For the past three years, Lance Walker has been locked in a cat-and-mouse game with his 11-year-old daughter for control over her iPhone and iPad.
Initially he considered TikTok a harmless distraction, which Peyton used for watching dance videos. When he discovered she was receiving messages from adult men she didn’t know after posting public videos of herself doing silly poses, he quickly went into
parental-control settings to block access to the app. Peyton countered by using a different Apple ID to download new apps including TikTok.
When he tried to delete the Apple ID, she changed the password to block his access to the account. It continued like that for months—his daughter thwarted every attempt by Mr. Walker, a 43-year-old real-estate broker in Johnstown, Colo., to block certain apps through Apple’s Screen Time controls.
“It was a nightmare,” Mr. Walker said. He said he and his wife are still working on a reliable way to keep Peyton off TikTok.
Google, the two main software providers for smartphones, have touted parental controls as a way for parents to keep tabs on their children’s technology use. But tech-savvy children, whose online time skyrocketed during the pandemic, are finding ways to circumvent the controls meant to protect them.
Parents say the controls aren’t simple enough and there are too many loopholes. Individual apps like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok also have their own controls, adding to the complexity of managing children’s online activity. Parents can pay for additional parental-control services such as Bark, which can monitor kids’ activities on certain apps, and Circle, which can filter access to apps and place time restrictions—but even those have…