The parental-controls market is a large and open-ended one: Some specialize in blocking pornography and other inappropriate content, others claim to monitor social media for cyberbullying. Under pressure from parents and shareholders , as well as a digital-addiction awareness movement among Silicon Valley movers and shakers , both Google and Apple have recently rolled out free parental controls. Apple, for its part, has said that it began developing Screen Time before the letter from shareholders. Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at Common Sense Media, recommends that parents start with the least invasive controls.
Though parents naturally have the urge to keep their kids safe, they also have to give their kids room to make mistakes and figure things out on their own. Some experts also warn that heavy surveillance could undermine your relationship with your child. Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life , suggests thinking of parental controls as scaffolding that can help kids develop self-control so that they can eventually manage how they use their phone on their own.
These devices have been recommended by the organization Wait Until 8th as a beginner step to owning a cell phone, and we plan to review them in a future guide. But we expect that as parents upgrade to new phones, they will be inclined to pass down their old ones. Based on our research and interviews with experts, we determined that parental controls need to include three key features:. To determine our finalists, we surveyed parents and studied recent reviews and reports on parental controls.
We narrowed the list down to:. I used an iPhone X as the parent phone. We spent about 30 hours installing and examining the parental controls one at a time. We set daily caps and bedtime schedules on the phones, and handed them over to our kids to see if they worked. We also spent time looking at how the parental controls managed Web searches, text messaging, phone calls, location tracking, and the ability to download or delete apps. We did not test on an Android tablet because our preferred budget alternative to the iPad is the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition , which has good built-in parental controls.
As with other parental controls, Screen Time lets parents set a daily limit on the amount of time their child can spend on their iPhone, as well as automatically shut the phone down at bedtime.
The 10 Best Parental Control Apps of
But unlike third-party iOS apps like Qustodio and unGlue for the iPhone, Screen Time provides parents with a deeper look at how their child is using their device, by showing how much time their child spends on social networking or entertainment apps. Compared with third-party apps, Screen Time also gives parents the most flexibility to manage how much time their child spends on certain kinds of apps; for instance, parents can allow their child to read ebooks for as long as they want, block all games, and limit social networking to an hour a day.
Screen Time displays a stacked bar chart left that shows how much time has been spent on specific app categories. With Apple Screen Time, you can set time limits for usage by app category left as well as content or ratings restrictions right. Screen Time allows you to set time limits by increments as small as 1 minute left as well as by day, and also to schedule what the company calls Downtime, a period when most phone functionality can be disabled right. Screen Time groups apps into nine categories, including entertainment, games, social networking, education, and productivity.
Once their child reaches the limit, the apps are blocked and the child must request additional time from the parent. In addition, parents can limit how much time their child spends on individual apps each day. Phone calls can still be made during Downtime, and the clock can also still be accessed. Parents can also track their own screen habits Screen Time is automatically included in iOS 12; you can turn it off if you prefer not to track your personal iPhone use.
This feature can be a starting point for parents to talk to their kids about how best to use their phone—and when to put it down. Inside Screen Time, parents can also manage the content that their child can access. For instance, they can prevent the child from downloading new apps or making in-app purchases, or allow it. They can also block the child from adult websites, as well as set age restrictions for content from music, videos, and books.
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Chen concluded in his review. Screen Time has plenty of room to improve. Geoffrey A. Fowler, a columnist for The Washington Post, complained that this was just one of too many decisions that a parent must make with this new feature of iOS Although apps like Qustodio provide guidance during installation, with Screen Time, you have to look up any kind of instruction.
Finding certain information—like how specific apps are categorized—involves too many clicks. Parents must go in and manually change the restrictions if they want them to be more age appropriate. Also note that the filters apply only to the Safari browser and iTunes content. Parents still need to check the content filters on individual apps; for instance, in the Netflix app, parents need to designate that it is for kids only. This is a disappointment because many older iPhones can still be used, including iPhones that are more than five years old.
Finally, kids have already found ways to get around some aspects of Screen Time, such as one child sending YouTube links to himself on iMessage, and watching them after his entertainment time limit was up. Google Family Link is best for families with children under 13 in Android-dedicated households, or for kids who have an Android phone even if their parents use iPhones a not-uncommon situation because budget Android phones are plentiful.
With Google Family Link, parents can limit how much time their child spends on the phone daily and block access to the phone at bedtime. The app also provides weekly and monthly reports on usage. Google Family Link lets you see how much time your kid spends on each app and allows you to block apps. You can also lock and unlock access to the phone with one touch.
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With Google Family Link, parents can set a daily limit for screen time. Parents can also see how much time their child spends on individual apps, and block specific apps. After seeing my kids spend close to an hour on YouTube Kids, for instance, I blocked it, which made the app disappear from the phone. Once I unblocked the app, it reappeared.
Like Qustodio, Google Family Link also allows parents to set a bedtime, automatically shutting down access to the smartphone at the appointed hour.
Feature comparison chart
For many kids, being allowed to use the Messages app on iPhone or iPad is often the first foray into the world of text messaging. Unlike Snapchat or other "self-destructing" messaging apps, many parents feel that the iOS Messages app is a good starting point since, by default, the Messages app does not automatically delete or erase text messages.
Apple's Messages app is also the messaging format that most parents are familiar with and use themselves on a daily basis. As most parents know, Apple's Messages app allows iOS users to send and receive both regular text messages and iMessages. Messages sent and received in "blue chat bubble" format are iMessages where as messages sent and received with "green chat bubble" formatting are regular text messages. Messages app features include the ability to send photos and videos as well as the option to initiate group text message conversations.
Apple's Messages app comes default with every iOS device and there is no way to delete the application from the device. The Messages app can also be installed and used on a Mac computer, however today's focus is related the Messages app and its use on both iPhone and iPad.
When a child or teen uses uses their iPhone or iPad to send and receive text messages, it can be a challenging task at first for parents to decide on an appropriate and sensitive way to monitor the messages that their kid sends and receives. Many parents simply ask their child for their device and the parent then scrolls through multiple contacts and messages while their child waits for them to hand the device back. If there are a lot of messages on the device, this can take a large amount of time, making the process hurried, awkward, and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
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To avoid this scenario and also to prevent putting their child on the spot, one solution widely used by many parents for monitoring text messages is Decipher TextMessage. The desktop software provides any parent with an unobtrusive way of exporting and managing their child's text messages all from the familiar and convenient setting of their own desktop or laptop computer. Download Decipher Text Message. Here's an example of how Decipher TextMessage formats and presents the text message data in the program.
Benefits of using Decipher TextMessage to monitor and read your child's iPhone text messages include:. After backing up the device via iTunes , running Decipher TextMessage will read in all of the text messages and save them on the guardian's computer. Privacy - All the iPhone text message data saved within Decipher TextMessage is private and local to the computer where the software is installed. The parent is in complete control of the exported text message data and nothing is ever stored online or in the cloud.
Ease of Use - Each time the parent backs up their child's iPhone or iPad and runs Decipher TextMessage, the most recent text message history is imported and added on to the existing data that is already saved in the software.
Furthermore, after backing up the phone, the device can immediately be returned to their child. With the text messages imported and saved in Decipher TextMessage, their no need to scroll through data on the device itself while the child waits for the parent to give them their phone back. A parent can choose to review the text messages at their own leisure. Text messages sent and received via the Messages app remain on the phone indefinitely unless the user chooses to manually delete them or sets up automatic message deletion.
For many parents, part of the understanding when giving the child the freedom to send and receive iPhone text messages, is the agreement that the child will not delete any messages off their device. In cases where the parent suspects that their child is regularly deleting iPhone text messages, Decipher TextMessage offers the ability to recover whatever deleted text messages are left over in the iTunes backup and that have not been fully overwritten by Apple's iOS.
View call logs and set alerts to be instantly notified when your child is being contacted by people you are not comfortable with. Set up an approved list of contacts. Be alerted on any unapproved communication. Learn More. Receive Alerts when your child attempts to access a blocked site. Your child will still be allowed to make calls to designated numbers.
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