Monitoring apps for children’s mobile phones: Good protection is free
Free apps are sufficient for child protection. However, only four of the ten programs tested are good.
When children own a smartphone, parents do not always have an easy time: Who does the son chat with? Who is the daughter talking to on the phone all the time? Which Internet sites do the children hang around on? Adults want to know that their children are safe and want to protect them from bad influences from the Internet.
From blocking to listening in
Clearly, mutual trust, discussions and clear rules are essential. If you still want to have some control over the children’s mobile phone use, you can use a special app. The principle is simple: child and parents load the app onto their mobile phones, which are then connected to each other. Depending on the application, parents then have various options for influencing the child’s mobile phone. Parental control apps in general are based on the technology of VPN.
- Block unsuitable Internet sites or track the children’s Internet history
- Limit the time you use your smartphone
- Check which apps are loaded on the child’s phone, or block the opening of unsuitable apps
- Locating the children
- With some paid apps it is even possible to listen in on conversations or read SMS.
However, the options listed in the last point in particular should be questioned, as they represent a massive intrusion into the child’s privacy.
Comparison with paid versions
The Belgian consumer magazine „Test Achats“ tested various monitoring apps. The focus was on ten free apps, five each for iOS and Android smartphones. In order to make a statement about their quality, they were compared with the respective paid version and other paid apps.
They were all checked against the following criteria:
- Blocking the phone
- Quality of the usage records
- Administration of the App
- Localisation of the children’s smartphone
- Filtering Internet pages
The most important functions are free of charge
The experts‘ verdict is clear: You don’t have to spend money on a surveillance app. The most useful functions are already available with the free version. However, not all free versions are recommended: Of the ten free apps tested, two scored poorly and four average. Only four could trump with a good score. And that’s them:
For Android phones
Google Family Link
Rating: 66 of 100 points
Remarks: Easy to use, many useful functions, cannot be avoided by children.
Qustodio Parental Control
Rating: 62 out of 100 points
Remarks: Good scores in almost all criteria, except for the management of the app. The interface is not the most modern one, this could be updated by their designers. Here is a comprehensive Qustodio parental control app review with a lot of details, even including an installation guide.
For iOS mobile phones
Apple Screen Time
Rating: 67 of 100 points
Remarks: Already pre-installed on all iPhones and iPads, many useful functions. In addition, the app has a good logging of visited websites, but configuring the app is time consuming. And: The blocking of apps is only possible by age group.
Google Family Link
Rating: 64 out of 100 points
Remarks: Through the belt a solid performance. Disadvantage: Only for monitoring Adroid phones. However, parents can monitor and manage their children’s phones with iOS or Android devices.
Why it might be better to monitor your kid’s app gaming activities
Perfidious Game Apps: Child gambles away 5000 CHF
Mobile games like Clash Royale or Pokémon Go are very popular with children. The apps are free of charge, but during the game there are paid options. In the gaming frenzy, a lot of money is lost so quickly. This shows what parents need to be aware of in order not to fall into the cost trap.
Fighting towers with goblins, skeletons, lackeys and musketeers – that’s what 11-year-old Toby (name changed by the editors) loves. He is a fan of the computer game „Clash Royale“. This became his undoing: within a few days he spent over 5000 francs playing it.
Suddenly the limit was reached
„Clash Royale“ is a strategy game. It’s about defending your own towers and destroying the towers of your opponent. In this game you can buy jewels and gold on the platforms „App Store“ from Apple or „Google Play“. For up to 100 francs at once. This allows you to progress faster in the game. The boy could hardly stop and kept on buying jewels and gold. But suddenly it was over: „I thought, now the limit has been reached,“ he remembers. But he didn’t know how high the limit was back then.“
The credit card bill came three and a half weeks later and was a shock to him and his parents. Within six days he had lost over 5000 francs. His mother remembers: „I confronted him immediately. He admitted that he had stolen the credit card details from our Visa card. Unfortunately, it was on the desk in our office because I had made an online order.“
Game manufacturers earn millions – per day
The structure of „Clash Royale“ is a lucrative business model that is currently used by many game manufacturers. The app is free of charge, but during the game, players are tempted to spend money in order to progress faster in the game. In technical jargon this is called „pay to win“.
This is a genre of game, a business plan that the industry discovered only a few years ago and which is very successful. The most successful in the business, Supercell from Finland, which produces „Clash Royale“, is one of them. It makes several million in sales per day with its games.
Password or prepaid offers certain protection
It’s strongly recommended to set up your kids‘ smartphones and tablets well before playing: „Such in-app purchases can be prevented in the mobile phone with a password. It should be a secure password that the children do not know and not the code of the device. If you want the children to be able to shop, you can provide them with a prepaid mobile phone.“ That way they learn that such games cost money.
No answer from Supercell
The mother turned to the Supercell company in the hope that they would give her a part of the bill. She never received an answer. No financial concession even from Google Play Store, where the boy had shopped. „I find this very unsatisfying and a huge mess. That this is simply possible and there is no one to turn to,“ the mother is annoyed.
Only the credit card company Viseca has promised to provisionally credit the amount again. She is now waiting for an answer from the merchant. After that, it will be decided whether the credit remains. For the boy, the bill has consequences: Every month his parents deduct a sum from his pocket money.