My Kid v. Screen Time

The ongoing saga continues…..

First some back story.

For those who don’t know, Screen Time is a feature on iOS devices that allows you to set time limits for categories of apps, block access to a device completely during set time frames and content restrictions ie.  No explicit language.

I configured this on each iPad that the kids use to limit use and monitor their activity, something I would recommend every parent do.

However, my dreams of setting it up and entering a blissful era of kids outside playing while iPads are locked down has been thwarted on 3 separate occasions.. and the battle continues.


The first time my kids was able to circumvent the Screen Time limitations was a simple social engineering trick.  One morning while I was still tired, lacking even the first sip of coffee, I was approached by child #1 and asked if I could please give more time on the iPad.  It was a lazy Saturday morning and my only thought was coffee.  So I took the iPad and entered the pass code, allowing access to “shows” for one hour, the proceeded to make the much needed coffee.  UNAWARE that I had been compromised.

What I did not know is child #1 watched as I entered the pass code into the device and memorized it.  Had it not been for the unbridled glee child #1 was experiencing at this new knowledge resulting in an explosion of laughter, joy and the endless bragging of what they knew, I would not have been wise to their mischievous ways for some time.  As it was, pass code was changed and the compromise only lasted an hour.


Months went by with the kids being forced to work with the iPads limited to the constraints of Screen Time and I fully believed that bliss was near.  It was not to be.  Thinking that I was smart I had changed the passcode to the reverse of what it had been before.  So instead of say 1234 it was now 4321.

Just like any caged animal, child #1 was repeatedly testing the fences in the wee morning hours and one morning thought to try the pass code that had worked in reverse… and was rewarded.

Just like before, the joy and glee was too much to contain.  Not wanting to brag openly as before however, a simple message was written on a piece of paper

“Secret code is xxxx”

A picture was taken of the message and sent to me…

The pass code was changed once again.


This time I changed the pass code to something completely random and memorized it.  Like before months go by and bliss appears to once again be just around the corner.

Now…. unlike a lot of people I know the kids know the pass code to my phone and from time to time I let them play on it.  This turned out to be my undoing, when we discovered child #1 playing a game during a period when all apps were supposed to be locked, known as downtime.

Immediately I went to my iPhone.

Settings > Screen Time > Child #1 > Always Allowed

Entered the pass code.  Invalid.  WTF WTF WTF

I enter an old pass code and it works (the original pass code from Hack #1).  Now I can see the always allowed list but the game is not on this list.  In fact only Message, FaceTime and Maps are on the list.

I enter the new (old) pass code on the iPad, and it is not on the Always Allowed list their either.

I check the time constraints for Games, and its still in place.

I check Downtime, and it has not been changed……

HOW THE F**K…..  Well, this is How the F**k.

In the morning while he was awake and we were asleep he would go get my iPhone and unlock it.

Tap Settings > Screen Time > Child #1 > Change Screen Time Passcode

FaceID will launch and will fail because it is not me.

Tap Try again and when it fails again tap Enter Password and enter the passcode to the iPhone

Now change the pass code for screen time to what you want it to be.

Then place the iPhone back, exactly where and how you found it.

Now go to the iPad and go to Settings > Screen Time > Always Allowed and allow the game you want to play.

This allowed child #1 access to the game at all times and it did not update that setting change back to the iPhone.  So on the iPhone, other than the pass code being changed, it appears that all is correct.

If you change the pass code back, turn screen time off, and on again then reapply the screen time settings it does not change the app on the iPad back to being denied.

The only method I have found to put Screen Time setting back how you want on the iPad is to turn off screen time for the device via the iPhone then reboot both the iPhone and the iPad so they start with no previous Screen Time configuration.  Then redo the Screen Time settings for child #1 on the iPhone.  Then the iPad will update with the correct Screen Time configuration.

Also, the iPad has been taken away until child #1 respects the rules.

The pass code to my iPhone has also been changed.

child #1 will be enrolled in white hat hacking courses in the near future =)  Impressive work.



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