Bug Allowing Kids to Bypass iPhone Communication Limits Has Already Been Discovered

Communication Limits Kid Using iPhone Credit: John M. Chase / Shutterstock
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A new bug has been discovered in Apple’s Communication Limits for Screen Time that pretty much renders the feature useless.

Primarily designed as a feature to let parents control who their children can communicate with, Communication Limits was introduced in this week’s iOS 13.3 update. But CNBC has already spotted a workaround that kids could use to skirt those restrictions.

The iOS 13.3 Communication Limits Bug

While Communications Limits can be configured with different preferences, one of its primary features is the ability to block children from talking to anyone who isn’t in their Contacts list.

But, as CNBC notes, when a child gets a text from an unknown number, an option pops up to add that number to their contacts list. Once they do, they can call, FaceTime or text that number normally.

The publication notes that if the feature worked properly, it wouldn’t allow a child to do so without first entering the Screen Time PIN set on their device by parents.

Interestingly, kids who have Apple Watches can also use their wearables to call or text any number using Siri. That’s true whether or not that number is already in their Contacts.

It’s worth noting that the workarounds don’t appear to function when Downtime is enabled, however.

CNBC also found a couple other bugs with Screen Time, including an issue that blocked random numbers in Contacts and another problem that made the Messages inbox “unreadable.”

How to Fix the Communication Limits Bug

Apple told CNBC that it’s currently aware of the bug and is working on a fix. In the meantime, the news outlet suggests that parents use the following method to mitigate the issue.

  1. Open the Settings app on a child’s device.
  2. Open Contacts.
  3. Select Default Account.
  4. Change the default account to iCloud.

Apparently, setting the contacts list to sync with iCloud prevents the bug from happening. That’s because it appears to impact devices that sync contacts with Gmail or other services.

CNBC also notes that Communication Limits still works in some cases even without that workaround. Kids, for example, can’t access their own Contacts list or use Siri to make calls to unknown numbers.

To fix the bug, the publication notes that Apple could simply require a PIN to add a contact to an address book.

Past Screen Time Exploits

This isn’t the first time that a workaround has been discovered in Apple’s Screen Time feature.

In fact, Screen Time exploits and bypasses are so common that The Washington Post published an article back in October detailing their prevalence.

The Communications Limit also isn’t likely to be the last bug discovered in Screen Time. Given enough time, enterprising kids are pretty much guaranteed to find some type of bug to take advantage of in the feature.

As we’ve covered before, a digital feature like Screen Time isn’t a great substitute for vigilance and keeping a closer eye on a child’s internet usage.

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