ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
Forget about kids getting into trouble on a desktop or a laptop.
Those little computers they carry around with them all the time, smartphones and tablets, can be the real gateways to dangerous online activity, and they’re much harder to keep track of than a PC sitting on a desk.
But there is hope.
If you’re a Mobicip subscriber, you can use a version of its parental control tool designed just for Android devices. Mobicip for Android will make the Internet a cleaner place for your kids—if you can get all of its pieces to talk to each other, that is.
Along with this Android app, there’s an iOS version available as well.
First Sip of MobicipMobicip provides a free version of its Android app with predefined filtering.
It will block some explicit websites, but you can’t specify which ones or use any advanced features.
To really take advantage of Mobicip’s capabilities you must purchase a premium subscription for $39.99 per year, and that’s the level of service we reviewed.
There are enterprise options available as well. Mobicip offers a one-week free trial for its premium subscription trial, but you still have to enter a credit card number to sign up. You also have to email the company directly if you want to quit and make sure you aren’t accidentally charged afterwards, which is annoying.
Unlike the standalone Net Nanny Android app, to set up Mobicip on Android you need to create an account for your child and assign it to a phone or tablet through the full Web version first.
It can be a little confusing, so check out our full Mobicip review to learn how to get started.
Mobicip assumes that each mobile device is used by just one child, so on installation it simply asks you to identify the related child’s profile.
If it’s an Android phone or tablet, such as the Moto X we used for testing, you also have to define a four-digit passcode for Mobicip’s lock screen, which appears when the child tries to launch an app you haven’t approved.
This feature lets Mobicip lock out other Android browsers, so the parent must download the separate Mobicip Safe Browser app for the child to use, with its built-in content filtering.
Installation requires a few steps due to the number of the permissions the app requests.
After downloading and launching the app you have to go to the Accessibility page under Setting and enable Mobicip to use Accessibility Services to function. Parental control apps need to have a lot of power over your phone, so they make sure you’re comfortable with granting them that deep level of access.
By default, any new app is blocked until a parent approves it, which is a smart, useful, mobile-specific feature. However, the implementation is a tad awkward.
The only way to unblock an app is by entering your passcode on your child’s phone or tablet, at which point you can choose to unlock it once or always. You can’t remove the block remotely. On the plus side, by digging into Mobicip’s settings on the device you can prevent unauthorized deletion of apps, and even block access to the Google Play store.
From the online dashboard, you can view a list of all free and paid apps on each Android device, with special notification if any new apps have been installed. However, you can’t change the blocked/unblocked status of an app. You can’t even see whether an app is blocked or not.
In order to view or change app blocking status, you have to use the Mobicip app on the tablet or phone itself.
Using Mobicip on Android You can log into Mobicip from any browser, on any device, but it’s a little awkward to interact with the website on a tiny smartphone screen.
That’s where the Monitor app comes in. Just install the app on your own Android mobile phone or tablet and you can manage your Mobicip account easily.
From the Monitor app you can review your devices and child profiles, view reports, and perform minor editing, such as changing a device’s name or setting a different filtering level for a profile. You still need the Mobicip online dashboard for high-level editing, like tweaking the Internet schedule for when a child can be online, dealing with a request for an exception to a blocked site, or changing the categories assigned to a filtering level.
There’s unfortunately no anime-blocking (as there is in Net Nanny’s app) but the filtering tools are still pretty powerful, blocking pornography and violence along with time-wasting video and social media sites.
It may seem awkward to have to download two additional Mobicip Android apps to complete the service—the Monitor on the parent’s phone and the Safe Browser on the child’s phone—but in practice the system works fine once each party has their respective app installed.
The browser runs well, so kids won’t feel like their online experience is being throttled, and it quickly and easily blocked any explicit material we threw at it, so parents can rest easy knowing their child’s eyes are being sheltered.
In any case, the parent/child solutions other parental control apps have come up with aren’t much more elegant. Net Nanny and Qustodio Parental Control 2015 redirect parents to their Web versions to manage the service.
This is not ideal on a cramped mobile screen. Of the services we’ve tested, only Editors’ Choice Norton Family Parental Control manages to offer parental control on a single mobile app used by both parents and children.
During testing, however, we ran into some trouble with communication between the online management console and the local agent.
Changes made in the Web versions of other parental control services quickly took effect in their app counterparts.
But Mobicip’s app didn’t even reflect our upgrade to premium status until well after we made the switch. We are also disappointed that the app doesn’t track children’s locations or block calls and texts—useful, smartphone-specific safety features included in both Qustodio’s and Norton’s apps.
Mobile Mobicip Like many parental control apps, Mobicip for Android is more of an extension of the Web version than a complete service in its own right.
For a bigger picture of the Mobicip experience check out our full review. Mobicip’s dependence on other apps and services hurts it, but its core is still a capable Web filtering tool. However, when it comes to Android-specific parental control apps, the easier-to-use Norton Family Parental Control is our Editors’ Choice.