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Parental Control Apps – the truth about Apple’s crackdown

Apple has been in the news recently for removing a suite of similar apps from its App Store. Primarily, these were apps that limited app usage on an iPhone or iPad, either to police a child’s device or to forcibly cut down the time spent on your own.

There’s been a back and forth on the issue over the past few days, with a New York Times report alleging that Apple is targeting these apps to destroy the competition for its own Screen Time utility, introduced last year with iOS 12. It’s also suggested that Apple doesn’t like these apps because they encourage users to spend less time with their devices.

“The screen-time app makers are the latest companies to suddenly find themselves both competing against Apple and at the mercy of the tech titan. By controlling the iPhone App Store, where companies find some of their most lucrative customers, Apple has unusual power over the fortunes of other corporations.”

Apple has responded with a formal press release explaining its reasoning, and it paints an entirely different story. The statement says that it closed down a series of apps using a “highly invasive technology” called Mobile Device Management, and gave offending apps 30 days warning to rectify their apps from a privacy standpoint.

“Apple has always believed that parents should have tools to manage their children’s device usage. It’s the reason we created, and continue to develop, Screen Time. Other apps in the App Store, including Balance Screen Time by Moment Health and Verizon Smart Family, give parents the power to balance the benefits of technology with other activities that help young minds learn and grow. We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk.”

If you read between the lines, the truth – as ever – seems to lie somewhere in between the two stories. We believe Apple’s spokespeople when they say the company isn’t trying to keep users glued to their screens 24/7. But we also sympathize with the more legitimate parental control apps that may have been unfairly hit by Apple’s overzealous App Store review team.

In the wake of this story, we fully expect to see many of these apps return to the App Store, perhaps slightly changed to better support Apple’s privacy concerns.