New parental control app for iOS 13.3 has gaping loopholes

A few days ago, Apple launched iOS 13.3 amid much fanfare. One of its most hyped features is a Communication Limits for Screen Time. This is supposed to prevent your kids from talking to people who aren’t in their contacts list without your permission.

You can also control when your kids can talk to these people, a feature that some parents would undoubtedly love. Except it doesn’t work properly if the phone’s contact list isn’t uploaded to iCloud.

The flaw is that if your child receives a text message from an unknown individual, the Messages app automatically asks whether this number should be added to contacts. Once it’s added, the child can text, FaceTime or call that number any time they wish.

When the child wanted to add a new contact, they were supposed to be prompted for their parental password. Another flaw is that a child can instruct Siri on their Apple Watch or iPhone to text or call any number whatsoever.

This bypasses any Screen Time limitation. The only time the new feature works properly is when Downtime is activated.

This is a different feature that blocks children from launching specific apps at specific times – for example, the address book. Without being able to add a new contact to their address book, the Communication Limits feature works properly.

Apple conceded that it had made a mistake, but insisted that the bug only rears its ugly head in a ‘non-standard configuration’. The company added that there is a workaround: enforce syncing contacts with iCloud.

This can be done by tapping on Settings, scrolling down to Contacts, selecting Default Account, and then changing that to iCloud.

The firm will nevertheless fix the issue with the next software update, but when that will happen remains unknown at this stage. The most likely scenario is that this will be with iOS 13.3.1.

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