ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
It may sound like a Phil Collins song, but Qustodio is actually a parental control tool, a program for protecting kids from the nonstop nightmare that is the unfiltered Internet.
And with mobile devices becoming the main method for getting online among the youth, mobile parental control apps are coming along to keep them safe. Qustodio Parental Control packages several key features of the powerful Web-filtering service, such as Internet time limits and location tracking, into an iPhone app.
There’s an Android version as well.
Getting StartedTo install Qustodio on your child’s iPhone you must purchase a subscription for the full service first.
For $44.95 per year you can manage up to five child profiles on up to five devices.
The free trial only lasts three days.
Fortunately, this impressive parental control system includes just about every feature you might want, and it’s stylish, too.
For more details, read our in-depth review of the full Qustodio Parental Control PC-based service.
Parents set up their child’s profile on an iPhone or iPad, complete with a racially diverse avatar, but they do most of their work from the Web interface.
The only monitoring option from a mobile device is to navigate a website built for desktop browsers on a cramped phone screen, a problem shared by rivals such as Net Nanny and Mobicip.
At least uKnowKids Premier efficiently adjusts its interface to compensate for small screens.
Compared to Android, parental control is tough to implement on iOS devices, because iOS blocks most interaction between applications.
Even so, Qustodio manages a degree of iOS protection.
On a PC, the parental control system can manipulate the incoming Internet feed directly, thereby becoming browser-independent.
That’s just not possible on an iOS device. Qustodio can only control browsing once the parent downloads the separate Qustodio Safe Browser app for the child to use.
To this end, the iOS edition includes detailed instructions on how to disable the use of other browsers and prevent the download of any new browser apps by going to the Restrictions tab in the iPhone’s settings. You have to create a password for Restrictions, so kids can’t undermine your authority.
Also, while no iOS parental control tools we’ve seen block apps outright, Qustodio can sever an app’s connection to the Web, rendering it potentially powerless. Or you can disable installing and downloading apps, along with in-app purchases, under the same Restrictions tab you have to visit anyway.
One curious new iOS-specific feature is the option to use Qustodio’s VPN service in lieu of the Safe Browser for Web filtering.
But setup is cumbersome, requiring you to enable restrictions, disable them, and enable them again.
And making sure the child can’t turn off the VPN connection after it’s established requires a full factory reset.
Also, while the feature is a cool idea, and reduces the number of apps to download, in practice it didn’t feel meaningfully better than the separate Safe Browser.
Using Qustodio on the iPhone Safe Browser (or the VPN) filters Web surfing using the settings from the associated child’s profile.
By default it blocks all access to websites matching any of ten undesirable categories, among them Gambling, Pornography, and Drugs.
Another 19 categories are available for parents who want to fine-tune Web content filtering. You can optionally choose to just receive an email alert when an older child accesses a particular category, without blocking access.
Incidentally, on the iPhone 5s we used for testing, the browser felt faster and didn’t show brief glimpses of banned websites like its Android counterpart did.
But that could be a matter of hardware.
In the Family Portal Web interface, you can see a timeline of your child’s social activity, regardless of what device is used.
This includes Facebook posts, picture, and comments, as well as the identity of any friends involved in online chats.
It can also deny Internet access outside the specified schedule, or when the child has used up the daily maximum.
It enforces Safe Search and monitors search terms and the sites your child visits.
You can also define a weekly schedule for when each child is allowed online, in one-hour increments. Qustodio also lets you set limits separately for each device associated with the child’s profile.
For example, you could ban smartphone use during school hours, and block computer use when the child is supposed to be asleep. However, if your aim is to limit overall screen time, you simply turn off per-device settings. Now your child can’t, say, use the computer for two hours, and then switch to an iPad for another two.
As for phone-friendly features, you can configure Qustodio to report your child’s location periodically.
By default, it performs this task once per hour. You can set it to report as frequently as every five minutes, though the dashboard warns that checking less often can save battery life. Norton Family Parental Control tracks your child’s location as well.
But for even more robust monitoring options, turn to our Editors’ Choice uKnowKids Premier. Once connected to your child’s iCloud account, that tool lets you monitor location, calls, texts, and photos, a rare feat on iOS.
Q for QualitySince you have to subscribe to the full Qustodio service to get the iPhone version anyway, and using its Web interface is essentially mandatory, we recommend reading our review of the complete package to have a better understanding of what you’re in for. Qustodio delivers what you can reasonably expect from a parental control app in the restricted iOS ecosystem. However, our Editors’ Choice for iPhone parental control tools, uKnowKids Premier, surpasses those expectations, by actually monitoring how kids talk and text on their iPhones.