Screen time is broken

Last month, I wrote about two features that I felt were missing from Apple Screen Time parental controls. In hindsight, I should have written about how screen time is disrupted. I thought the next software update would fix the situation.

The first problem is that the screen time settings just reset from time to time. Last year, Apple acknowledged the problem in a statement to the Wall Street Journal:

“We know some users may be experiencing an issue with unexpected factory resets. Screen time,” said an Apple spokeswoman. “We take these reports very seriously and will and will continue to make updates to improve the situation.”

Then last night, Matthew Panzarino (formerly of TechCrunch, now breaking new ground) on Tiptop .com and The Obsessor) publications in topics:

Screen time limits and parental controls in iOS are still completely broken. It turns off randomly and you realize after hours or days they haven't been active. I have pretty granular settings for the time, allowed apps, and account permissions for each of my kids, and they just randomly get confused a few times a week. It's incredibly frustrating. If you are working on this feature, please fix it! This is a great tool, vital in modern parenting!

My answer in the topics:

I am convinced that whoever was in charge of policing screen time to begin with has since sent his kids off to college.

Putting screen time requests in messages violated viewing approval. A Mac app simply eats up RAM if you try to approve a request or, say, communicate with a child after a request […]

And this is really a problem for me. Screen time notifications used to be system notifications. They're now built into your iMessage conversation with every child. A smart place for this, but it's been half-baked for over a year.

Screen Time requests are still coming to Apple Watch with actionable notifications, but they're silently failing. No error message. It's just your child asking if you approved his request after several minutes of him seeming to approve the request. I don't think they work at all in the Messages app on the watch.

Best comment from Mr_Cruisin

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The problem I'm having with Screen Time is that not all of my devices are syncing correctly. Each device shows the different devices from which it receives SC data. Tried troubleshooting many times, but nothing helps. It's no use to me.

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Meanwhile, you'll probably want the 192GB RAM option in Mac Studio. Sometimes you can approve a Screen Time request on a Mac. Typically, Messages will just eat up your RAM until you force close the app. Want to send your child a message after a recent screen time request? The memory problem returns even if the request was approved.

This leaves the iPhone as the most reliable place to accept or reject requests for new app downloads and extra time. Over the past few weeks, app approval for iPhone downloads has simply stopped working. Workaround for me? Use a Mac.

I can list other things that don't work here. 9to5Mac reader Benjamin G. confirmed earlier this month that I'm not hallucinating:

[…] For a large number of people, screen time controls have been significantly disrupted users for over a year (since Apple moved the request/approval feature to Messages instead of push notifications).

There are three widespread problems – approvals on the watch no longer work (press the “Approve” button on the watch ). notification and nothing happens), and requests cause the Messages app to freeze/crash on MacOS (seems to be an issue with the “asktomessagesextension”), requests do not show up in Screen Time settings on MacOS.

In short, requests/approvals work from the phone/iPad, but nowhere else. About 18 months have passed. It's disappointing that Apple invests so little in its most loyal customers – those who buy Apple devices for their children! Our household of 4 has the following active devices: 3 phones, 3 iPads, 1 iPod Touch, two MacBook Airs, three clocks. And I've been trying to get Apple to fix this bug for over a year now.

At least we parents are in this together. The support group meets at 6 o'clock on Thursdays.

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