Apple Just Removed These Parental Control Apps — Should Parents Be Worried?

Monitoring children’s online activity has become a priority for many concerned parents. But regulating screen time and restricting activity on adult sites may become more difficult now that Apple has targeted third-party parental-control apps, according to a report from The New York Times.

The Times reports that Apple has shut down or removed key features from 11 of the 17 most downloaded apps, such as OurPact, Freedom, Mobicip, Kidslox, and Qustodio. Apple has denied that it purposefully targeted these apps in order to limit competition. Instead, Apple released a statement earlier this week saying it only blocked or restricted specific apps because “they put users’ privacy and security at risk” by “using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management.”

Apple claims MDM technology is too “risky” because it gathers sensitive information that’s sometimes accessible to hackers.

“Parents shouldn’t have to trade their fears of their children’s device usage for risks to privacy and security, and the App Store should not be a platform to force this choice,” the statement read. “No one, except you, should have unrestricted access to manage your child’s device.”

Some app companies find it odd that Apple is only now implementing this strict policy after it unveiled its own monitoring software, Screen Time, which allows parents to see how much time kids are spending online.

How could this affect you? According to the Times, Apple’s Screen Time technology doesn’t quite compare to some of the now-restricted or deleted monitoring apps. For instance, parents can’t establish scheduled block times and, while they can set parental controls on Safari and some other apps, they can’t block adult content on YouTube or Instagram through Screen Time. As a result, parents may have to set certain restrictions within individual apps — that is, when those options are even available.

Conversations regarding children and screen time have picked up in recent years, as experts warn screen time is detrimental to early childhood development. Recently, the World Health Organization advised parents to restrict screen time for children under five years old and to completely ban it for children under two.
The idea that parental control apps are vanishing is unnerving, but it doesn’t mean that parents have to live in the dark. Parents concerned about their kids’ screen time and online activity can do a few things to put their minds at ease, starting with having open, ongoing conversations with their children about their online diet. Talk through which apps they’re using, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the kinds of content they’re engaging with and seeing on a regular basis. Additionally, encourage kids to spend more of their device time to connect with family members (you know, like actually picking up the phone and talking) and to find educational, kid-friendly apps to use in place of social media.

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