I’ve had a lot of family and friends ask me how we manage our kids’ cell phones. I think we have a pretty good system down so I thought I’d do a brief write-up and share.
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I love this app/ service. It allows us to control the times a day any downloaded app is available on their phone without any real-time intervention. For example, on the weekend in our household, there is no screen time from Noon to 5:00 PM and then again after 7:00 PM. ParentKit allows me to set the schedule with these access parameters. At Noon, the apps “disappear” and don’t reappear until 5:00 PM.
Other features include our ability to replicate the Settings > General > Restrictions remotely which is more a convenience than anything else. You can get the same thing on the phone directly and lock it down.
Price is $39.99 per year to remotely manage as many devices as you need to. I believe it’s iOS only.
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In our household, we stress that nothing online is private. If you want to have a private conversation you must do so in person. And, all our kids know that we see everything. We do this with uKnowKids.
This service allows us to monitor all text messages, phone calls (what numbers are they calling or receiving calls from), photos sent and received, and social media. Social media accounts aren’t allowed until they hit high school so for now we don’t have to deal with that.
It’s easy to hover and pry with this service. We try not to. But on occasion, we check the online dashboard to see what is going on. If they’re having trouble with friends, its usually playing out on some level through the phones and this gives us a point of view they might not otherwise be able to provide us directly.
One thing I love about this service is the alert system they use. I can ignore it and if something rough is going on, I’ll get pro-active text messages from the service letting me know something is up. They’ve identified a larger number of phrases that trigger a text message to me. So if someone is harassing my kids with texts I’ll know. Last summer a bunch of my son’s friends were planning a water gun fight. And as they were texting which guns they were going to use my phone lit up. Perfect.
The service works by pulling in the iCloud back-up feed so you must make sure their phones are set to back up automatically nightly. After using it for a few months I went ahead and signed up for the one-time, lifetime fee of $240 for everyone’s phones. If you’re going to go this route sign up for the “Premier Plus Apple” package.
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OpenDNS is a free service that filters adult content at the WiFi router. This is easily bypassed if the kids turn off the WiFi on their phones and use the cellular connection to search the web. But in the meantime, when they are going online to search for how much baseballs cost at Dick’s Sporting Goods they’re not going to get an unexpected eye full.
I like that you can customize the filtering without having to select individual sites. For example, I can filter on any sights related to Pornography but not Lingerie/ Bikini.
It’s free. You may find a little bit of homework is needed to set things up as it’s not the most user friendly. Highly worth the effort in my opinion.
So there you have it. That’s what we do to lock things down. I’ve been looking at a product called “Circle” (meetcircle.com) that seems to address several of the things above in a single application. I’ll post an update to this post if we end up installing it on our household.