Most parents these days have the same complaint. Trying to manage kid’s cell phones is almost impossible. Of course there are many solutions to this problem, and generally you need to use at least a couple parental control tools to get the job done properly, but the operating system manufacturers seem to be bent on making this process as difficult as possible.
I know that both Apple and Google have their own parental control platforms. You can add parental controls on an iphone through the built-in iOS Screen Time settings, but it is lacking some very key features and is frequently failing or not working. Similarly, the free parental controls for Android devices is called Google Family Link and also lacks some features.
I generally recommend parents use these built-in controls in addition to 3rd party parental control apps like Bark and Boomerang Parental Controls. One of the things I love the most about technology, and the reason I prefer using Android devices, is that I can choose how to use it. If I want to use a 3rd party app to control my children’s devices, I should be able to do so.
Here is where the problem starts, and both companies are guilty of limiting 3rd party apps that offer parental controls. Apple devices are just plain hard to monitor and manage. Most of the 3rd party apps can’t even monitor an iPhone as well as they can with an Android device. This is due to the privacy and security built into iOS.
The 3rd party parental control apps have to come up with creative ways to monitor the device, like using a computer to scan through the iPhone backup. This doesn’t help if your child deletes texts when they are away from home. With Android devices, generally, texts and other social media apps can be monitored in real-time.
Recently, though, my favorite parental control app has been flagged by Google as a malicious application because it prevents uninstallation. This feature is incredibly important for a parental control app, so your children can’t uninstall the application.
Boomerang has been approved in the Samsung Galaxy Play store, and even installations from there are being flagged and automatically uninstalled or disabled from children’s devices.
I recently got a message from my daughter notifying me of the situation. Luckily, my child is honest enough to let me know the parental control app was no longer working, but this could be a really bad situation for parents with kids who are a little more sneaky.
JP, the co-founder of Boomerang has been appealing to Google for months, and his pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. This is completely unacceptable. One quick look from Google will find that this app is NOT malicious and is helping parents monitor and manage their children’s devices. In fact, disabling access to 3rd party apps and enforcing the use of their own parental controls could land both Apple and Google with monopoly lawsuits.
Even JP’s pleas via Twitter are going unheard by Google, like this one.
So, my question to both Apple and Google is what are you afraid of? Do you hate parents? Many kids are getting smartphone devices these days. Typically children are getting smartphones by Junior High now, and several kids are getting them even earlier than that.
Parents are desperate for choices in how they want to monitor and manage the device, and offering choices will only help parents feel more comfortable giving their children devices. Isn’t the goal for both companies to sell more devices? Making it difficult to manage only pushes parents to find other solutions like the Pinwheel.
My plea to Apple and Google is to put parental control apps in their own category in the app store and play store. This category should be tested and managed by real people, not AI, to determine if the app is ok to appear in the store or not. These apps should allow access into the guts of social media and communication apps and video apps like YouTube, and the operating systems need to allow it.
Give parents choices, and let parental control apps have more access so parents can use these apps to help teach their kids proper use of technology.