Friday, May 24, 2024

Apple Confirms More Problems For iPad, iPhone Users

08/05 Update below. This post was originally published on August 2

iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 had a rocky start to life, with iPhone 14 and 14 Pro users particularly hard hit. Subsequent updates have done much to correct this, but now Apple has confirmed another significant problem impacting all iPad and iPhone owners.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Apple acknowledged an ongoing bug that affects its Screen Time feature, a parental control tool on iPhones and iPads, which allows children to bypass time limits and access potentially unsafe content without their knowledge.

“We are aware that some users may be experiencing an issue where Screen Time settings are unexpectedly reset. We take these reports very seriously and we have been, and will continue, making updates to improve the situation,” said an Apple spokesperson.

Screen Time enables parents to remotely manage their child’s iPad or iPhone by setting restrictions on device usage during specific times, implementing time limits for apps, and blocking inappropriate content. The bug causes the time limits and content restrictions to reset or fail to synchronize across all devices within a Family Sharing group.

Apple previously addressed a Screen Time settings issue in May’s iOS 16.5 update. However, the fix has clearly not worked, and there are numerous reports from parents across forums and social media who are still encountering the problem on iPhones and iPads running the iOS 16.6/iPadOS 16.6 releases and even the iOS 17/iPadOS 17 public betas.

Screen Time was introduced in 2018 as part of iOS 12, providing parents with a native solution for controls that previously required third-party apps. The feature has since become a critical tool for families to manage and monitor screen time habits.

Apple has provided no timeline for its Screen Time fix, but with iOS 17 dropping support for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, 5th-gen iPad and first-gen iPad Pro, it really must come to iOS 16. iOS 17 is released next month. The clock is ticking.

08/04 Update: Further details about the Screen Time bug have now emerged, as well as steps you can take to minimize its impact.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery is this bug was first discovered back in October 2022 and can be tracked to an Apple Communities forum post. At the time, over 2500 other users confirmed they were suffering from the problem, which causes Screen Time restrictions to reset. The user explains:

I’ve used screen time for my kids to limit time on certain apps. It worked well for years, but now I will set the limits and then they will suddenly disappear after a day or even less. Other settings also get erased including downtime and content restrictions. I have changed the passcode and the kids swear they have not tried to change any settings. This issue started about two months ago.

Users have also found a partial workaround until Apple releases a fix: set your Screen Time settings individually on each device and do not use cross-device syncing. Multiple users report that this is more reliable, and it strongly suggests the bug stems from an iCloud sync issue rather than Screen Time itself.

08/05 Update: some users are finding the following steps can resolve the problem for them, though it must be stressed that this does not work for everyone:

  1. Disable Screen Time on the device that needs to be restricted during downtime – this would typically be your child’s device.
  2. Ensure that all photos are synchronized with iCloud. Any unsynced photos could be lost in the process. You can verify this by scrolling to the bottom of the photos app to check if any are still pending.
  3. Log out of iCloud on all devices that have the authority to approve Screen Time requests or have set Screen Time restrictions. This includes both your child’s and your own devices.
  4. Reset these same devices – this does not imply erasing all content. Simply reset all settings by navigating to Settings, then ‘Transfer or Reset iPhone’, and finally select ‘Reset All Settings’.
  5. Reconnect all devices to iCloud by signing back in.
  6. Re-activate Screen Time and establish your desired downtime limits.

Given that this process involves resetting multiple devices, it is only recommended for those who are having significant daily issues with the Screen Time bug. Apple’s public acknowledgment of the problem should also mean that an official fix is released in the next few weeks via an iOS 16.6.1 update.


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