Letter to Senator Amy Klobuchar on Apple’s Screen Time failures

I wrote a few weeks ago that iOS 12 Screen Time bugs blocked book work. Today I returned to the fight and this time I found more reports on Apple Support and on Twitter. In one case a very tech savvy user fought their way up the tier of Apple phone support before they were dropped.

Maybe Apple will fix this is in iOS 13 — but I’ve not seen reports of any fixes. My guess is their original design needs to be redone. That’s expensive, and by and large the media and politicians have moved on. They may assume that Apple actually did provided an effective solution rather than an effective description.

That’s why I wrote this letter to the Senior Senator for Minnesota. Please consider writing a similar letter to your Representative or Senator.

Dear Senator Klobuchar,

I’m writing as a parent, a healthcare provider, and as someone with a special interest in using smartphone technology to enhance the independence of special needs children, teens and adults.

I’d like you and your staff to be aware that Apple is not living up to its promises to provide “Screen Time” tools to manage how smartphones are used and abused by vulnerable persons. The tools they provided in iOS 12 last year look good in demonstrations, but they have serious bugs. In testing I’ve done as part of a book project (smartphones for special needs independence – www.sphone4all.com) I’ve seen Screen Time simply stop working. I’ve seen this happen with non-test devices too. There are unanswered reports on this in Apple Support. Twitter has reports of users pursuing this high in Apple Support without a response.

There are many more things we need Apple to do beyond fixing their existing product. They should open the API to 3rd party products that can better serve vulnerable users of all ages. They need to redo some poor design decisions. But first they have to produce a working product.

I’m hoping that Congress won’t be fooled by Apple’s marketing. They have strong incentives to not provide a working solution that reduces device misuse. We will need to hold their feet to the fire for years to come. Thank you for your help with this!