In our previous blog in the series, we talked about ways to bypass screen time limiting apps. Today, we explore the ways kids are getting around more screen time regulations for YouTube, voice messaging, and more.
In one example, kids discovered that the YouTube app itself was blocked after a certain amount of time, but their messaging apps were not. All they needed to do was to either have a friend send them videos via text message or text themselves videos, and they had all the freedom in the world.
Kids also discovered that if they were watching YouTube in Safari (Apple’s internet browser) and they put the video in “full screen” mode before the limit began, they could continue watching videos without fear of it shutting down.
I know what you’re thinking. I block the messaging app, too. No need for my kid to be up all night texting! Of course, kids figured out how to hack this, too. If their phone has Siri or a similar function, they can read and send texts without restriction simply by using their voice.
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are used by businesspeople to send traffic over the internet without the risk of snooping. However, VPNs are now used by children and teens (and adults) to bypass internet controls or monitoring. VPNs allow people to connect to apps, websites, etc. without letting their WiFi network (home, school, or work) know what they’re accessing. This gives the user full access to whatever content they want for as long as they like.
There are several risks when it comes to VPNs. While most VPN apps are free, nothing is ever really free. These apps could be snooping on your or your child’s browser history, messages, photos, and more.
Hiding or Vault Apps
App manufacturers have gotten very sneaky with their private messaging apps, giving them names and icons that resemble something entirely different than their actual purpose. Some private messaging apps have names and icons that are made to look like calculators or maps. It’s only when a child enters a secret code or moves their finger on the screen in a defined pattern, the vault opens to reveal hidden photos and files.
Even with all the special apps out there, a simple private browser window will allow them to bypass any restrictions set on surfing the web. Because most apps have a website, too, that means most apps are also accessible limit free. Private browsers like Google Chrome’s incognito mode or Safari’s “Private” window allow kids to use a device without information like address, passwords, browsing history, etc. saved or recorded. Chrome explains it as follows,
Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads and bookmarks will be saved.
Chrome won’t save the following information:
- Your browsing history
- Cookies and site data
- Information entered in forms
Your activity might still be visible to:
- Websites you visit
- Your employer or school
- Your internet service provider
While this is indeed an important feature, these private browsers also give kids access to the internet that is not monitored by screen time apps, and their search histories are unavailable for you to see.
Many of these options started with good intentions, but kids are resourceful and determined to get what they want, in this case, more screen time. Though this may make the battle to regulate device use seem impossible, there are ways to hack the hackers. Look for our next post detailing a few suggestions to do so.
Read parts 1 and 2 of the series explaining how children learn to bypass screen time restrictions and how certain device settings can help them do so.