ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
The Internet is hardly safe for anyone, let alone kids.
And mobile devices make it that much easier to access a den of digital sin.
But don’t fret, worried parents.
If you’re a Mobicip subscriber, you can use a version of its parental control app designed just for iOS devices. Mobicip for iPhone will make the Internet a cleaner place for your kids—once all of its pieces are harmoniously aligned, that is.
Along with the iPhone app reviewed here, there’s an Android version as well.
First Sip of MobicipMobicip provides a free version of its Safe Browser iPhone 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 mobile capabilities, either the iPhone app or the Android app, you must purchase a premium subscription to the main Mobicip service for $39.99 per year for up to five devices.
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.
To set up Mobicip you need to log into the full Web version and create an account for your child and assign it to an iPhone or iPad, such as the iPhone 5s we used for testing. None of the iOS parental control apps we tested offered a fully standalone iPhone version.
Setup can be a little confusing, so check out our full Mobicip review to learn how to get started.
After you set up the Web version, there are two iOS apps to download: Mobicip Monitor on your own device and the Mobicip Safe Browser on your child’s.
Due to iOS’s stricter ecosystem, iPhone parental apps aren’t typically as robust as their Android counterparts.
But Restrictions, introduced in iOS 8, somewhat expanded these apps’ potential powers. You have to enable Restrictions for the app to function, so Mobicip explains the process. Under the Restrictions tab, disable Safari.
This forces children to use the Mobicip Safe Browser app, with its built-in content filtering.
As for apps, Mobicip only lets you view them (along with their ratings and categories) once installed; you can’t outright block them. You can block the use of apps in most Android parental control programs, but we haven’t seen this feature in any iOS editions. However, there are options under Restrictions for preventing app installation, deletion, and in-app purchases.
The Restrictions tab is also locked behind a separate passcode, so children can’t circumvent it.
Again, the app instructs you on how to set up these mandatory Restrictions. Once that’s all finished you then simply tell Mobicip the profile of the child using the iPhone so it carries over the Web filtering rules you specified.
Using Mobicip on iPhoneYou 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 iPhone or iPad 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, such as 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 iOS 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. You can even throw a third app into the mix and download Mobicip Monitor for your Apple Watch.
It lets you read notifications and accept or reject requests to access blocked websites from your wrist.
In any case, the parent/child solutions other parental control apps have come up with aren’t much more elegant. Net Nanny, Norton Family Parental Control, and Qustodio Parental Control all redirect parents to their Web versions to manage the service.
This is not ideal on a cramped mobile screen.
At least uKnowKids Premier adjusts its display to fit the screen size. On a widescreen PC you see the entire Launchpad at once, while on an iPhone you see one component at a time.
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 slightly disappointed that the app doesn’t track children’s locations or monitor calls and texts.
Smartphone-specific safety features such as those are rare in iPhone parental control tools due to Apple’s limited permissions, but Norton and Qustodio still allow for tracking at least.
And our Editors’ Choice uKnowKids Premier can even access calls, texts, and photos by connecting to your child’s iCloud account.
iMobicipAs with many parental control mobile apps, especially on iOS, Mobicip for iPhone 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 (linked in the first paragraph). Mobicip’s core is a very capable Web filtering tool. However, when it comes to iPhone-specific parental control apps, the deviously powerful monitoring tool uKnowKids Premier is our Editors’ Choice.