If you’re anything like me, one of the most used phrases that trips off your tongue at this time of year is “Will you please get off that screen?!” expressed with varying degrees of patience or frustration. During the Christmas holidays when the kids are off school enjoying some well earned downtime and its cold outside (baby!) it’s even harder to limit their screen time. Many of you reading this will have no doubt bought your kids an iPad or other such device. So a post about parental control apps is most likely timely.
A couple of months ago we bought my youngest son an iPod Touch for his 10th birthday. His sister didn’t get any such device at that age but being the youngest, it’s a different ball game. We decided that something he could play music on and communicate with his friends with was a fair request. He’d spent all his life up till now using the family iPad.
How to limit his screen time and access to the internet was the top most concern for us. We don’t allow our kids to have their devices in their bedroom but we couldn’t stop that if he wanted to play music from it in his bedroom whilst he read or drew (yes, read a book – what parent is going to dissuade a boy from reading or drawing?!).
His best friend’s mum introduced me to Mobicip, the parent control app for just this sort of situation. It looked ideal, so we tried the free version but soon found it insufficient. Unless you pay £32 ($39.99) a year for the Premium account you merely get what is essentially a safe browser. But for that extra £32, you get a sophisticated, easy to use app that provides excellent levels of control, a clear and easy to use mobile app, and statistics showing you exactly what sites they’ve visited that you have allowed. This will pay for up to 5 devices, not just one. On top of that, they have an excellent support service that you can message easily (the staff appear to be based in India).
Here’s the difference in what you get between free and Premium:
We haven’t added my 12 year old daughter onto this as she mostly uses her iPad mini that belongs to her school. Instead we regularly monitor her phone and iPad (the latter to a lesser extent as it is school property and they regularly check them). She is very aware of the dangers of the internet and talks to us about everything that bothers her. My son is aware though to a far lesser extent: he is more relaxed about things, less worried about taking risks and still very innocent and so this kind of protection is essential for him.
There is one area, however, that we have found Mobicip doesn’t meet our needs: we can’t set a time limit on when he can play games already downloaded on his device. However, I am told that they are working in this and that this feature is to be added sometime later in 2017. If so, that will be a major plus as this is my main bug bear!
At the moment, this works for us, but as our kids grow up we may well move onto the kind of app that monitors ALL our use and encourages us ALL to reduce our screen time through incentive and competition rather than through set limits (I have heard of one such app but haven’t found out the name of it yet). I like the idea of us parents applying the same rules to our lives as we expect of our children – even if my use of my phone is more for organisation than recreation!
But for now, we’re prepared to pay £32 for the safety net whilst teaching our kids responsible use of the internet and screen time.
NB I received one year’s free subscription to Premium in return for writing a review. I waited 3 months to write the review to properly test it.