Domenica asked: “I got my two girls iPhones for Christmas. One is 14 and one is 11. I find that they are on it constantly. Is there an app I can use to turn off the data or control how much time they are using on it?”
Domenica, mobile data usage is a tough thing to control. You’re not going to find an app that lets you block their data remotely.
If you don’t mind taking their phones from them you can use parental controls to disable their cellular data altogether, which would allow you to enforce whatever internet rules you want on their internet usage by managing their access to your own Wi-Fi.
The problem is that you will have to disable and enable their cellular data manually each time on each device, so sooner or later you will forget to turn it back on, or they’ll try to keep you from taking the phone to turn it off… it’s not the easiest solution long term.
Some companies are working on ways to manage data remotely, but it’s going to be hard for you to find a way to do it that they can’t bypass, what an app can do is limited and there are only so many ways to get around that, and they’ll learn to get around those blocks pretty quickly.
Check with whoever is providing you with data service on those phones, there is a chance that you may be able to set limits on those accounts or disable the data online. If you can do that, you can just log on, turn off their service and logout. As long as they don’t know your password, there’s not much they can do about that.
One question we should ask, though, is how important is it for your daughters to have access to cellular data when they are away from home?
You can turn off cellular data on each iPhone, then turn ON parental restrictions and block the ability to make changes to that cellular data option without knowing your 4-digit PIN code for parental restrictions (a separate 4-digit PIN from the one you use to unlock the iPhone).
You do need to recognize, however, that this means they won’t have access to Internet data when they are not in a Wi-Fi hotspot. They can still send and receive texts (although as plain text messages, not iMessage), and they can still make or receive phone calls, but they couldn’t read or send email, or use FaceTime, etc. If that’s okay, then you have this as an option, but be prepared for the inconveniences that can come with it.
At home, you can look for a wireless router or access point that offers parental control settings. Almost ALL of them do. The ones from Netgear and Linksys seem easy enough to configure. Comcast even has them built in to their wireless gateways.
And the upcoming Luma Surround Wireless Router claims to offer the simplest parental controls you can find. It looks good on paper, especially how the multiple access points can communicate with each other for signal strength issues, but it’s not a shipping product yet so we can’t be sure how the final version will look.
So you have choices. It’s just a matter of living with them. We hope this helps you make a choice.