ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
The Internet was a mistake.
For every funny cat video or insightful blog post there are legions of terrible, filthy websites lurking and waiting to destroy the innocence of our children. With parental control apps, we can finally fight back.
These programs filter the Web, turning it into a respectable place.
But services that work well on PCs won’t necessarily fare so well on every phone and tablet. Norton Family Parental Control is a fantastic service on the Web, and its Android app doesn’t sacrifice any of that quality. However, Norton Family Parental Control is much more limited as an iPhone app, even compared with the generally limited parental controls apps available for the iPhone.
Getting StartedTo set up Norton Family Parental Control on a child’s iPhone, parents must first purchase a subscription for Symantec Norton Family Premier, which costs $49.99 per year.
That might sound expensive, but actually the subscription is very generous, as there is no limit on the number of children or devices supported.
There’s also a free trial that lasts for 30 days.
Using the Web interface is necessary to make use of the iPhone app, unlike the virtually standalone Norton Android app.
Fortunately, the Web version is an impressive service in its own right.
For more details read our full review, but we’ll also share some highlights.
The Web interface is where you can tweak Norton’s powerful Web filtering options to suit the needs of you and your child.
Some of the 47 content categories are already checked for blocking, based on the child’s birth year you set at the start. Hovering with the mouse over any category displays an explanatory tooltip, which is helpful if you decide to select a custom set of categories to block. You can (and probably should) monitor YouTube watching, too, since things can get pretty freaky there.
As with other iPhone parental control apps, to set up Norton on your child’s phone you must first disable other, unclean browsers under the Restrictions tab, and then lock that tab behind a passcode. Here you can also prevent kids from installing and removing apps along with making in-app purchases.
The Norton app itself doesn’t interact with other apps at all.
When Norton blocks access to a site, it explains why. Your child can opt to send you a message requesting access or click a link to report that the site was categorized incorrectly.
By default, you get an email notification when your child ignores a warning or tries to visit a blocked site. You can also view a log of Web visits on the Activity page.
Missing in ActionKids these days are much more likely to use a smartphone or tablet than a clunky old computer. Norton recognizes that fact with a number of features that are specific to mobile devices. Unfortunately, most of those features are nowhere to be found on iOS. We tested the app with an iPhone 5s.
The app itself is essentially just a very good safe browser, preventing kids from visiting forbidden websites.
Anything that parents would want to do, from basic tasks like setting filtering levels to advanced abilities like viewing activity reports and requests to whitelist blocked sites, requires the Web interface.
And unlike the more adaptive interface of uKnowKids Premier (the full service, not the app), Norton’s parent portal is difficult to browse on a cramped mobile screen.
This is disappointing because Norton’s Android app is the only one we tested that offers the full power of a parental control program in a standalone, easily navigable mobile app, thanks to its separate Child and Parent modes.
The iPhone version is pretty much the Child mode and nothing else.
At least Mobicip offers a Monitor app for performing some parental duties on the go.
Also missing is time supervision. Many parental controls apps, such as Net Nanny and Qustodio, let you create schedules for when and how long your child can be online.
And if they work across devices, they prevent kids from sneaking back online on a phone once they’ve reached their limit on a computer. However, Norton’s parental control lacks this feature on the iPhone.
And if you want to monitor communication on your child’s iPhone, Norton Family Parental Control can’t help you.
Granted, the majority of iPhone parental control apps don’t have that kind of functionality, due to Apple’s strict guidelines. However, Editors’ Choice uKnowKids Premier gets around those restrictions by connecting to your child’s iCloud account, letting you monitor kids’ calls and texts after each backup.
Norton hasn’t stripped out every extra feature on iOS, though. When you enable Location Supervision for an iPhone or iPad, Norton keeps track of its location.
It uses GPS if available, Wi-Fi triangulation if not. On the Activity page’s location tab, you can view a map with pins for recent locations, and a timeline that identifies when each pin was dropped.
Clicking a pin gets an address and an accuracy estimate.
The accuracy may vary based on the iPhone or iPad you use, but it shouldn’t be too hard to tell the difference between “at school” and “at the racetrack.”
Weaker on the iPhoneSeveral parental control services received Editors’ Choice awards for their full Web versions, including Norton’s.
And it held onto that crown for its Android incarnation.
But while its Web filtering is still powerful on the iPhone (some parents may want to use it for that feature alone), other services outclass it in terms of extra features on the platform.
For useful tools like call and text monitoring, geofencing, and a mobile-friendly interface, go with uKnowKids Premier, our Editors’ Choice for parental control apps on the iPhone.