Over the past few months I’ve seen more and more interest by teens to jailbreak or Root their phones. For most parents those are foreign terms. However, in reality your son or daughter knows someone that is jailbreaking and rooting their devices. For many technically astute adults, jailbreaking or rooting might expand the true power of their mobile devices. Then again, if you don’t know what you’re doing, that $600 device can easily become a beautiful, sleek and useless brick.
What is Jailbreaking & Rooting?
In simple terms, jailbreaking is the process of removing software restrictions imposed by the phones operating system. In the case of Apple devices — OIS runs on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and second-generation Apple TV.
Jailbreaking use software tools to exploit or override IOS and permits root access to the iOS file system and manager, so that applications, extensions, and themes that are not available through the Apple App Store can be downloaded through other “off-brand” app stores.
The term “rooting” is similar relative to Android devices. You might think of it in terms of your PC or laptop. Essentially, you have total freedom to download software to your PC. In fact you might source software online, or at Best Buy. The manufacturer of your PC has no control over what you load to your PC.
When we’re addressing OSI/Apple devices and Android, that luxury is non-existent. You may only download software from the respective Apple or Android device app stores.
Therein lies the motivation for your child to jailbreak or root a device.
Why Jailbreak or Root A Device
Your son our daughter might want to download a cool app that is not offered by Apple — but can be downloaded from Cydia — the store developed for those that have tempted fate and jailbroke their devices.
However, understand that (in theory) all apps available in the Apple (and Google) app stores have been checked for compliance with each company’s Program License Agreement. There is some degree of security knowing that the app has been somewhat vetted before being offered for sale. That is not the case with Cydia and other off-brand app stores.
That said, Apple fought the practice of jailbreaking as early as 2010 when the practice gained popularity. However in 2010, 2012, and 2015, the U.S. Copyright Office approved exemptions allowing smartphone users to jailbreak their devices.
While this was good news to some, it also created some unintended consequences. For example: some apps cause instability on devices. In others, malware such as KeyRaider infected over 225,000 iphone users in 18 countries.
What Are The Issues?
From a parental perspective there are other issues you must understand if your child attempts to jailbreak or root their phone:
1) Remember, you are the only person that should know the password to your child’s Google Play or Apple App store. Such a practice precludes your child from downloading apps that hide other apps, pictures, videos and messages. However, if they jailbreak their phone, you might not know the apps your child is using
2) Apple or the Andriod device manufacturer could void the warranty of the phone.
3) At times such rooted or jailbroken phones can become “bricked.” In other words, they get stuck in a cycle and become useless… as a brick.
That’s a steep price to pay for the chance to have expanded levels of apps.
How Can I Tell if My Child’s iPhone/Device is Jailbroken?
So how can you determine if your child’s iOS device has been jailbroken? It’s really quite simple.
1. First unlock the device by swiping or entering the password. (You know the password, right?)
2. Now exit all apps and then return to your child’s device home screen by pressing the Home Button… NOTE: depending on the device it’s usually at the bottom of the device.
3. For devices using above IOS iOS 6, you should touch anywhere above the bottom group of icons and slide down. If you’re using iOS 6 and below, you’ll swipe down from the home screen. This retrieves the Spotlight Search screen, and allows you to search apps on the device.
4. Now you simply search for the Cydia app by entering the term Cydia.
If the Cydia app shows up in the Spotlight search, then the device is jailbroken.
If you’ve not heard of Cydia it’s probably because your didn’t jailbreak your device. However, this is where most users of such devices find their non-Apple sanctioned apps. It’s kind of a “street vendor” app store. Or perhaps it’s like buying a Gucci bag in a New York City alley. It looks like Gucci — but it’s not.
Cydia is the most popular primary application used to install third-party apps. If you find this app on your child’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod, his/her device has been jailbroken.
Cydia works somewhat like the App Store, except Cydia can only be installed or used on jailbroken devices and it will install applications which are not officially available.
There are other apps that may show up in a jailbroken Apple device, including: Absinthe, Icy or Installer. So… beware.
What If You Find Your Child Has a Jailbroken?
Assuming that you didn’t agree for them to jailbreak their device, I suggest that you speak with them about why jailbreaking is an issue. I then suggest you update the device to the most recent IOS. Generally, as of this writing, IOS 9.2.1 is considered unbreakable. However, I’m sure there will be jailbreaks available for each new iteration of IOS. At least you’ll have a few months to worry about it.
How Can I Check if My Child’s Android Device is Rooted (The Android Equivalent of Jailbreaking)
What we’ve said about jailbreaking (good and bad) goes for Andoid devices as well. However, the easiest method of discovering whether you child’s Android device is rooted is to download the Root Checker basic app from the Google Play Store. Root Checker will do just that… check to see if the devices has been rooted.
If you discover that the device is rooted and you wish to return it to it’s factory settings, you should also consider doing a reset. However, each iteration of the Android OS is a bit different — as are the devices. You might find this link helpful in resetiing a rooted device.
The reality is that there are good reasons for an adult to jailbreak or root their devices. Yet, there are also shortcomings if you don’t know what you’re doing. I strongly suggest that your children NOT be allowed to use such devices for the three reasons I provided earlier.
If you plan on allowing your child to jailbreak or root their devices, understand that you may also be preventing parental monitoring of your child’s online activity.
Make this decision after carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages.