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Which Phone Has the Best Parental Controls?

smartphone safety

The recent criticism about the damaging effects smartphones are having on teens has caught the attention of the companies that maintain operating systems for the phones. Apple and Google are looking for ways to improve smartphone safety.

Both Google and Apple say they’re working on ways to give parents more control over what their children see on their smartphones and how much time they’re spending with the devices.

Apple has launched a new “Families” page on its website that allows parents to remotely manage their kid’s smartphone usage.

With it, parents can choose which apps their child uses, manage in-app purchases, set restrictions on websites accessed by Safari and see where their child’s smartphone (and hopefully the child) are located with Find My Friends.

There are also apps available that tell your kids when it’s bedtime, wake them with customized alarms and track their sleep.

Apple smartphones come with a Do Not Disturb While Driving setting that mutes messages, calls or notifications until you reach your destination. In an emergency, callers can override it and get through.

The Families page also controls iPads, Macs, Apple Watches and Apple TVs as well.

Apple says it just wants to do what’s right for families.

Google counters with Family Link, an application for parents that lets them establish a child’s first Google account, as well as utilize a series of parental controls to manage and track screen time, daily limits, device bedtimes and which apps kids can use.

Family Link is different from other parental controls in that it’s a two-party system. It works like the third-party parental control and monitoring software already on the market, where an app installed on a parent’s device is used to configure settings and keep an eye on kids’ digital behavior.

Once signed in, the child’s phone usage is tracked and logged, so parents can see how much time kids spend in various apps, via activity reports. From the parent’s app, moms and dads can set a number of rules for their kids, including how long kids are allowed to be on their mobile devices every day, at what time the devices can no longer be used that day (through a remote locking feature), and which apps can be installed. Parents can also approve or block apps the child wants to download from the Google Play Store.

Google is also updating its Do Not Disturb notifications to limit sounds at night, during events or while driving.

Google says Family Link is designed to be used for children under the age of 13. Parents may have a different age limit in mind.

TheVerge.com described the differences in the two platforms this way:

“While Apple is expanding the scope of Do Not Disturb to include location-based or event-based triggers (like snoozing notifications while you’re in a museum or at your friend’s party), Google is making its version more powerful. DND mode will completely hide all notifications until you turn it off.

“Overall, one could probably say that Google is taking a bit more of a brute force approach with its Digital Wellbeing program, whereas Apple’s approach is a bit more tilted toward simply supplying information to the user so they can make better decisions themselves (if they choose).”

Both of these systems are still in the planning stage and there’s no way to tell what each will look like when they’re finally rolled out this fall.


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Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.