A modern parental control system must take into account the fact that modern kids use a variety of devices. The days of the good old family PC in the corner of the den are over. Familoop Safeguard (for Android) absolutely gets this. From its online console you can manage parental control on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android devices.
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Your $39.99 per year subscription lets you install Familoop on three devices. That's not so bad on a Windows or Mac OS device, since the one installation covers all user accounts. If you're sticking with mobile, though, three devices means coverage for no more than three children. Mobicip (for Android) gives you five device licenses for the same price. Norton Family Parental Control (for Android) costs $10 more but doesn't put any limits on the number of children or devices. If you really want to protect more devices, you can get a 10-license subscription to Familoop for $69.99 per year.
This review focuses on the Android edition, but of course you can use your licenses on any platform you like. Read my review of the full Familoop Safeguard first, to get all the details. I'll just summarize here. For testing, I used a Nexus 9.
As with Net Nanny (for Android), Qustodio Parental Control (for Android), Norton Family Parental Control (for Android), and other modern parental control systems, Familoop's configuration and reporting takes place entirely online. To get started, you sign up for an account. Configure profiles for your children, match those profiles to devices, and you're ready to go.
Familoop's content filter defines over 30 basic categories; a click reveals the full collection of almost 80. Attempts to access Unsafe (red) categories are blocked; Iffy (yellow) categories are allowed but reported to parents, and Safe (green) categories are simply allowed. Under Windows, the content filter only works for certain browsers. On Android (and iOS) devices, it properly filters all Web traffic.
It's worth noting that the unusual Circle with Disney gadget also filters all Web traffic, but not because it managed to remote control the iPad. Rather, it filters all Web traffic for every device on the network.
There's no time-scheduling feature like what you get with Mobicip, Norton, and others. However, from the online console parents can view the child's screen time and, if it seems appropriate, click a button to put the child's devices in timeout mode. This feature works better on Android than on Windows (where it's only partially effective) and iOS (where it's currently not working correctly).
Familoop keeps track of your child's location using GPS when available, Wi-Fi triangulation when not. A geofencing feature lets parents get notification when the child enters or leaves a defined area. Geofencing worked well in my testing, sending me an email when the Nexus 9 left my safe neighborhood geofence and again when it entered what I'd defined as a dangerous area.
The online console offers rafts of information about each child's activity, nicely organized. Websites blocked, websites visited, searches, contacts, photos snapped, videos watched, and so on. It reports total time spent using devices and also offers a breakdown of time spent on specific activities such as games and surfing the Web.
Familoop attempts to capture social media activity and instant messaging, but in testing I found this feature lacking. It did catch Twitter and YouTube activity, but missed Facebook, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger. The Android edition doesn't attempt to capture these types of communication, But it does track calls and texts, unlike Familoop Safeguard (for iPhone). The ability to block unwanted contacts is planned for a future version.
When you install the app, the first screen you see is the message, "Hello, dear parent! Welcome to Familoop Safeguard," followed by a few slides explaining the program. The same is true on an iOS installation, but the slides are interspersed with requests to access location, contacts, photos, and so on. On Android, you've already given those permissions.
Next, you must log in and link the device to a child's profile. You can create a new profile at this point, if necessary.
The iOS edition requires some elaborate machinations to gain a sufficient level of system control. On Android, you just need to make the app a Device Administrator and enable it to access app usage data. The installer makes setting up these options very easy.
When I saw the big Child and Parent buttons in the installed app, my first thought was that the latter would allow local administration. Norton works that way, and ESET Parental Control (for Android) also offers a dual-purpose app. But in Familoop, tapping Parent just takes you back to the initial configuration screen.
Tapping Child gets a window with two pages, State and Contract, just as in the iOS edition. On the State page, the child can see how much screen time has been used, with a breakdown by type of activity. This page also reports the permitted app rating level.
The Contract page is somewhat similar to Norton's House Rules, though it doesn't change based on the configuration settings you've made. The Contract starts with a paragraph pointing out that parents own the device, and the child is responsible for following the rules. Among other things, it says, "We hope you understand it is our mission to raise you into a thoughtful, healthy young person to use technology for your benefit, not to become a slave of gadgets."
Eight headings below open into snippets of advice on things like Internet time and using appropriate apps. Will kids read the contract? I'm not sure. I also think parents might like an opportunity to write their own contract rather than use Familoop's static text.
Mobicip and Net Nanny perform their content filtering through a proprietary browser, disabling other browsers. Familoop filters content for any browser. In that, it's actually better than the Windows edition, which is limited to Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
The Android edition logs all calls and texts, just as Norton and Qustodio do. But the other two go a step beyond, letting parents block calls and texts from particular numbers. The online console's reporting area breaks out the amount of time spent on calls.
Norton, Qustodio, and ESET let parents track the child's location, as does Familoop. However, they don't include the geofencing feature that works so well in Familoop.
All of the other Android parental control tools we've reviews include the ability to set a schedule for screen time. Familoop just reports on the child's activities. Parents can click a button to put the child's devices in timeout mode manually. This feature works best on Android. On a Windows PC, modern Windows apps aren't affected. And on an iOS device, the feature doesn't work correctly (Familoop's designers tell me they are working on it).
On all platforms except iOS, parents can choose to block specific app categories, or block installed apps by name. This feature, too, works better on Android than on Windows. Making a renamed copy of a blocked app is enough to fool the Windows edition. On Android, blocked is blocked, period. Competing products we've reviewed also have this feature, though with Mobicip parents must configure blocking right on the child's device, not remotely.
A Good Choice
All the Android parental control apps we've reviewed can track your child's location, but only Familoop Safeguard (for Android) parlays that feature up into a full geofencing system. It filters all Web traffic rather than relying on a proprietary browser. And it lets parents remotely block access to apps they consider inappropriate.
On the other hand, Familoop Safeguard doesn't let parents schedule Internet time the way the rest do. And while it can monitor calls and texts, it doesn't let parents block undesirable contacts. With a few added features, it could be a top contender. For now, our Editors' Choice for Android parental control software remains Norton Family Parental Control.
Note that this product's 3.5-star rating applies specifically to the Android edition. I had to give the overall multi-platform Familoop Safeguard a lower rating. On Windows in particular, some features didn't work, and the all-important content filtering isn't browser-independent. With some work by the designers, the full product's score will surely rise.