What to Do When Your Kid Hacks Their Screen Time Limits

Two girls looking at phone

You set limits with Apple Screen Time, but you have a suspicion that it’s not working the way it should. Now, you’re wondering, “Can my child turn off Screen Time?” If you’re frustrated that your child keeps finding a way around their screen time limits, you’re not alone. Our digital natives are good at staying a step ahead of us when it comes to tech. Read on to learn some common ways kids turn off Screen Time and what parents can do about it.

How kids hack Apple Screen Time limits 

Here are some ways your child might try to work around their device restrictions:

Hacking the passcode

You can set a passcode so your child can’t easily get past their Screen Time limits, but passcodes aren’t foolproof. Your child can learn the passcode by looking over your shoulder, screen recording to capture you entering the code, or old-fashioned deduction skills.

Shared notes and screenshots

Even if you’ve restricted certain messaging apps, kids can still find ways to communicate with friends after-hours. By creating a shared note with a friend, anything either of them types in the note is visible to the other person. 

Plus, if your kid takes a screenshot (of anything) and shares it, the screenshot will be sent as a text. Your kid can add a message to it, even if they’ve reached their limit on messages. 

One More Minute

When kids reach their limit, they can hit Ask For More Time and then select One More Minute to eek out a little extra time. 

Using Siri 

Kids can still use Siri to send messages after their limit. 

Deleting and reinstalling apps 

Deleting and then reinstalling an app removes any limitations on it. 

Recording videos to watch later

Using the screen-recording tool allows kids to record a YouTube video to watch later from their Photo album.

Changing the time zone

If you set Screen Time limits during certain hours, it’s common for kids to adjust the time zone on their device to get around limits.

Accessing YouTube through messages

If you’ve blocked YouTube during Downtime but not messages, your child can still open any videos that are sent to them via text.

How to prevent kids from hacking Screen Time limits

First, here’s a refresher on how to use iPhone parental controls and ways to troubleshoot if Screen Time isn’t working. These tips can help prevent the most common ways kids use to turn off Screen Time:

  • Use a strong passcode: Tell the truth — did you use your dog’s birthday as the passcode? Make sure it’s a strong password, and change it periodically to prevent your child from sleuthing it out.
  • Disable One More Minute: Go to App Limit settings and turn on “Block at End of Limit.” However, there are legitimate reasons for your kid to use this feature (such as finishing their thought on a text), and it’s such a small victory that this might be one to let slide. 
  • Turn off Siri: Go to Settings > Siri & Search > disable all the toggles. Be aware this feature can’t be locked with a passcode, so your child can easily turn it back on again. It’s also worth noting that turning off Siri also disables dictation, which can be beneficial to many kids, including for accessibility.
  • Require a passcode to install apps: This measure protects against a lot of workarounds, including if your child deletes and then reinstalls apps to erase their time limit. Here’s how to set it up.  
  • Disable screen recording: If your child uses screen recording to work around their limit (or to learn your passcode), you can disable it.
  • Lock the time zone: To prevent your child from changing the time zone on their phone, you must both disable the ability to change the time zone and prevent changes to location services. Here’s how to do both.
  • Block access to YouTube in messages: To shut down this hack, make sure you’ve blocked messages during Downtime.
  • Toggle on Block at Downtime: Enabling this setting means your child can’t use their phone (except for apps you’ve allowed) without you either entering the passcode on their phone or giving them permission from your device.  
  • Block at End of Limit: Setting screen time limits is useless unless you also turn on Block at End of Limit. Your child will need your permission to exceed the limits. 

Beyond technology

If a kid’s crafty enough, they’ll figure out a way around your restrictions. That’s why it’s important to couple them with other measures. 

First, lean on your relationship. Let your child know you expect to be able to trust them to respect your rules and boundaries. Create a digital device contract and be clear about any consequences if they go around your limits. 

Talk to your child about why it’s important to limit their screen time — especially if they’re having trouble sleeping. Stay informed about your child’s online activity through regular communication, online safety check-ins, and the use of a monitoring app

In short

Kids are savvy and can find ways around screen time limits. Parents should take steps to prevent their kids from hacking their limits, but also make other efforts such as staying engaged in their child’s online activity. 

Be the most informed parent in the room.
Sign up for bimonthly digital parenting updates.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
@2024 Tacita, Inc. All Rights Reserved.