ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
Do you know what your children are up to online? With a parental control app, you can make sure the answer to that question isn’t something bad.
These services keep the Web nice and clean for your kids, even on their mobile phones and tablets. Net Nanny has particularly powerful Web filtering, and that’s still the case in its iPhone app.
But that same app is also limited and too tied to its mothership program.
Getting StartedFor $59.99 per year you can purchase a Net Nanny subscription that can protect up to five devices, including desktops and mobile phones.
If that’s not enough, $79.99 gets you ten licenses plus a year of Net Nanny Social, the company’s social-media monitoring service. Unlike its standalone Android counterpart, Net Nanny for iPhone is only available in a multi-device subscription.
And there’s no free trial.
We loaded up the iPhone edition on an iPhone 5s for a look at how it works.
If you’re already familiar with the full Net Nanny 7, getting started is simple. You just install and launch the app and then log in to Net Nanny’s online dashboard.
Installation requires a few steps, to accommodate Apple’s limitations on how much control these apps can have over your phone.
Android is much is more permissive. Under the Restrictions tab, disable other browsers.
This forces children to use Net Nanny’s safe browser.
It’s also a smart idea to disable the ability to install and delete apps, as well as to make in-app purchases.
And be sure to lock the Restrictions tab behind a password so kids can’t undo the protection.
This is all explained in the app.
If this is your first time with the service, expect to do a little more setup once the app is ready to use.
In the Web version, after you create a profile for your child Net Nanny automatically configures censorship settings based on their age range.
The service monitors and reports on users’ activity regardless of which device they use.
If you create an Internet schedule to designate when your child can be online, the schedule you’ve defined applies to iOS devices, too.
And if you’ve imposed an Internet time allowance, time spent on any device chips away at that allowance. Your child can’t just switch to the PC after running out of time on the iPhone, a crucial feature missing in Norton Family Parental Control.
All browsing must go through the Net Nanny browser—that’s how it manages to control and monitor access.
Fortunately, it doesn’t feel underpowered or unsecure compared to Safari.
It even maintains the desktop edition’s ability to mask profanity, as opposed to blocking an entire page just because of some crude comments. Most importantly, however, parents of iPhone owners can take advantage of Net Nanny’s powerful Web-filtering options, which are the most powerful and granular we’ve seen. Most apps are satisfied with just blocking obvious harmful material like pornography or violence; only Net Nanny has an option for specifically keeping our children safe from the single greatest plague of our age: anime.
Using Net Nanny on the iPhone Mobile-specific features are relatively rare in iPhone parental control apps, but, even by those standards, Net Nanny is lacking.
The app doesn’t interact with other apps at all. Norton Family Parental Control and Qustodio Parental Control both allow parents to track a child’s location. Net Nanny does not.
Communicating with strangers is also a huge source of potential danger, especially on mobile phones.
The separate Net Nanny Social service can track social media accounts, but calls and texts are still left vulnerable, even with that service.
Editors’ Choice uKnowKids Premier is the only iPhone app we’ve tested that monitors calls and texts, and it does so by connecting to your child’s iCloud account.
For parents, Net Nanny for iPhone is also wholly reliant on the Web interface.
The app is really just the safe browser to keep kids away from banned websites.
If you try to use the parental online dashboard from a mobile phone, you’re redirected to Net Nanny’s Web interface.
The interface is robust and filled with all sorts of reports and monitoring tools, but navigating it on a phone isn’t ideal. Norton, Qustodio, and Mobicip have the same problem, although Mobicip does have a limited parental control app optimized for mobile devices. uKnowKids Premier does a good job modifying its interface for mobile screens.
A Spoonful of Net Nanny Helps the Internet Go Down Net Nanny has some of the best, most detailed Web filtering we’ve tested, and that filtering is still impressive on iOS.
But outside of Internet schedules and time limits, that filtering is all you get in this app, an app that requires a $60 subscription to activate. When judging these tools solely on their ability to monitor your child’s behavior on the iPhone, uKnowKids Premier is our Editors’ Choice for iPhone parental control apps.