the first attempt to respond to a text message after the contact has been added. But going back a screen and then tapping back into the message thread brings the keyboard back.

Kids can also skirt the protections using an Apple Watch paired to the iPhone. If they ask Siri on an Apple Watch to text or call any number, it will go through, whether it's in the contact list or not.

There is one exception to this bug.

If the Downtime feature is enabled on the kid's phone, they are not given the option to add a number to their address book after being contacted. Downtime is another feature in iOS. It lets parents limit which apps and features a child can use during certain periods of time. (For example, you can block your kid from using apps from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day while they're supposed to be sleeping.)

Apple told CNBC, "This issue only occurs on devices set up with a non-standard configuration, and a workaround is available. We're working on a complete fix and will release it in an upcoming software update."

In the meantime, parents can do the following to force contacts to sync with iCloud, which prevents the bug from occurring on phones that default to syncing contacts with Gmail or other services.

  • Open Settings.
  • Open Contacts.
  • Select Default Account.
  • Change it to iCloud from any other setting (like Gmail or another account.)

If you don't have your contacts synced to iCloud, the Communication Limits feature still works in some parts of iOS. Children can't manually go into their address book and add a new one without the parent's PIN. And they can't use Siri to try to get around protections to place calls to unknown numbers.

Apple could fix the bug by removing the "Add Contact" button when a child receives a text from a number not in their address book. Or it could require a parent's PIN before the child is allowed to save a new contact.

There are a couple of other bugs CNBC discovered while testing the new parental control features in iOS 13.3. In some instances, for example, contacts in the address book are blocked for no apparent reason. And sometimes the text message inbox is completely unreadable, with contact photos mixed on top of the preview text.

Apple first launched iOS 13 in September and it has since been updated more often than usual to fix lots of bugs. Bloomberg reported last month that Apple plans to address buggy iOS releases with its next version, iOS 14.

— CNBC's Kif Leswing contributed to this report.

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech product news.

Source: Read Full Article


Popular posts from this blog

Fears coronavirus will spark divorce surge as couples self-isolate for months

Coronavirus is "very likely" to lead to an increase in marriage break-ups because of people being confined together for long periods in self-isolation, a leading divorce lawyer has said.Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, whose previous clients have included Sir Paul McCartney, the Prince of Wales, Madonna and Liam Gallagher, revealed the view of the profession as a growing number of households go into voluntary lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of infection.Official health advice states that if one person in a property has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there should stay at home for 14 days.Nicknamed the "Steel Magnolia" for her skills and charm, Lady Shackleton told peers at Westminster: "The prediction amongst divorce lawyers is that following self-imposed confinement it is very likely that the divorce rate will rise."Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holidays and over Christmas."One only has to imagine what i…

At Least 23 People Dead in Australia Bushfires As Blazes Continue Raging

SYDNEY (AP) — A father and son who were battling flames for two days are the latest victims of the worst wildfire season in Australian history, and the path of destruction widened in at least three states Saturday due to strong winds and high temperatures.The death toll in the wildfire crisis is now up to 23 people, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after calling up about 3,000 reservists to battle the escalating fires, which are expected to be particularly fierce throughout the weekend.“We are facing another extremely difficult next 24 hours,” Morrison said at a televised news conference. “In recent times, particularly over the course of the balance of this week, we have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level.”Dick Lang, a 78-year-old acclaimed bush pilot and outback safari operator, and his 43-year-old son, Clayton, were identified by Australian authorities after their bodies were found Saturday on a highway on Kangaroo Island. Their family said their losses left them…

Data-obsessed Brits spend an entire WEEK per year 'analysing their lives with gadgets', survey suggests

DATA driven Brits spend the equivalent of a WHOLE WEEK of each year tracking and analysing their behaviour, according to research.A survey of 2,000 adults revealed we typically use analytical apps and devices to monitor six parts of our lives.More than half (51 per cent) monitor their steps and movement, with 39 per cent tracking their fitness and 34 per cent regularly monitoring their heart rate.And one quarter of adults use apps to see how much sleep they get each night.But according to a new survey, commissioned to encourage the use of smart meters in UK homes during Big Energy Saving Week and beyond, three quarters (76 per cent) of Brits admit they haven’t the foggiest how much energy they use at home.In total, adults spend 30 minutes every day checking their health, behaviour and finances on apps and devices – the equivalent of 183 hours or seven-and-a-half days per year.A quarter like to track areas of their life because it inspires them to improve, while 22 per cent say it make…