iPhone age restrictions do not hide 17+ apps, just their screenshots

“Tasty Pasties 18+ Amateurs” and “Boob Party” are currently on the Top 25 Free Apps in the Apple App Store. I know this because my 8 year old showed me. But let me back up a little.

I have purchased each generation of iPhone as they came out. When I bought my 3GS, I had two leftover iPhones and two clever young ladies who are equally enamored with technology. I set each of my daughters up with the deactivated iPhones working essentially as big iPod Touches. And they were happy. Ecstatic. I am the coolest Dad ever.

I took the expected precautionary approaches. In Settings: General: Restrictions: I turned off the following:

  • Safari
  • Mail
  • YouTube
  • Location
  • In-App Purchases
  • and at first, Installing Apps (App Store)

Since I would be the one managing any media on the device, I didn’t set any age restrictions on music, movies or apps. Eventually, I turned on the App Store so they could browse and choose an app as a reward for a good grade, helping around the house, etc. Standard parental incentive program.

This wasn’t really a risk at the time, Apple was not allowing apps that weren’t family appropriate. Since then, Apple has opened the flood gates of soft porn (but not Google Voice). Again, I know this because my 8 year old showed me. The app screenshots were the iPhone equivalent of a “Girls Gone Wild” TV commercial. All the naughty bits were covered with black dots, very small black dots. This set me into panic mode. I quickly exited the App Store and began trying to keep this kind of material out of reach.

I’m not a Puritan. I understand the market for these products. I also understand that I am responsible for what my girls have access to. As a responsible parent, I went back into Restrictions and limited apps to 12+. Sweet! That was easy. Thanks Apple!

Relieved at such a simple fix, I went back into the App Store and guiltily typed in “boobs” to see if I had successfully addressed the issue. Nope. There were plenty of apps willing to fill my request. A little disappointed, and still feeling uncomfortable about doing this on my daughter’s iPhone, I went searching for the screenshots. They were gone. I can find the apps, see their icons and read their full description, but the tiny black dots and the ladies underneath were gone. Not what I wanted or expected. I wanted the apps to be completely invisible. No app, no name, no busty icons.

This restriction also caused two more problems. First, it turns out that enabling Restrictions will include the catchall “Unrated”.  Any app that is unrated gets the same treatment as a 17+ app. Second, some apps are given 17+ ratings, not because of age-inappropriate material, but because of the ability of the app developer to push unfiltered content to the app (see example below).

An example: Horse Lover. A natural for my girls. They love horses. Eat, breath, play horses. This app is currently “Unrated”, probably because it fetches a daily photo from somewhere “out there”. That means that you can’t use it if you have ANY age restrictions on the iPhone.

My girls came to me immediately after enabling Restrictions for apps asking why I deleted some of their programs. They wanted all of their apps back. If I turned off restrictions, they would be exposed to the new wave of grownup apps in the store. So, there was only one choice left… the App Store is now turned off. I am no longer the coolest Dad ever. I guess the title wasn’t going to last forever, but it was fun while it lasted.

One Response to “iPhone age restrictions do not hide 17+ apps, just their screenshots”

  1. Mark, Sr. says:

    I was once “Coolest Dad Ever” when allowing internet access, but that title changed, as soon as I added restrictions . . .
    I feel your pain!