Parent Monitoring Tools for Android & iOS michelle Kelley, teacher librarian

Apple or iOS?

If you are deciding between the two devices and want to consider your parental control options, there are two things to know. 1) Apple products (iPhones, iPads, iPods) come with some basic free built in parental restriction options. Androids don't. BUT 2) Google allows the parental control apps you can add to your Android devices to have much more control over specific apps. There are some important functions that parental control apps can do on Android devices that they can't do on Apple.

Instructions for setting Parent Restrictions on iPads, iPhones, and iPods.

A good explanation of why parental control apps have less functionality on iOS devices.

Tips: When a parental control app advertises its features, do realize that while all the features might be possible on Android devices, there are likely fewer of those features that will work for iOS. See the link above for more discussion on that. Locate and read the descriptions of features for iOS carefully. Call or email the support contact info for the company to ask questions before you buy. Most apps come with free trials. Test the app out first before making any purchase. Read user reviews from the iTunes store to hear what other users have to say.

While your Android device may not come with free parental restriction options, you are in luck that there are many parental control apps available, and you will have greater control options on your Android device.

ready to pick an app?

There are many of them out there. MMGuardian, Netsanity, OurPact, Mobicip, SecureTeen, Norton Family, Qustodio, Net Nanny, and others. Take some time to read reviews like those from Tom's Guide or Tech Advisor or other sources. Make a list of features those apps offer that you want.

Next, take a look at user reviews in the Google Play (Android) or iTunes (Apple) store. Hear what parents who use the app like or dislike about it. Keep in mind kids often review these, so don't be discouraged by lower star ratings. When you read the comments, it will be easy to spot the kid reviews. They'll be one star with comments like, "This app ruined my life!"

Look for YouTube videos of the products, so you get more of a feel of what the interface looks like. Visit the product websites, and don't be afraid to email the company your questions. I've found most to be really good about answering emails.

Be very careful about comparing features. Two different apps may say they have time restrictions. One might only allow you to lock the entire phone at a certain time while another might give you that option plus the ability to block times for specific apps. That's a big difference in functionality.

Sample Parent App MMGUARDIAN

MMGuardian just happens to be the app I use on my children's smartphones. I'm including it as an example of the kinds of parental control features available. Again, there are many apps out there and some possibly even better than this one, especially as apps continue to update. Take some time to find one that's right for you.

Android Features (Phones / Tablets): MMGuardian filtered web browser which you can fully customize. Block/allow what you want. Block new apps or just get alerted when your child installs a new app. Set time limits by app i.e. an app time allowance (for example, you can allow only 30 minutes a day for a specific app). Set times of the day when an app is disabled (ex. bedtime). Lock the entire phone (with time options). Block calls. Review call logs. Review web browsing history. Get inappropriate text alerts. Read actual text messages. Track your child's location. Lock the phone when driving (to prevent distracted driving). And it comes with many device usage reports. Once you install the app on your child's phone, there is no need to touch their phone again except to perform periodic updates. You can control most features from your own phone (no need to take your child's phone away to change a setting or lock it down), and you get full control by accessing the parent portal online.

iOS (iPhone/iPad) Features: MMGuardian filtered web browser. Set times when downloaded apps are disabled (you cannot control any app that comes preinstalled on the device by Apple). Disable the app store. Disable the iTues store or set age based ratings for iTunes content. Disable the camera. Disable FaceTime. Block multiplayer games. Review web browsing history. Lock and wipe the device if it's stolen. You cannot monitor app usage, calls, or text messages on the iPhone.


Michelle Kelley, Teacher Librarian

Chico Unified School District

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