Blocking data access on an iPhone

Q: My grandson just betrayed my trust. I want to turn off his data and texting so that he can’t turn it back on, but because we have a shared plan the phone company cannot turn off for just his iPhone. Can this be done?

– Pete

A: Unfortunately, the only realistic option here is to block these features at the carrier level, and if your carrier is unwilling or unable to do this for a shared account you may need to consider other options on the carrier side.

Removing the iPhone SIM card is another option, but of course that also removes the ability to make normal voice calls.

The iPhone does provide the option to turn off the Cellular Data and Wi-Fi features, but there is no way to lock these down to prevent them from being re-enabled. Further, the ability to send and receive text messages cannot be disabled at all; you can turn off Apple’s iMessage service, but all this will do is revert to using standard text messages to communicate instead.

Note that if you haven’t done so already, it may be worth speaking with your cellular carrier’s technical support department, rather than simply the customer service agents. Some carriers can “block” certain services and features from being used even if they can’t be “removed” from the account. In that sense, you’re still paying for the feature, and it will still appear on your bill, but the carrier is able to flip a virtual switch that prevents it from being used on a given device. In fact, in many cases requesting a “block” on a service is what you should do instead of simply removing a service package anyway, as most carriers will simply resort to charging you exorbitant pay-per-use fees if you have no specific data or text messaging plan.

Lastly, keep in mind that even if you can get your carrier to block data and text messages, the iPhone can still be used to access the Internet via any Wi-Fi access point, and Apple’s iMessage service can be used to send and receive text messages from other iPhone and iOS device users over an Internet connection without requiring any carrier involvement.

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