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Ask Titania

Why Exactly Are iPhones So Unsafe for Kids?

Titania Jordan  |  January 12, 2024

Dear Titania,

We’re an Apple family through and through, but I’ve been hearing about how iPhones are unsafe for young kids. I wanted to know exactly why — they have a built-in app called Screen Time, right? What do I need to know about iPhone safety before I think about getting my son one?


Wondering and Wary of iPhones

Dear Wondering and Wary of iPhones,

Welcome to one of the defining feuds of our age! iPhones are wildly popular with both parents and kids alike, and Apple families usually have a whole ecosystem of iPads, AirPods, iPhones, watches, HomePods, and AppleTVs that populate their homes. 

I totally get it, as I’m an Apple person myself! But when it comes to phones for kids — especially first phones for children — iPhones just don’t make the grade. The interesting thing is that many parents think they do, but this is because Apple has done the absolute bare minimum with their Family Sharing and Screen Time apps. They’re stopgaps, not painstakingly thought-out programs that actually address all of the different needs that digital parents both need and deserve.

iPhones Are Built for Adults and Privacy, Not Growing Kids

One of the main things that Apple touts about itself is that the company is dedicated to privacy. That’s great for adults concerned with overreaching tech companies that sell personal data. However, it’s not so great for parents trying to protect their children online. These privacy restraints greatly affect the way iPhones work with third-party parental control apps. 

This means that parents could be missing out on important information about their children’s online activities, like whether they’re suicidal, talking to predators, or viewing harmful content online. This isn’t to say that kids don’t deserve some privacy, but as they’re growing up and figuring out what’s safe and what isn’t, they need supervision and guidance from their parents. Apple doesn’t allow for this.

Screen Time Is a Stop-Gap Solution & Notoriously Buggy

“But wait! Apple has their own parental control app,” people may say. This is technically true, but relying on Screen Time to protect your child on their iPhone is like giving them half a bike helmet — one quick lapse in judgment online and something horrible could happen.

Every day in Parenting in a Tech World, our Facebook group for digital families, we see parents asking questions about why Screen Time isn’t working and how their kids are managing to get around the settings they’ve put in place. Apple themselves even acknowledges their bugs from time to time instead of just instantly fixing the issues.

Lockable Browsers, Are You Kidding?

Just another example of how iPhones are a bad idea for kids. We talked about their commitment to privacy earlier, but the company keeps rolling out more and more features that really double down on this privacy thing. 

With a recent update, users can now create their private browsing windows that are protect with FaceID, which means that no one — not even a parent — can get access to what their child’s been looking at online. This is basically like giving kids their very own Apple-sanctioned vault app, which are like the fake calculator apps children download to hide other apps or content. 

Apple’s Commitment to a Safer Environment Is Woeful

In 2021 Apple discussed launching a feature that would detect, report, and remove instances of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) found on its devices to the proper authorities. A year later, the company walked this decision back, once again leaning back on its privacy mission. There are a few things on this planet that we can all agree are evil, and CSAM is one of them. The fact that Apple had the chance to make its devices safer and decided not to is objectionable.

The Bark Phone Is Your Best Option, Hands Down

I know, I know — I work at Bark. But the Bark Phone *is* the best option for families. I wouldn’t be dedicating my professional life to helping parents if we didn’t offer the safest product out there. (Also, TIME agrees with me!) Before Bark made phones, we made an app that changed the way parents monitor their children’s online activities. 

When we had the chance to design a phone from the ground up, we were able to add in all of the functions we — and families all over — wished existed. Let me explain why the Bark Phone smashes the competition, and especially iPhones:

Actual parents designed it using actual feedback from families

Every feature on the Bark Phone is intended to help protect kids and give parents greater control over their child’s online world. And we continue to talk to parents and implement new features, making the Bark Phone an evolving piece of technology that continues to speak to the needs of families.

It’s tamper-proof for even the savviest kids

Kids pride themselves on getting around Apple’s Screen Time, and often the first thing they figure out is that they can simply change their device’s time zone — it’s that easy. With the Bark Phone, these sorts of things don’t happen because you control everything, from whether they can even access the settings app to who they can text. 

Our alerts help save lives every day

The Bark Phone comes with our award-winning monitoring built right into the device, so it can’t be removed, and it automatically monitors texts and many apps. This allows for more seamless detection of potential issues, including time-sensitive ones that could save a child’s life.

The Bark Phone is 100% customizable 

Every family uses the Bark Phone differently, because no two families have the same needs and kids. Some opt for our no-internet, no-app plan, while others allow just a few vetted apps. And for older kids, they may take a more hands off approach but still check alerts for any potential issues.

Kids can’t delete texts without permission

This seems like such a simple thing, but it’s so important for parents to be able to sense check sent and received messages. Otherwise, kids could use texts as essentially Snapchat.

Remember, iPhones Will Always Be There

I know that kids are wild about iPhones, and that coveted blue text bubble can be a status symbol. But your kid only gets one childhood, and it's important to help keep them as safe as possible while teaching them how to use technology. 

During this crucial time when they're younger, the absolute best thing you can do is provide them with safer tech. When they’re an older teen, iPhones will still be there. And when they become an adult, they can use Apple products for their entire life. But for right now, you and your kid deserve greater safety and peace of mind.

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

mother and daughter discussing Bark Parental Controls