Many makers of parental control software give iPhones and iPads short shrift. Some even pare their products down to little more than proprietary content-filtered iOS browsers. Why? Because it's really hard to attain the level of control they require under iOS. Familoop Safeguard is a rarity, in that it actually manages full-scale parental control in iOS. I'm quite impressed, but I think it could do even more.
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For $39.99 per year, you can define control and monitoring profiles for three Windows, Mac OS, Android, or iOS devices. If you need more device licenses, $69.99 per year gets you ten. You can define as many child profiles as you like, but unless your device collection includes desktop computers (where each child can connect with a different user account) there's no point in defining more children than devices. I tested Familoop using an Apple iPhone 6 and an Apple iPad Air .
I've reviewed the full-scale Familoop Safeguard separately. You'd do well to read that review first. I'll summarize those findings here, and then focus on the specifics of the iOS app.
As with Net Nanny (for iPhone), Qustodio Parental Control (for iPhone), Norton Family Parental Control (for iPhone), and other modern parental control systems, Familoop's configuration and reporting system is entirely online. To get started, you sign up for an account and open the online console. 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. Safe (green) categories are simply allowed. Under Windows, the content filter only works for certain browsers. On iOS (and Android) devices, it filters all Web traffic.
It's worth noting that the unusual Circle with Disney gadget also filters all Web traffic, but not because it manages to take remote control of, say, your 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 (for iPhone), Net Nanny, and Qustodio. However, from the online console you can view the child's screen time and, if it seems appropriate, click a button to put the child's devices in timeout mode. At the moment, this feature isn't working properly on iOS. The developers are working on a fix.
Familoop keeps track of your child's location using GPS when available, Wi-Fi triangulation when not. For mobile devices, a geofencing feature lets parents get notification when the child enters or leaves a defined area. This feature worked just fine in testing, sending me an email each time the protected device crossed a geofence.
The online console offers a ton of information about each child's activity. Websites blocked, websites visited, searches, contacts, photos snapped, videos watches, and so on. For most devices it breaks down time spent into categories like social activity and games; for iOS devices, it just reports total time.
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 it missed Facebook, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger. The iOS edition doesn't attempt to capture these types of communication, nor does it track calls and texts the way Familoop Safeguard (for Android) does.
To be fair, monitoring calls and texts is an uncommon feature in iOS products. The only one I know of, uKnowKids Premier (for iPhone), does it by sifting through the child device's iCloud data.
Taking Control of iOS
As noted, many parental control vendors offer an iOS version with seriously limited features. Norton Family Parental Control (for iPhone), for example, offers little more than content filtering and geolocation (but not geofencing). Furthermore, it can only perform content filtering in its proprietary browser, so the parent must dig into the Restrictions page in the device's settings and disable other browsers, as well as disabling features that would let the child remove restrictions. Mobicip and Net Nanny also require a proprietary browser on iOS. Qustodio does too, unless you manage the awkward installation of its VPN.
Familoop really shines in an iOS installation. I was amused by its initial page's message: "Hello, dear parent! Welcome to Familoop Safeguard." This was followed by a few slides explaining the program's features. Mixed in with the slides were requests for specific necessary permissions. Familoop asked to send notifications, access the device's location even when not active, and access photos and contacts.
Once you've logged in and linked the device to a child's profile, it's time for the magic that puts Familoop in control. A simple wizard walks you through the steps. To start, it installs a configuration profile. It's a little daunting, as Windows initially labels the profile Not Verified. The next page reiterates that the profile's authenticity can't be verified. But once you click Install and confirm your choice, hooray! It's now verified.
Next you install Familoop's Mobile Device Management (MDM) service. MDM is used by businesses to control company-owned devices; I haven't seen it in a parental control system before. Here you get a warning that the administrator will be able to remotely manage your device. But that's the point, after all!
The final component of Familoop's total iOS domination is the activation of its Virtual Private Network (VPN) component. I installed the product on an iPhone and an iPad; in both cases I got an email not long after warning that the VPN wasn't connected. I powered the devices off and on again, per the email's advice, which solved the problem.
The installation process may sound complex, but it went very smoothly. When it finished, the app displayed a window with big buttons labeled Child and Parent. I thought at first that this meant I could configure the product by logging in as a parent, the way you can with ESET Parental Control (for Android) and Norton Family Parental Control (for Android). But nope. Instead, choosing the parent mode just brought me back to the initial configuration page, with its instructions for installing the configuration profile and MDM service.
Tapping the Child button brought up a simple two-page window. On the State page, it displayed a breakdown of recent activity and reported the defined age limits for apps, movies, and TV shows. The Contract page bore a parental message somewhat similar to Norton's House Rules, except that unlike Norton's the content doesn't change based on configuration settings.
"We, your parents, own this iPad," it said. "We bought it. We paid for it. We are responsible…so it comes with some rules and regulations." Below this intro paragraph you'll find eight topics, among them Bedtime, School Time, and App Content. Opening each reveals a short bit of advice. I don't know if kids will actually read the contract page, though. I do think some parents might wish for the opportunity to craft their own message.
Features for iOS
As noted, the install process gives Familoop full control over the iPad. I found its content filter totally successful, with no proprietary browser needed. However, the timeout feature only worked sporadically. When it did work, instead of displaying the timeout message it simply made the browser icons vanish. The designers are working to fix this.
On other platforms, Familoop can block apps by category, or display a list of apps that the child has used and optionally block them. Things are rather different when you click the iOS tab on the Time & App restrictions page.
Initially all you see is a pull-down button with the label None. You can choose a restriction level of High, Medium, or Low to select a predefined configuration, or Custom to pick and choose. Be sure to click Custom, if only to get a complete look at exactly what Familoop can control.
For starters, you can choose to block all Web activity or (more likely) certain types of activity. Specifically it can block social activity, videos, instant messaging, or music.
You can also block any of a collection of built-in iOS apps and features: In-app purchase, App Store, All movies, All TV shows, iTunes, Safari, Siri, Camera, FaceTime, Screenshots, and iCloud Photo Sharing. I tried out this feature by choosing to block the App Store, Safari, and FaceTime. Within a minute, those icons simply disappeared from the iPad, and then safely came back when I removed the restriction.
This page also lists a number of apps and feature that can't be blocked, among them Phone, Messages, and Mail. If you choose one of the predefined levels, you get a summary of that level's restrictions.
Mobicip lists all installed apps, but doesn't let the parent control them in any way. Qustodio lists installed apps and gives parents the option to cut off Internet access for specific ones. I haven't seen any iOS parental control products that let parents block the use of installed apps the way the Android editions of Net Nanny, Norton, and Qustodio do. I'd like to see this feature in Familoop; I'm pretty sure it has the power to manage third-party apps.
Both the Android and iOS editions of Familoop include location tracking and geofencing. In testing, it worked just fine. I defined the local grocery as a dangerous area and my home location as a safe area, then went shopping. Familoop emailed me a notification that my child had left a safe area and entered a dangerous one.
Combining powerful remote control technology with easy installation, Familoop Safeguard for iPhone has the potential to depose our current Editors' Choice for iOS parental control, uKnowKids Premier. Where uKnowKids is strictly a monitoring tool, albeit a powerful one, Familoop actually controls just what the child can do on the device. A new Familoop version that fixed a minor bug or two, monitored calls and texts, and let parents control the use of third-party apps would be a sure winner on iOS.
Note that this product's four-star rating is very specific to the iOS edition. I ran into a number of problems testing the Windows edition. Some features didn't work correctly, and the content filter only works on the three top browsers. That's why the overall product got a lower rating than the iOS edition. It needs some work.