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How To Effectively Block Apps on Smartphones

Learn about how to block apps on the different smartphones, such as iPhone and Android.

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Tech Lockdown Team
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Updated April 16, 2024

If you've ever tried to block an app on your smartphone, then you'll know how confusing it can be to find methods that actually work. Most of the advice you can find online recommends screen time or parental controls, but unfortunately, they simply have too many limitations. There are better ways to block apps that are more effective than what's possible with either parental controls or screen time.

Screen time apps or settings are designed for productivity. Parental Controls are designed for families. It makes sense that they don't work if you're trying to self-manage:

  1. You will often need to create multiple accounts if you want to use parental controls to block apps completely.
  2. You can use App Limits to set a very low time limit for apps, but this doesn't block the app completely
  3. You can easily disable your own restrictions.

At Tech Lockdown, we are focused on finding ways to properly restrict technology. These are the methods that we've tested that actually work to block apps on smartphones.

Blocking an App Depends on Your Smartphone

The process of blocking apps varies significantly between iPhone and Android smartphones. As a result, this article will only cover the general topics that work between both smartphone types.

That's why we've made separate guides that go into much more detail for both iPhone and Android smartphones. So, if find this 

Blocking Apps on iPhone can be a bit complicated. The easiest way is to use Screen Time settings, but this isn't the most effective (nor the only) option.

Blocking Apps on Android smartphones is a bit easier. Android is more customizable (and less proprietary) than iPhone, so AppLocker apps tend to be easier to install. However, there are more ways to block apps.

Block an App Using Parental Controls

Later on, we'll go over better ways to block apps, but let's start with the built-in features you can use on both iPhone and Android phones. 

Most smartphones have some kind of screen time feature built in as part of their Settings. Unfortunately, the most you can usually do is set an App limit, but you might be able to prevent apps from being installed in the first place. 

On iPhones, you can use Screen Time to prevent new apps from being installed on the smartphone. This is not the same as blocking an app, but it can work for some people.

You can then lock your Screen Time settings behind a PIN. We strongly recommend using a second Apple ID to prevent changing your Passcode using the forgot PIN feature.

Android smartphones use Digital Wellbeing settings to set app limits. When compared to iPhone Screen Time, Digital Wellbeing is less focused on blocking content, and more on productivity. As a result, the most you can usually do is set an App limit or enable parental controls on Android .

Using Parental Controls or Screen Time features aren't your only options, however. There are much better ways to block apps.

Block an App with a DNS Filter

If you're trying to block an app, then one of the most effective ways to do this is with DNS Filtering. DNS Filters lets you prevent apps from functioning at all, and have some notable advantages over relying on parental controls alone:

  1. Block both the app and web versions of social media apps.
  2. DNS Filtering can be installed either on your smartphone device or your home router. This means that the rules you set can apply to all devices on your home's Wi-Fi even without an app.
  3. Some DNS filters offer the option to schedule when social media is blocked. 

While DNS filtering is great by itself, we recommend combing it with normal screen time or parental control features for the best results. The first step is to install one and create your own DNS Content Policy to start blocking apps.

Install DNS Filtering on your smartphone

Most DNS filters have an app that allows you to enable filtering on your smartphone. Once you've successfully installed the app , you can create your own content policy to start blocking apps:

Tech Lockdown provides a powerful DNS Filter - one that allows you to create your own DNS Content Policy.

Prevent DNS Filtering from Being Uninstalled on Your Smartphone

The next important step is to make sure that filtering can't be uninstalled or disabled. Screen time or parental controls can be a great way to do this, however, we'll also walk you through a more effective option later.

It will depend on which kind of smartphone you have. Android users can use Digital Wellbeing and Parental controls to enforce apps with Family Link.

We typically don't recommend relying on Family Link alone, since it usually involves setting multiple accounts if your self-managing.

If you have an iPhone, then you can use screen time to prevent apps from being uninstalled. This setting can be found under Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > iTunes & App Store Purchases.

We recommend setting Installing Apps and Deleting Apps to Don't Allow. The only downside with this approach is doing this disables the App Store on your iPhone, which pauses app updates.

If you want to enable more effective ways to block apps, we instead consider managed mode for your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Set a Schedule for When You Can Use Apps

If you don't want to block an app always, you can use your DNS Content Policy to Schedule your app usage and prevent you from accessing social media during nighttime.

You can also choose to block specific apps:

Apply Different Rules for Each Person at Your House

Each person might need slightly different settings. You can create rules that apply  for each member of your household so that each person's schedule is taken into account:

Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Create and enforce a Content Policy on all your devices.

Enable Managed Mode on Your Smartphone

Relying on parental controls or screen time alone isn't the best option if you want to block apps. Especially if you're trying to self-manage, it's very easy to disable your own settings or run into a few issues:

  1. Using an App Limit to block an app requires that the app is already installed on your smartphone. This might an option for you if you are wanting to block a default app (like the App Store), but the lowest most App Limits will let you set as a time limit is 1 minute per day.
  2. You might be able to stop new apps from being installed, but this usually comes with a few problems. On iPhones, disabling the App Store prevents currently installed apps from being updated correctly. For Android, you have to create multiple accounts in order to enable Family Link correctly.

If you're looking for the best way to block apps, then you need to enable managed mode on your smartphone.

Managed Mode (also known as Device Management) lets you enforce full control over your smartphone. It uses something called a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) to enforce a profile onto your device. Managed devices can change all kinds of settings that are normally impossible to change on a smartphone, such as the ability to:

  • Remotely install or delete apps.
  • Create a custom App blocklist.
  • Enforce a Content Filter.
  • Hide default apps (like Settings or the App Store) with Kiosk mode.

Add an App to Your Blocklist

If you want to block an app, you can add it to something called the App Blocklist:

Not only will this prevent the app from being installed on your smartphone, but it can also be used to remotely uninstall that app if it's already installed on your smartphone.

Remotely Install and Prevent Uninstalling Filtering Apps

You also unlock the ability to remotely install apps. These apps can be enforced so that it's impossible to disable, which is why we recommend combining Managed Mode with DNS filtering. You can enforce the filtering app so that it's impossible to uninstall.

Disable Default Apps and Prevent Changes to Settings

You also get the option to block apps that are normal impossible to fully disable, such as the Settings app. This can be done by using the Kiosk feature:

Manage Your Smartphone to Go Beyond Basic Blocking

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that parental controls and screen time aren't enough if you want to prevent a DNS filtering app from being uninstalled. 

If you want to enable the best possible way to always enforce your DNS Content Policy, then enabling managed mode on your smartphone is the best possible way to do this. You won't have to rely on parental controls, which are relatively easy to disable (especially if you're self-managing). 

Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Go further with blocking content and preventing bypass on iPhone and Android smartphones.

Tech Lockdown members get access to our premium, step-by-step guides that walk you through the process of managing your smartphones. These guides explain how to set up your devices so that you can fully control all apsects of your smartphone.