Is Apple Sabotaging Your Child’s Tech Balance?

Have you put apps on your child’s iPad to help control the minutes? What about a safer, kid-friendly search engine? It’s time to check your devices.

Evidence continues to suggest that limiting time on screens leads to happier and healthy kids. As any parent knows, however, getting control of screens in your home is tough. Using tech-regulating apps is one tool that millions of parents have been using to help with screen-time/real-life balance.

In my pediatric practice, I often recommend these inexpensive apps to families as they begin to build a positive tech balance. Parental control apps are easy to install and use, and help stop the arguments and battles for precious screen time minutes. Most importantly, these apps have the power to protect children from accidental exposure to explicit material during their digital play.

Unfortunately, these tools are disappearing. As reported in the NYT , Apple is removing the most commonly downloaded parental control apps from the app store and disabling their protection. The disappearance of these apps is coming with limited warning and confusing explanation. Companies and users are being left in the dark.

This action by Apple is incredibly disappointing. Despite the formal statement explaining the reason for the revoke, I suspect an additional motivation is because these apps are working. Parental-control apps do limit the time kids spend on screens; keeping them away from ad-driven content and personal data that is lucrative for Apple investors. And in my most sinister moments, I interpret this gesture as a direct attempt to impede our ability to protect our children while they are groomed for unrestricted, life-embedded, and limitless use of Apple devices.

As parents, we want our kids to safely use technology at home and in school. We want to be able to confidently offer the gift of connection to friends and family; while taking advantage of the fun, engaging, and positive things that screens can provide our kids. It is our role as parents to talk, guide, direct, and protect our kids when they are on screens, and I fully understand that we cannot rely on the technology itself to teach healthy self-regulation.

In this quest, however, we continue to be pushed and pressed into a position of helplessness. We have fewer and fewer op-outs and increasingly limited tools. And now it feels like Apple is tying our hands behind our backs.

In my opinion, companies controlling our home and school devices are becoming increasingly complicit in the epidemic of childhood tech-addiction. And companies that disable tools which allow caregivers to limit time and content are increasingly complicit to the decline of the physical and mental health in children users.

As a parent of a young child with a developing and changing mind, I want to allow enjoyment of technology and digital connection within the framework of self-regulation, limit-setting, and home boundaries.

I guess that will have to come with even less help from the Fruit.