No, I was not surprised to read that kids figure out how to how to get around the Apple iPhone parental controls. The Washington Post published an October 15, 2019 article that tells all about it, and in my experience, the kids’ actions are not limited to Apple parental controls.
When I served as an educational technology faculty member, I often heard from parents who asked about locking down computers, networks, cable access, and the Internet.
While I made suggestions about what they could do, I always added a caveat, reminding them that controls are only half of the equation. The other half — the more important part — requires ample time spent helping their children understand digital world challenges, ethics, citizenship, integrity, and the daily connected-world challenges that everyone encounters in daily digital life. The controls work their best when parents pave the way with lots of connected world conversations.
On the other side of the coin, I frequently heard middle school students talk about their successes circumventing the limits that their parents set for them. And, being kids, they shared their achievements with one another. Just like the parents who drive carpool and learn all sorts of interesting information merely by listening, I heard a lot in my digital world classroom, by listening to students — really good kids — describe their antics.
Problem-solving is something we emphasize in education, and for many young people, overcoming parental controls is just one more problem to figure out. Sometimes exploration happens by accident, but at other times children go seek to circumvent the controls in a more methodical manner.
The bottom line? All these limits and controls are useful, but only when they go hand-in-hand with regular parent/child conversations about living well and with integrity in the digital age. These family discussions help young people understand more about the purpose of parental controls, the reason for boundaries, and family behavior expectations.
The important thing to remember is that, while kids often know more about digital activities than their parents, adults know much more about life. While we may never ever be as comfortable as young people with the newest whizbang technology, we know what kind of values we want our children to develop, and we possess and we know a lot about how we want those values applied to life in the digital world.